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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Larry Freshler: Flexible schedules are vital to hospitality industry

Larry Freshler

I’ve worked in hotels as a human resource professional for more than 30 years. I’ve dedicated my career to helping employees work through the challenges that come with policies and laws created by people who don’t understand the hospitality employment model. In Olympia, our legislators considered a proposed statewide scheduling policy, in House Bill 1491 and Senate Bill 5717, that would be detrimental to the schedule flexibility enjoyed by employees in retail, hotels, food service and franchises.

Updates to the original House version of the bill exempted 30 of the state’s 39 counties. Spokane County is one of the nine counties still included because we are not defined as a rural county. This exemption held hotels and restaurants in Spokane County to a different standard than those in any of our neighboring counties. By their actions, legislators have recognized this is not a policy that is ready for the entire state. For now, it looks like these bills won’t move forward this session.

I chose to make my career with hotels because I believe that schedule flexibility is an important benefit of the industry. Scheduling flexibility allows employees to decide when they want to work. Through this option, employees have the opportunity to make the best decisions for their health and the well-being of their families.

As an HR professional, we want to encourage positive working relationships and foster healthy conversations among employees and their employer. Creating a statewide mandate of how employees and employers must interact does not create a good environment or culture. In my experience, no matter where you are in the hotel, as an employee, you have input into your schedule and always have the chance to pick up more shifts if you want them, or vice versa.

A scheduling policy as complex as the one proposed in Olympia would be a logistical nightmare. If this policy were adopted, we would likely need to add staff just to manage the new scheduling demands. Currently we act as a team and schedule our employees taking into considering their schedules and requests. In all my time in HR, I’ve seen some interesting proposals, but this one limiting the scheduling abilities of employers might be the most burdensome yet.

This proposed new scheduling law would pile on additional regulations and penalties for employers that would be payable to employees. There is no employee accountability in this proposal. If an employee can’t cover their shift, employers would be stuck between a rock and a hard place. If HB 1491 or SB 5717 passed, the options available to employers would be to leave the shift uncovered or pay a penalty for covering the shift.

By removing flexible scheduling from the hospitality industry, this policy is a solution in search of a problem. This law penalizes retail, hotel, food service and franchise employers, assuming they are all bad actors. The reality that I’ve experienced is that hotels and restaurants don’t operate without good staff. It is in the interest of employers to treat their staff well. This policy is an overreach and sets up a government mandate of how employers must interact with their employees.

Currently, we have internal policies that allow our staff the ability to know their schedules with plenty of advance notice. Like me, there are thousands of employees in Spokane and across our state who have chosen to make hospitality their profession. We have several staff members in our hotel who have been with us for a majority of their careers. They have their schedules and like knowing they have the flexibility to make changes when they need to. They also know that if they need hotel management to help them with their schedule, it will happen.

All employees across Washington should have the support and help of their employer if they need it. Scheduling laws like the ones proposed in Olympia would penalize employers for helping their employees be successful at work.

Where is the logic in that?

Larry Freshler is a human resource professional in Spokane and has worked in the hotel industry for more than 30 years.

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