Advance schedules proposed for retail workers in California

Last Updated Feb 18, 2015 3:42 PM EST

Legislation under consideration in California would make the state the first in the nation to require large retailers and restaurant chains to post work schedules at least two weeks in advance.

The "Fair Schedule and Pay Equity Act" would impact retailers and restaurants with 500 or more employees in the state, which has the biggest percentage of hourly workers in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"In recent years, since the great recession, we've seen an enormous increase in the number of part-time, low-wage workers in California and around the country. Unpredictable schedules and last-minute changes are extremely challenging to employees and their families," said state assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, who introduced the bill Tuesday. "It makes it difficult for a parent to take kids to school, or to the doctor. At the moment there is no protections for low-wage, hourly workers, particular in the retail environment from last-minute schedule changes."

Co-authored with San Diego Democrat Shirley Weber the measure would also mandate additional pay for last-minute schedule changes.

The move in the nation's most populous state follows media accounts that cast unfavorable light the scheduling practices by companies such as Starbucks and Juicy Couture.

Uncertain schedules, or employer demands that workers be available to work if needed, are especially difficult for students juggling work and classes, or those working multiple jobs.

"Particularly in retail, and to some extend in fast-food restaurants, there's an increasing reliance on just-in-time scheduling, which means schedules can change dramatically from week to week," said Chris Tilly, director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Los Angeles. "In reality, companies will literally change their schedules in real time, and ask employees to go home if it's slow. And there's an increasing expectation of 24-hour availability. This wreaks havoc in workers' lives."

Should the measure be approved by the California assembly, it would then go to the state senate. "It would not surprise me if the California Legislature passes this, what's more of an open question is whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign it. He's been more cautious and resistant to legislation if he thinks it would damage businesses in the state," said Tilly.

Brown's office told CBS MoneyWatch it generally does not comment on pending legislation.