Proposed City of Olympia Minimum Wage Ordinance: Part 2—Promoting Full-Time Employment

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
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Oct 28, 2015

Continuing the five part series dissecting the complex provisions of the proposed “City of Olympia Minimum Wage Ordinance,” is the provision that reflects a growing trend to remove employers’ independent decision-making rights by requiring additional hours be offered to current part-time employees before hiring additional part-time employees.

The ordinance would force employers in Olympia to offer any additional hours of work to existing employees before hiring additional employees or subcontractors.  The proposal prescribes a rigid protocol by which employers must offer such hours. 

The employer must conspicuously post a notice of available work for all employees to view.  The notice must include the total hours of work being offered, the schedule of available shifts, whether those shifts will occur at the same time each week, the length of time the employer anticipates requiring the additional hours and the criteria for how the employer plans to distribute the extra hours.  This notice must be posted at least three days before the employer may proceed with any hiring new staff.  

If an employee responds to the offer of work and has the skills and experience to perform the work (determined “in good faith and reasonable judgment” by the employer), they must be awarded the extra hours.  If an employer does hire additional workers, they must document the time, method and result of offering the additional hours of work to existing staff.  Failure to preserve this documentation for three years after the date of hiring new employees would be a presumption of a violation.

Especially concerning is the provision that, “employers shall make reasonable efforts to offer employees training opportunities to gain the skills and experience to perform work for which the employer typically has additional needs.”  What constitutes “reasonable efforts” to offer workers training opportunities, and what even constitutes “training opportunities?” Neither is defined.  What an employer might consider a reasonable effort could be altogether different from what a government official might consider reasonable.  The same goes for training opportunities.  Such ambiguity leaves employers with no way to know if they are truly in compliance and wide open for persecution by the city, disgruntled employees and even "any entity" [translation: labor unions] whose member is allegedly aggrieved.

In summary, under the proposed ordinance city law, not business owners or managers, would determine whether a business and its customers are best served with a workforce comprised of part-time or full-time employees. Employers and workers need the flexibility to determine the staffing needs that allow them to deliver the best product or service, not a government mandated one-size-fits-all policy.

You can read about other provisions of the ordinance in Part 1Part 3Part 4 and Part 5 of this series. Part 1 details the “$15 Minimum Wage” provision, Part 3 explains the “Adequate Rest Between Shifts,” “Advanced Notice of Work Schedules” and “Advance Notice of Change in Work Schedules” provisions, Part 4 analyzes the “Paid Sick Leave” provision of the ordinance, and Part 5 explores the  “Enforcement” provisions of the new laws.