Is Maryland Fair Scheduling, Wages, and Benefits Act Really Fair?: What Employers Need to Know.

In recent years, the Maryland Fair Scheduling, Wages, and Benefits Act (the “Act”) has been introduced to the General Assembly, and it is likely to be on the minds of many law makers again during the 2019 session that began on January 9, 2019. Early versions of the Act required, among other things, that employers provide employees with their schedule up to three weeks in advanced. It also prohibited an employer from from adding any shifts to the employee’s schedule within the three weeks without written consent. If the employer reduces or extends the length of a scheduled shift, cancels an employee’s scheduled shift or changes the start or end time of an employees scheduled shift, they would be required to pay “1 hour of predictability pay”1 for each shift that is changed. Further, if the shift is canceled after the employee reports to work or is canceled less than 24 hours in advanced, then the employee would get 4 hours or the number of hours scheduled for that shift, whichever is less, of predictable pay. Finally, an additional provision of the Act, would bar employers from hiring new employees before offering additional hours to current employees, restricting hiring practices of businesses that often hire employees regularly for seasonal rushes.

This Act, should it pass, would have major impact on those in the hospitality and retail business, especially those with seasonal employees. Countless employers in the food industry and retail business rely on their ability to make fluid schedules. Often, employees in these service industries are young, college aged students with schedules that change rapidly. For example, a restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland operating at its peak in the summer months, would have to lock in its college aged employees that have ever changing schedules, three weeks in advance, where neither the employee nor employer will have a fair idea of what their needs will be in the future. For example, ff for some reason the business is slow, a restaurant would no longer have the option of sending an employee home without pay, costing valuable time for the employee and money for the employer. If the business is need of extra employees for a sudden rush or in need of some employees to work overtime, they must get written consent before doing so. If an employee calls in sick less than 24 hours before their shift, and the employer is in need of another employee to cover that shift, written consent would be needed. These restrictions create the need for an entirely new system of scheduling affecting a major aspect of any hospitality or retail business.

This bill will prevent an employer from responding to business or staffing needs in a timely fashion, which can mean the difference between gaining or losing customers. Consumer demand changes, vendors and customers have needs that result in changes to production or provision of services and are not always predictable. It will be important for those in the hospitality and retail service industries to keep an eye out this bill because of the immense impact it will have on their workforce and human resource practices.

By Stan Tinter

1 Predictability pay is defined by the 2017 proposed Act as “wages that are paid to an employee at the employee’s regular rate of pay.”

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