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Assemblywoman Timberlake Backs 'Fair Work Week' Bill In NJ

Are you a waiter, fast food employee, cashier or warehouse worker in NJ? A proposed law could make a big difference to your work schedule.

Patch — January 30, 2020

By Eric Kiefer, Patch Staff

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — A lawmaker who represents three towns in Essex County has thrown her support behind a proposed law that could give a big boost to waiters, fast food employees, cashiers and warehouse workers across New Jersey.

On Thursday, Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake joined forces with Sen. Loretta Weinberg and labor advocates to introduce the New Jersey Fair Workweek Act (S-921). Read the full text of the bill.

Timberlake represents the state's 34th District, which includes Montclair, Orange, East Orange and Clifton.

The assemblywoman spoke about the bill in a recent interview, pointing out that it wasn't too long ago that she was taking four buses to a bakery job at "a very large food chain." (Watch the video)

Timberlake said the bill would require bosses to give workers their schedules in advance and give them "fair shifts," including the right to refuse to work a double shift without retaliation.

"We're not talking about protecting people who are looking for reasons not to work," Timberlake asserted. "We're talking about protecting hardworking, dedicated people who want fairness in their schedules."

WHAT DOES THE BILL DO?

According to its sponsors, the bill takes aim at "unfair and discriminatory scheduling practices." It requires employers to give New Jersey workers:

In particular, the proposed law would help workers in "low-wage hourly jobs," such as the warehouse, retail, hospitality and fast food industries, according to its supporters.

Here's why the New Jersey Fair Workweek Act is needed, according to Make the Road New Jersey, an advocacy group in favor of the bill:

"Currently, New Jersey labor laws do not require employers to provide hourly workers any minimum advance notice of their schedules, build in a mandatory minimum number of rest hours in between each worker's shifts, or compensate workers for being on-call if they are not required to remain on the employer's premises and are free to engage in their own pursuits."

Last year, Philadelphia and Chicago became the latest cities to pass fair scheduling legislation. Similar measures are already law in Seattle, San Francisco and New York City, Make the Road New Jersey stated.

Other workers present at Thursday's announcement included representatives of United for Respect, UNITE HERE Local 100, New Jersey Citizen Action, SEIU 32BJ, Working Families Alliance of New Jersey, New Labor, Workers United, Communication Workers of America - New Jersey, the Hotel and Motel Trades Council of New York and Jersey-AFL-CIO, the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union (RWDSU) Locals 262 and 108, and the Union of Rutgers Administrators - AFT Local 1766.

CRITICS: 'ANOTHER STRIKE AGAINST SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS'

The proposed law also has its opponents, including the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

CEO and President Michele Siekerka issued the following statement on Thursday:

"Today's proposal is yet another strike against small business owners who already have to contend with an increasing minimum wage, enhanced paid sick and family leave laws and added energy and regulatory costs. All of this cumulatively adds to their expenses, shrinks their slim profit margins and challenges New Jersey's business climate, affordability and competiveness."

Siekerka continued:

"Further, this bill could eventually harm employees who actually seek more flexible hours in the food service, hospitality and retail industries, in particular. We anticipate that, without key changes to this legislation, it will have unintended consequences for those seeking flexible scheduling that can accommodate their work-life balance."

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