Jenne: State should consider 'unique' work situations in North Country when considering workplace rules
State officials should consider the “unique work” of some sectors of the state's economy as they finalize new workplace scheduling requirements, according to Assemblywoman Addie Jenne, D-Theresa.
Jenne's Assembly district includes Potsdam, Canton and the towns along the Seaway.Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that the state's Labor Department is advancing regulations on "just in time," "call-in" or "on-call" scheduling, common practices that allow employers to schedule or cancel workers' shifts just hours before or even after they start.
Once finalized, these scheduling protections will apply statewide, according to the state's Department of Labor.
The new regulations would establish a 14-day advance notice standard for scheduling and provide two hours of extra pay for last-minute assignments.
Jenne said some concerns about the new regulations were already being raised in the business community in the North Country.
She asked Howard Zemsky, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Development, if he could provide some clarification on the new regulations while he was testifying at Monday's joint meeting of the state Assembly's Small Business and Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry committees.
"Folks in my area are trying to grapple with the new scheduling requirements," she told Zemsky. "Is there a penalty for calling people in to work additional hours?" she asked.
"They may have a scheduled day off, but the business may need someone to come in to cover a shift or there is additional work. Tourism is a large part of our economy, particularly in my area, and sometimes you don't know you are going to be busy," Jenne said.
"I have had some business pushback that they would rather have somebody on call to be able come in, if necessary. I certainly know how that can take advantage of workers so I appreciate that we are not putting somebody in a holding pattern when they could be earning money at another job," she said.
Jenne said the tourism and agricultural sectors of the economy present unique challenges in meeting the proposed scheduling requirements.
"But there is nothing that prohibits calling in extra wait staff who may have the day scheduled off to see if they are available or in the agriculture sector making a decision we have to get the hay in because it is supposed to rain in two days so we have to work over the weekend instead of Monday through Friday?" she asked.
Zemsky acknowledged he wasn't intimately familiar with the provisions of the workplace scheduling requirements. "We will have to get back to you with more detail," he said.
Jenne said it is critical to get information out about the proposed new regulations.
"It is kind of a hot topic right now in the business community. It would be great if we could get follow-up and be sensitive to the largest economic sectors in the North Country –- tourism and agriculture. But I certainly applaud our efforts to support our workforce in a tangible way," she said.
Zemsky said he was confident the new regulations would take into consideration the concerns raised by Jenne.
"Our focus on North Country tourism has been sustained and impactful. I am quite confident there is no intention to negatively impact the tourism sector or any other sector of our economy through any regulations," he said.
"Tourism has been a huge growth driver in the North Country, and I think it will continue to be," Zemsky added.
The proposed regulations would expand existing reporting pay of at least four hours to include last-minute cancellations and assignments and on-call shifts requiring workers to be on stand-by to come into work under the proposed regulations, according to the Department of Labor.
The full regulation can be viewed here: www.labor.ny.gov/schedulingregs
This rulemaking is subject to a 45-day comment period after publication in the Nov. 22 State Register.