Just like many college students, 20-year-old Ama Boafa finds herself having trouble figuring out how she can afford textbooks and common meals. As a result of her desperate need to fulfill her education while securing some income, she began to work as a work-study student at her college sociology department. Although there is no minimum or maximum amount, the average work-study award is $1,550. This wasn’t enough for her to make ends meet.

Finding a job that will help you keep up with the cost of living in an expensive city can be a daunting task. After not making enough money as a work-study student, Boafa decided to take a job as a retail associate at a clothing store in downtown Manhattan. However, this job of hers doesn’t provide her much stability as she thought. 

“They cut your hours when the days become extremely slow,” Boafa said, “If you’re calculating how much you would like to get a week you really can’t count on it.”

With her income coming in at unpredictable times, she continues to struggle to sustain herself—- a story that is quite too common in the workplace. In turn, this unfair scheduling is violating a new New York City law that requires employers to provide employees with a predictable working schedule.

Due to the recognition of such a key problem facing many U. S workers, particularly the low- income class, several states, and local governments have enacted “fair workweek” laws. In November 2017, New York City passed a regulation that will require employers to post schedules two weeks in advance, compensate workers on any last-minute changes and allow breaks in between shifts. This law has provided stability and, in most cases have allowed part-time staff the opportunity to build hours before new staff is hired. Approximately an estimate of 175,000 New York City workers are protected by this law.

According to a study done by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41% of fully young adult workers find out when they must work less one week or less in advance. Those affected by these fluctuating and schedule shortage are those working in the foodservice and retail industries. As a result of all this, employees find themselves coming into on-call shifts hours before or having to rush out of their night shift for employers to not have to pay them. 

“Sometimes when we are not done folding all the clothes, we are rushed to clock out at the end of the night to avoid going over budget,” Boafa adds.

The irregular schedules have caused several challenges not only for families who depend on a sole income but also for those who are African- Americans and Hispanics workers. 

However, some companies have disagreed with the law and have rather stated that these laws give governments more hands into their businesses. In some cases, some have not complied— companies like McDonald’s and Chipotle in particular. Due to these violations, Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection filed a lawsuit against Chipotle, Inc and launched an investigation into various Manhattan locations who faced allegation from their workers of violating the Fair Workweek Law. 

On the other hand, supporters of the law say that giving workers an adequate number of hours and keeping unpredictable schedules at a minimum will rather profit both the company and worker as a whole. Those on the opposite side of the table say that it only favors workers leaving businesses like restaurants and retailers to suffer mandated costs such as the coming of the $15 minimum wage for all New York City workers.

“Managers will say that they can’t do it but what we know is that businesses are smart and find ways to work the law,” says Susan Lambert, professor at the School of Social Service at The University of Chicago.

In a report reflecting on the stable scheduling and clearing the assumption that stable schedule is not possible, findings show that when employers created a shift structure and two- week advance notice workers input increased. Overall, it improved customer service and most importantly decreased theft and increased sales leaving companies with a high return in investments.

One of the biggest issues is how well will companies adapt to these changes and precisely will they be willing to keep an open mind. Joan C. Williams who is one of the authors of the Stable Scheduling Study— a partnership at Worklife Law at the University of California, told me that businesses shouldn’t be quick to jump into conclusion. “Don’t assume you are going to have higher expenses and not higher sales and calculate whether to lay off or cut down hours because of this legislation,” she said.

Lambert and Williams both agree that giving people advance notice helps both the managers and workers in the end. They also suggest that using apps to manage schedules have provided a major turn out in decreasing call outs and offering employees the opportunity to swap shifts.

Apps like these have made 26-year-old Martin Ruiz’s life much easier. Ruiz who is a college student in NYC tells NYC Biz News that he and his colleagues get a lot of generous hours at their Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant. Ruiz described how his fair hours allow him to attend school while making enough cash to support himself without having to be a burden on his single mother who also works to provide for him and his younger sister.

“I am always able to swamp hours or pick up shifts when I am free on the scheduling app we use,” he adds, “Sometimes when I have an exam coming up and I need to give my shift away I open it up on my app and within hours someone has taken it.”

According to the business model, Chick-fil-A franchisees offers scheduling flexibility and other perks. It notes that “people are busy, schedules can be complicated, and life happens.”

As more states and cities across the country adapt to laws such as flexible schedules and wage spikes, restaurant operators and retail businesses will have to adjust to these demands while trying to keep their businesses from closing. Boafa notes that while she has no choice but to stay at her current job, she will continue to look for other options. “I may have to look for a second job and probably be a part-time student instead, she said, “I just hope in the coming months or even years that businesses will look to cater to their worker’s needs as well.”

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