Surprise scheduling is a common practice in some industries. If you aren’t familiar with surprise scheduling, or flexible scheduling, imagine you’re on your way to work only to get a message from your manager saying you are no longer needed. You’re out of a paycheck for the day, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Every week you’re guessing how much money you’re going to get and how many days you’re going to work,” says a McDonald’s employee quoted in a Reuters story on the topic.
With no federal laws about the practice, many employees are stuck. It can cause serious problems because flexible scheduling most often affects people working low-wage jobs. When they lose a day’s work, it can cause a large deduction in their expected pay for the week.
Why employers use surprise scheduling
Fast-food companies say they need flexible scheduling to survive. If business is slow, they can save money by sending workers home early or calling off their shift entirely.
Employers argue that without flexible scheduling, they won’t stay profitable. By cutting the cost of paying an employee for the day, managers can better balance business costs and sales.
Combating surprise scheduling
Some jurisdictions, such as New York City, are passing laws to block flexible scheduling. A law takes effect later this year that requires fast-food restaurants to schedule employees two weeks in advance. Legislation on the topic is also currently pending in several states.
As workers’ rights continues to be a major topic in the coming months and years, we expect to see more proposed laws in New York and around the country.