Several business groups are in opposition to the ordinance.

Business groups oppose law making them pay for shift changes

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

Several business groups are in opposition to the ordinance.

Several business groups are in opposition to the ordinance.

A proposed Wilmington ordinance that would require employers with 250 or more workers to give a two-week notice and compensation for schedule changes will hurt businesses, employees and city employment, business leaders say.

That’s one of the criticisms of Councilwoman Shané Darby’s Ordinance 034, which would apply to retail, hospitality and food service businesses.

The proposed law was read to the Wilmington City Council Thursday night, but no discussion or vote took place.

In addition to paying workers for schedule changes, the ordinance would give workers with the right to rest between shifts and first right of refusal for additional work shifts.

It’s the second year Darby has introduced the ordinance, dubbed the “right to a fair workweek ordinance.”

A letter circulated by the Delaware Restaurant Association expressing opposition is signed by many other groups, including the Delaware Hotel & Lodging Association, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware Food Industry Council & DE Association of Chain Drug Stores, the MD-DE-DC Beverage Association & Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Service Station & Automotive Repair Association.

“Laws such as the one proposed for Wilmington are well-meaning and drafted to create more predictable schedules for workers in targeted industries,” the letter states, “but in practice, they place unnecessary burdens on both employers and those employees they seek to help and the details of this proposal would hurt those most in need of economic opportunities.”

If passed, states the letter, the law would disrupt the operations of virtually every large retailer, hotel operator and restaurant chain in Wilmington and will threaten worker flexibility, safety and jobs along with economic development in the City of Wilmington.

The coalition of groups said in the letter that the ordinance unfairly singles out retailers, hotels and restaurants with 250 or more employees, including many small business and family-owned franchise owners.

If asked to work shifts that don’t allow for nine hours of rest, employers would be required to pay workers an extra $40, in addition to their regular compensation. 

If passed, for each employer-initiated change to a posted work schedule, employers must pay an employee “predictability pay” at the following rates, in addition to the employee’s regular pay for hours actually worked by the employee:

  • 1 hour of predictability pay when the covered employer adds time to a work shift or changes the date or time or location of a work shift, with no loss of hours.
  • 1/2 hour of predictability pay for any scheduled hours the employee does not work if hours are subtracted from a regular or on-call shift, or a regular or on-call shift is canceled.

“This sends a profoundly negative signal to the hospitality and retail sector whose jobs, payroll and tax revenue they generate in the city are somehow less valued by Wilmington’s elected officials,” the letter states.

 “At a time when the unemployment rate for city residents is disproportionately higher than the rest of the state, we believe leaders should focus on solutions to bring more economic development to our city, not reducing the flexibility needed to capitalize on growth and business-sustaining opportunities.”

The four main reasons the associations said they are opposed to the ordinance are:

  • Restrictive scheduling laws raise the costs of unpredictable demand and foot traffic that is characteristic of the hospitality and retail industry.
  • Current studies show this risk calculation means workers ultimately lose.
  • Studies show many hospitality workers who depend on flexible work do not support these reductions.
  • Predictive scheduling bills disincentivize flexible, part-time work for teenagers, senior citizens and second chance citizens in Wilmington.

Echoing something Wilmington City Councilman James Spadola said last year, the letter also said, “We believe this proposal is a solution in search of a problem, and that its impact on those it seeks to help will be far worse than the benefits.”

The law would discourage development, the letter states, and if passed, it will undoubtedly cause some job providers to rethink plans to create new jobs in the city. 

 Ordinance 034 will “serve as a giant caution sign for businesses considering creating or expanding their presence in Wilmington,” the letter said.

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