On behalf of our 20,000 members and their 1.2 million employees, I am writing to express our Opposition to A-1117 (Oliver, Lampitt) which imposes new mandates on employers with 15 or more employees concerning employee schedules.

The legislation requires affected employers to prove that there is a “bona fide business reason” for denying certain schedule change requests, or face financial and legal penalties.

Additionally, it mandates that retail, food service, and cleaning employers must: post schedules at least two weeks in advance; pay employees if they work less than their scheduled time; pay employees who are requested to call-in to see if they are needed; and provide extra pay for shift changes made with less than 24-hours’ notice.

While we support employers creating flexible workplaces and accommodating worker needs, we have the following concerns with the legislation.

First, we believe the legislation doesn’t take into account that many scheduling changes are outside of an employer’s control. A restaurant can’t predict that a big reservation will be cancelled or scheduled at the last minute, just like a retailer can’t always accurately predict store traffic. Under this legislation, however, employers would be caught in a Catch 22 – either pay unneeded staff or send staff home and pay a financial penalty. Additionally, by complying with the bill and accommodating a schedule change for one employee, an employer may have to call in another employee to cover that shift, with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Second, leave laws already exist to require accommodations for serious health conditions, caregiver responsibilities, etc. If a person with a serious health condition needs time off, an accommodation can be requested and discussed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (15 or more employees) or even under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (all employers.) In fact, in New Jersey eight separate state and federal statutes already guarantee leave or wage replacement to help workers and their families.

Last, the bill exposes employers to additional liability by explicitly allowing workers who are denied scheduling changes to sue their employers. If multiple caregivers, workers with children, all request weekends off, which request should an employer grant? At what point does an employer have a “bona fide business reason” for denying a request? By requiring employers to justify routine business decisions, the legislation dramatically increases an employer’s potential liability. Even if a lawsuit against an employer is without merit and the employer has done nothing wrong, they will still have to spend time and money defending against it. By some estimates, even if a case goes to summary judgement legal costs could range in the tens of thousands of dollars.

For these reasons we respectively ask you to vote “NO” on A-1117.

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