Here’s How Oregon’s New Law Protects Workers in the Restaurant Industry

waitress in restaurant
Todd Warnock/Getty Images

As more companies deal with the fallout of lax or nonexistent labor policies, Oregon has stepped up to become the first state to address a glaring worker issue: Scheduling uncertainty.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law this week a mandate that employers give at least a week’s notice before putting a worker’s name on the schedule, according to an article in CNN Money. No more last minute Ubers or babysitters for Oregonians!

The move comes as employment in industries most vulnerable to last-minute scheduling has exploded.

Since January 2010, jobs in the restaurant industry have grown at double the pace of all employment in the U.S., according to statistics provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In the latest jobs report from July alone, “food and drinking places” added a whopping 53,100 jobs over the same month last year. That’s the most out of any specialized industry during the same time period — in fact, it’s more than the entire professional and business service sector.

These are jobs that are pretty flexible, with no experience and minimal training required. So this could only be great news, right?

Wrong.

Labor Laws Offer Little Protection for Restaurant Workers

The explosion in growth is not necessarily a good thing, according to a recent article in the Atlantic that highlights the growth in restaurant gigs.

“Jobs are jobs, but these ones don’t pay very well,” the article says. “The typical private-sector job pays about $22 an hour. The typical restaurant job pays about $12.50.”

And these types of service-industry jobs are the most vulnerable to less-than-perfect working conditions and benefits. (Cough, Chipotle, cough.)

But nothing affects this sector quite like the lack of a federal law on scheduling uncertainty. As a waiter, your manager can put you on the weekly schedule at the last minute — your personal life, transportation or other considerations be damned.

But that could be changing with Oregon’s help.

Oregon Bolsters its Labor Laws With New Work-Week Mandate

The law, which will take effect in July 2018, applies to retail, hospitality and food-service companies with at least 500 global employees. It also requires employees to give workers 10 hours off between shifts.

It’s a big deal, too.

One in six Oregonians surveyed by the University of Oregon for a February study said they received less than 24 hours notice before their boss put them on the schedule.

That analysis blames the rise of irregular scheduling on new software that uses real-time data to predict how many customers are slated to demand a certain service each day. Thanks, robots — first you try to take our jobs, now you’re screwing with our schedules?

Cities like New York, Seattle and San Francisco have adopted similar legislation, according to CNN Money. But workers in the other 12,000-plus cities and 49 states are out of luck for now.

With the restaurant industry driving job growth in the U.S., it should be a matter of time before more municipalities and states follow suit.

We hope.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He dealt with scheduling problems when he was a waiter at a sushi restaurant while working his way through college.

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