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Local businesses and state lawmakers have mixed feelings about new regulations on work scheduling

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    Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, says workers need the protections provided by new state Labor Department regulations regarding work scheduling practices.
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    Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced November 10 the State Department of Labor created new regulations regarding work scheduling practices meant to protect workers from lost wages and unplanned schedule changes.
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    State Sen. George Amedore, Jr., R-46, said the State Labor Department’s new regulations on work scheduling practices are unrealistic saying that there are different scheduling demands in different industries.
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    Linda Mussmann, co-owner of Time and Space Ltd. in Hudson, said she thinks new state Labor Department regulations regarding work scheduling practices are good steps to protect workers.
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    Natasha Witka (right), owner of The New York Restaurant in Catskill, said she already operates her business as new state Labor Department regulations prescribe saying it is more efficient.
November 14, 2017 - 11:30 pm

The state Labor Department will publish new regulations determining how employees and employers make work schedules in an attempt to protect low-wage workers from losing wages and unplanned schedule changes.

The new rules are getting mixed reactions from local business owners.

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the department in September to hold public hearings on work scheduling issues, the department announced several regulations Nov. 10 that the department said will give workers a voice in their own schedules and safeguard the most vulnerable low-wage workers.

“In New York, we have achieved nation-leading success in workers’ rights, and we will continue to fight to protect all hard-working New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “The regulations advanced by the Department of Labor will increase fairness for workers and allow employers to retain flexibility.”

The regulations establish a 14-day advance notice standard for scheduling and provide two hours’ extra pay for last-minute assignments, 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, allow new shifts to be offered without a premium during the first two weeks of a worker’s employment, permit worker shift swaps and substitutions without penalty and allow for weather-related cancellations without penalty with 24-hours’ notice and imposes no blanket prohibitions or mandates — employers retain control over their scheduling practices and those who provide predictable scheduling will see no additional compliance costs.

Local business owners in Columbia and Greene counties have mixed feelings about the new regulations.

“It is unrealistic to not rely on flexibility with scheduling,” said Windham Mountain Outfitters owner Nick Bove. “We operate in a resort town and how many people we will need is dependent on the weather.”

Bove said, depending on the weather on the weekend, he may need to call employees in to work because it can get busy.

“We operate with a massive influx on the weekends. Weather-dependent, there can be 10,000 people in this town,” Bove said. “How will I not need to call people in to work.”

State Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, said he disagrees with the governor’s one-size-fits-all regulations.

“This is an unfortunate approach by the governor and the Department of Labor — this one-size-fits-all-approach does not work in the real world,” Amedore said. “There are different demands across various industries, and these new mandates are one more thing that will make it more difficult and more costly to do business in the state of New York.”

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, said workers need the protections provided by these regulations.

“Workers on hourly wages — especially those who are single heads of households — should not have to worry about unexpected, last-minute care for their children or family members whenever they are ‘on call,’” Barrett said. “Without these new protections, workers may continue to be at the mercy of employers who do not recognize the consequences of last-minute switches and call-ins. This important labor regulation affords workers the ability to plan ahead with their families or receive extra compensation for unplanned work.”

Linda Mussmann, co-owner of Time and Space Ltd. in Hudson, said she thinks the new regulations are important steps to protect workers.

“The truth of the matter is people are working harder than ever. They hold down multiple jobs, have children. They could get sick. Things happen,” Mussmann said. “Flexibility in scheduling is needed. These regulations are fair and equitable.”

Mussmann said her employees work on their own schedules, which she said is beneficial to her business.

“But I think a lot of places put a lot of pressure on people to rearrange their lives around work and that’s not fair,” Mussmann said. “These regulations are important steps forward to provide at least some protection to workers.”

Natasha Witka, who owns New York Restaurant in Catskill, said she already makes her schedules for her 32 employees the way the regulations prescribe.

“That’s how I currently run my business; bi-weekly scheduling,” Witka said. “That’s just how I have always operated. It’s more efficient.”

The regulations will be published in the State Register on Nov. 22, after which time there will be a 45-day public comment period.

The public can submit comments to the state Labor Department website.