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Editorial: Labor Department rules threaten jobs for young people

The New York State Labor Department must consider Delta Sonic’s case or risk a significant loss in 2,500 potential new jobs over the next six years – a number that, in other circumstances, would prompt an outpouring of public incentives.

But the company isn’t asking for tax breaks, just relief from a proposed regulation that, in its case, makes no sense. The issue is known as “predictive scheduling,” and coming on top of increases in the state’s minimum and tipped minimum wages, is threatening to push the company to automate at the expense of employees. It’s a bad deal.

Following the wage increase, the company eliminated 300 jobs in New York last year by upgrading its drying stations and other automation, including robots. Another 200 jobs are planned to be eliminated by the end of March.

The wage issue is already settled. But the Labor Department is continuing to push the scheduling regulations while denying – preposterously – that a car wash’s business isn’t weather dependent.

The proposed rule would require employers to post work schedules 14 days in advance or pay workers up to four hours’ extra wages. The goal was to relieve pressure from workers at stores and restaurants, where constantly changing schedules can cause havoc with child care needs and for employees who hold second jobs.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was right to respond to those needs, but the approach remains too broad. Because of it, the young people who work at businesses such as Delta Sonic are in place to take a hit.

The Labor Department has created an exemption for weather-dependent businesses, but has specifically included only snowplow operators. Perhaps the department’s employees rush to wash their cars in the rain, but no one else does.

If the Labor Department is targeting car washes due to bad actors in New York City, as business advocates believe, then go after them. Leave the good ones out of it.

Officials at Delta Sonic say the rule will increase payroll at least 50 percent when calling in students, who account for much of its work force. More than 50,000 young people have entered the job market through Delta Sonic, they say. Many of those students provided testimonials supporting scheduling flexibility.

The state needs to rethink this. It can acknowledge that weather plays a prominent role in such business. It can carve out employees at the car wash whose job functions are performed outdoors, as the company suggests. Better still, carve out upstate New York.

Delta Sonic Owner Ron Benderson wants to remain in the people business. New York State should want to help him.

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