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Bill would require some companies to compensate workers for last-minute schedule changes

State Senator Robyn Porter speaking at a press conference Tuesday in support of HB 5353.
State Rep. Robyn Porter speaks at a news conference Tuesday in support of HB 5353.

The Connecticut General Assembly is considering a bill that would require large businesses in certain service industries to compensate workers for last-minute employer-imposed changes in their work schedules.

The bill would require businesses in the food service, retail and hospitality industries with at least 500 employees to “make every effort” to stick to the schedules they negotiated with each employee. Employers who cancel workers’ shifts would be required to compensate their employees half their wages for that shift; employers who schedule workers for shifts starting within 11 hours of the end of their last shift would have to pay those workers overtime.

The bill would affect about 250,000 employees in Connecticut, according to state Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven), who co-sponsored the bill and expressed her support at a news conference Tuesday morning.

“[These workers] are tired of being called heroes,” Porter said. “They deserve more than a pat on the back. They deserve a pat on the pocket, and they also deserve predictability.”

Porter emphasized that workers in these industries are disproportionately non-white and female, and that unpredictable schedules affect not just their financial stability, but also the stability of their schedules — which impacts their families.

“These kids are acting out. They have behavioral problems. And it’s no wonder, when you have a parent that doesn’t have the predictability of knowing when they can be home with their children,” Porter said.

Other proponents of the bill also spoke at the news conference Tuesday to show their support.

“Since child care centers require parents and other caregivers to pay a weekly or monthly fee regardless of whether or not the child attends, holding a spot in a child care center is practically impossible for these workers when they’re not sure when they’re going to be able to work in any given week,” said Janée Woods Weber, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. “No one should have to live this way.”

“There’s no question that there are times when [schedules have to change],” said state Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury). “But why should this cost be borne by the workers entirely? That’s what’s happening today. The workers are paying for the change in the weather, or the fact that business drops off on a given day. That cost should be shared by these big corporations that can afford to pay some minimal amount.”

State Rep. Brian Smith (D-Colchester) demanded that the legislature pass the bill by the end of this legislative session.

“This is not something that could wait until next year until we have a longer session and it’s not an election year. Workers need this support now,” Smith said.

House Republicans were not immediately available for comment.