EDITORIAL: Colorado ‘Fair Workweek’ bill is a schedule for disaster not better jobs

Shift work in Colorado is under the scrutiny of state lawmakers, who are attempting to regulate scheduling and other aspects of the employment industry. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

Proponents of Colorado’s Fair Workweek Employment Standards proposal have pointed out a handful of worrisome labor problems across a variety of industries, but they’ve also shown that their controversial bill is not the answer.

State legislators would be wise to spike House Bill 23-1118 and look for real solutions to nagging labor issues.

From the inception of this well-meaning and misguided measure, the Fair Workweek bill has looked like a solution hunting for a problem. Part of that is because even bill proponents and sponsors seem unsure what the bill does.

It’s intended to do a handful of things. First, it requires businesses like restaurants, bars and retailers to schedule part-time employees for two weeks at a time.

It’s not an unreasonable request.

Proponents of the bill say one-week schedules make it difficult to work second jobs, attend school or even manage daycare. There was, however, no evidence, nor testimony offered during a marathon initial hearing on the bill earlier this month, that made it seem a mandated, regulated and state-monitored two-week work schedule would create an outcome proponents are looking for: schedule flexibility for themselves but not their employers.

The restaurant and hospitality industry is built on employing high-school and college students and others who depend on — or who enjoy — the ability to request shift flexibility from week to week. Restaurants and thousands of other part-time employees and employers negotiate during hiring school schedules — for parents and students — and other real-life encumbrances.

To expect a state law to dictate an often complicated and dynamic process, which benefits employers and employees alike, is grossly unrealistic and misguided.

If the real problem is employers unwilling to allow employees to call in sick or see doctors or attend to real-life tasks and events, those things are not addressed in this bill.

Whether part-time employers in every industry should provide for pro-rated, full-time benefits such as paid personal time off is a needed and worthy discussion, but that’s also not the subject of the bill.

We have no misgivings about unscrupulous employers who over-schedule employees to hedge their bets against no-shows, but making unionization easier or providing for transparent state complaint platforms is a far more effective way to address exploitative employers than are cumbersome regulations.

Specific trade and site unions are built to protect workers and employers. Their purpose is to find and negotiate solutions that ensure the business can operate and employees can work there. That’s very different than bureaucrats trying to force one-size-fits-all regulations across myriad industries and businesses as different as all of Colorado.

The bill also addresses workers in the construction industry who are reportedly regularly required to show up for work each day but often sent away, informed there is no shift today and to return tomorrow. That’s not a labor issue, it’s a fraud issue. Stopping shifts for safety-related weather or other similar concerns is expected, but promising work to a pool of people and not delivering it is bait-and-switch fraud, not a pesky employment problem.

It’s not that the treatment of employees isn’t a critical problem needing to be addressed. Dismissing unfair treatment of employees or untenable wages because it’s problematic for consumers only shows that some businesses are not viable without abusing people to make for “healthy” profits or cheap prices.

But hamstringing regulations that have little hope of providing unclear answers to vague problems is the definition of a bad idea that needs to be stopped.

Table House Bill 23-1118.


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1 month ago

I owned and ran a restaurant for nine years back in the 80’s. One of the main reasons I left that industry was governmental intervention in most area’s of operations.

Government has no business trying to run a business. Intervention into personnel scheduling is totally harmful to all. Seems like one size fits all just never works.

Seems our current governments just can’t get wise to the fact that business should be allowed to run itself.

1 month ago

Businesses that are open 7 days a week and from early to late (retail, food service, and health care) are difficult to get fully staffed, but, the staffing schedule should be at the expense of their employees’ home life. A two week notice is just fair and sensible.

1 month ago
Reply to  StrongChildren

…should NOT be at the expense of their employees’ home life