December 03, 2019

Senator Warren & Representative Schakowsky Unveil Legislation to Strengthen Part-Time Workers' Rights as Holiday Shopping Season Begins

Legislation Would Allow Working Families to Better Balance Their Work Schedules and Family Needs

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Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) today announced they will introduce the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act, legislation to strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs. The legislation will address one of the primary issues that hourly workers face - work schedules that do not provide as many hours as they need to support their families - and provide additional protections and benefits for part-time workers.

Joining Senator Warren and Representative Schakowsky in unveiling the legislation are Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).  

"For far too long, companies trying to boost their profits have taken advantage of part-time workers by assigning them unpredictable work schedules - creating real hardships for them," said Senator Warren. "My legislation with Congresswoman Schakowsky puts an end to this practice by giving part-time workers the rights, stability, and other protections they deserve to build better financial futures for themselves and for their families."

"Many hard-working Americans are working several part-time jobs to make ends meet. Companies are using their part-time status to rig the system and maximize profits while exacerbating income inequality. These hard-working Americans are working more hours between all their jobs than many full-time workers, but making less per hour and receiving fewer benefits. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights seeks to eliminate many of the incentives provided to employers that allow them to exploit workers who want to work full-time but are being forced into a part-time rut due to corporate greed," said Congresswoman Schakowsky. "The Part Time Workers Bill of Rights Act ensures employers will provide part-time workers access to additional hours before hiring new employees, and give then access to benefits they need to provide for their families. It would also give part-time workers access to family and medical leave and ensure access to employers' retirement plan programs."

The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act would:

  • Require large employers to offer available hours to current, available, qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees or subcontractors. The legislation requires employers with more than 500 workers to compensate existing employees if they hire new employees instead of assigning new work to available, qualified, existing employees. 
  • Make more part-time employees eligible for family and medical leave. The legislation guarantees any employee who has worked for their employer for at least a year access to federal leave protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Allow part-time workers to participate in their employers' pension plans. The legislation amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to give part-time workers who have worked at least 500 hours for two consecutive years access to retirement plans if they are offered by their employers to full-time workers.

Corporations often use underemployment, giving part-time workers fewer hours than they want and spreading work among many part-time employees rather than hiring full-time employees, as an intentional strategy to avoid providing benefits and paying higher wages in order to boost short-term profits.

A recent, groundbreaking study found that unpredictable schedules - which often mean lack of access to enough working hours - are associated with financial insecurity, housing insecurity, high stress, poor health outcomes, and, for parents, less time spent with children, which, in turn, leads to worse outcomes for children. One study found that 65% of respondents with part-time jobs had dealt with "at least one serious material hardship" in the past year. Workers facing these challenges are disproportionately women and workers of color as exposure to schedule instability is 16% higher among workers of color compared to white workers.

Laws to help workers access more work hours have already been passed as part of fair workweek laws across the country, including in Chicago, Emeryville, California; New York City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; San Jose; Seattle; and SeaTac, Washington.

In October, Senator Warren and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, announced plans to reintroduce the Schedules That Work Act, complementary legislation to help ensure that low-wage employees have more certainty about their work schedules and income. The Schedules That Work Act protects workers who ask for schedule changes from retaliation, and requires employers to consider their requests. For retail, food service, and cleaning occupations, it requires employers to provide schedules two weeks in advance. The legislation also provides compensation to these employees when their schedules change abruptly or they are assigned to particularly difficult shifts, including split shifts and call-in shifts.