Government

Youngstown Mulls Effect of Worker Bill of Rights

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City officials and employers are preparing to navigate the new landscape created by the Part-Time Workers Bill of Rights that voters approved Tuesday.

Some 56% of those who voted Tuesday said yes to the measure drafted by Michigan businessman Robert Goodrich that amends to the city charter.

Mayor John McNally expressed surprise Wednesday afternoon that the measure had passed, noting that the Community Bill of Rights charter amendment was rejected a sixth time the day before.

Among other provisions, the Goodrich measure:

  • Requires employers to provide those who request it notice of at least two weeks of their work schedules.
  • Prohibits employers from requiring a part-time employee to be on-call except for one mutually agreed-to shift per week.
  • And requires employers to pay part-time employees wages comparable to the starting hourly wages to their full-time employees plus proportional access to employer-provided paid and unpaid time off.

The city Law Department was examining the initiative Wednesday but couldn’t find any legal deficiencies, Law Director Martin Hume said. It requires City Council to appoint a five-member commission composed of two representatives for the city, two part-time workers and one member of the general public.

The amendment would have the commission take and investigate any complaints of violations and report its findings to the city after attempting to provide “mutual understanding and satisfaction” of the problem, and enforce workplace requirements. Should the commission be unsuccessful in resolving a complaint and determines that a violation has occurred, it would submit that conclusion to the law director, who would then determine whether to pursue civil enforcement.

The commission also will “advise and consult” with City Council on matters involving workplace policies for part-time workers; advise and consult council to assure effective compliance with policies and requirements, and recommend measures aimed at improving the city’s ability to promote equitable and practical working conditions for part-time workers; and recommend legislation.

Those determined to have violated the provision could pay a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation. Anyone assessed three such penalties in a three-year period would be subject to a $10,000 penalty for each subsequent violation for five years. Each day a violation continues beyond 75 days from the date of the initial filing of the initial complaint will constitute a “separate and distinct offense.”

McNally doubts the legislation will discourage employers who use part-time workers from coming to the city. “The big headache is going to be for employers in regard to their responsibilities for issues concerning the scheduling and notification of part-time workers and also their responsibilities in regard to proportional levels of benefits from part-time workers,” he said.

Before the amendment takes effect, the Mahoning County Board of Elections must certify the results of Tuesday’s elections, Hume said. Once that is done, the law presumes that council would establish the commission and set regulations “in a reasonable period of time,” although no specific time period is set.

Christian Rinehart, CEO of O’Donold’s Irish Pub & Grill and Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts downtown, which employ about 30 part-time workers, said he already schedules employees two weeks in advance but occasionally asks them to work on-call. “Now we’ll just schedule an on-call worker every day,” he said.

The charter amendment has “no teeth” but Rinehart expects that to change. As it takes effect, the problem will be when an employee is terminated for not showing up.

“You have to make sure that managers are following everything to a T now,” he said. He was also concerned that the additional requirements, combined with the city income tax, would discourage businesses from coming to the city.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis said Wednesday the charter amendment would affect her personally. She hires a home care worker to provide help 20 hours per week to her mother, who is a nursing home resident.

“I’m just being a good daughter to have extra coverage for my mom, and now I’m an employer. Isn’t that crazy?” she said. “How do I notify you [two weeks in advance that] hey, my mother’s in the hospital today?”

If employers are sufficiently upset about the charter amendment, City Council could consider putting it back on the ballot next year “for another round of consideration by the voters,” McNally said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.