Stabilizing Low-Wage Work: Legal Remedies for Unpredictable Work Hours and Income Instability

Source: Charlotte Alexander, Anna Haley-Lock, Nantiya Ruan, University of Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-43, March 25, 2014

From the abstract:
Low-wage, hourly-paid service workers are increasingly subject to employers’ “just-in-time” scheduling practices. In a just-in-time model, employers give workers little advance notice of their schedules, call workers in to work during non-scheduled times to meet unexpected customer demand, and send workers home early when business is slow. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the main guarantor of workers’ wage and hour rights, provides no remedy for the unpredictable work hours and income instability caused by employers’ last minute call-in and send-home practices. This Article examines two alternative sources of legal protection that have received little attention in the literature on low-wage work: provisions in unionized workers’ collective bargaining agreements that guarantee a minimum number of hours of pay when workers are called in to or sent home from work unexpectedly, and state laws that contain similar guaranteed pay provisions. The Article concludes by assessing these tools’ effectiveness in reducing work hour fluctuations and income instability in low-wage, hourly service jobs.