Panel Paper: Managers’ Implementation of Scheduling Legislation: The Case of Seattle

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8209 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Susan Lambert, University of Chicago and Anna Haley, Rutgers University

Emerging US scheduling legislation is intended to establish universal standards for scheduling hourly employees, to date primarily in the retail and food service sectors. Yet the role that cost-focused business models play in determining scheduling practices in these industries raises concerns that these laws may fall short of setting such standards. This paper examines the implementation of Seattle’s Secure Scheduling Ordinance (SSO), investigating in detail how firm-wide accountability practices (e.g., labor budgets and sales targets) clash with specific SSO provisions, and how points of tension are resolved – and public policy is ultimately fashioned – by frontline managers.

Although cost pressures in both retail and food service are strong, research indicates that firms vary in their reliance on labor flexibility practices, and individual managers vary in the strategies they use to meet company accountability requirements. Our methodological approach is designed to capture the interplay of these factors through detailed data collection and analysis of on-the-ground employer practices. The main source of data is in-depth interviews with managers responsible for scheduling workers in hourly retail and food service jobs in Seattle sites of national chains covered by the SSO, sampled for variation in size, price-point, neighborhood, and business model. For data collection prior to SSO implementation, a 50-item survey gathered basic information on each worksite and its workforce; we then conducted 52 in-person, in-depth interviews that systematically unpacked manager practices relevant to each of the Ordinance provisions. In summer 2018, we will examine employer scheduling practices a year after implementation; this paper will draw on both baseline and year 1 data.

Our analyses focus on three factors to help explain variation in implementation: managers’ understanding of the law and its administrative rules, supports managers receive from their company to facilitate implementation, and their firms’ reliance on labor flexibility practices to achieve business goals. Like other scheduling legislation, the SSO has numerous provisions – requiring minimum advance notice, a good-faith estimate of weekly work hours, additional compensation for employer-driven schedule changes and for working closely-spaced shifts, and offering available hours to existing employees before hiring new ones. The regulation’s complexity raises questions about managers’ capacity to understand and successfully adhere to its requirements. Indeed, baseline data reveal substantial misunderstanding among managers. In addition, worksites are starting at different distances from compliance with SSO provisions, in ways our analyses suggest align with the firm’s reliance on labor flexibility. Finally, in the weeks before the law took effect, we observed considerable divergence in managers’ access to resources that could facilitate compliance with the new scheduling mandates. Further analyses incorporating interviews with managers from the same chains post-implementation will permit us to illuminate how these three factors have played out as firms undertake regulative compliance.

In our discussion, we will consider avenues municipalities might take to improve compliance so that new scheduling standards become a reality. The paper’s central goal is to strengthen the empirical basis for cities’ and states’ development of these laws and, importantly, the administrative rules that guide their implementation and enforcement.