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Businesses dodge on-call scheduling law some called a 'job killer'

The state has decided to hold off on changes to on-call scheduling rules, and business owners are breathing a sigh of relief.

The State Department of Labor had mulled new predictive scheduling rules that would have required employers to post schedules 14 days in advance and pay workers as much as four hours' wages for last-minute scheduling changes. But the state agency let the proposal expire without taking action.

That's good news for businesses who said they would've had to close or change their business model drastically to cope with the changes.

Delta Sonic car wash estimated the law would have cost the company $3 million to $15 million per year and kill 3,700 jobs over the next seven years. The increased operating expenses would force the company away from its hand-dry business model, and toward more automation, it said.

Customer volume at the car wash's 29 locations can vary dramatically according to the weather, said Ron Benderson, Delta Sonic's president, so the company depends on flexible, on-call scheduling. Under the proposed regulations, the company would have had to pay more than 1,000 employees to come to work on rainy days with nothing to do, or cut them from the schedule and pay them each four hours' wages to stay home.

Delta Sonic can hold off on any further automation for now, but said it will "remain vigilant" to see if the issue comes back.

"We will continue to staff based on weather conditions as we have for over 50 years," Benderson said.

Unshackle Upstate, a business advocacy group, said the decision to drop the new pay schedules was a "step in the right direction" toward making New York more competitive with business-friendly states.

"This one-size-fits-all approach would have hurt businesses – especially small businesses – that are already struggling to survive in New York's harsh business climate," said Michael Kracker, the group's executive director. "Now more than ever, our leaders in Albany should be focused on ways to help businesses grow and succeed."

Proposed changes to 'call-in' scheduling rules: 'Frightening' or fair?

Sen. Chris Jacobs, a critic of the proposed changes, said the new rules would have "devastated" jobs and the economy.

“Enacting this rule would have caused serious financial harm to countless businesses and not-for-profits throughout Buffalo and Western New York and been a devastating blow to their long-term viability in New York State,” Jacobs said in a news release.

Jim Hornung Jr., president of Elbers Landscape Service and a member of the Snow and Ice Management Association, had argued the changes would've made it impossible to do business in a weather-related business like his. The 100-year-old Buffalo company does landscaping and snow removal, both of which are dependent on the weather.

"This is an incredibly important victory," he said in a statement.

There is already a provision in state law that requires employers to pay workers for the number of hours they’re scheduled or four hours’ pay (whichever is less) if they report for work and are cut from the schedule. But if those workers are called off before they report to work, their employers aren't obligated to pay them.

If the proposed law was passed, workers who were cut less than 72 hours before the start of their shifts, or on-call workers who won’t find out if they’ll be called into work within 72 hours of their shifts, would have gotten an extra four hours’ pay. Employers would have been required to give an extra two hours’ pay to employees who work shifts not scheduled 14 days in advance.

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