A man walks past a "now hiring" sign posted outside of a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia on June 3, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Colorado legislators rejected a bill that would have required retailers and companies in the hospitality industry to provide more predictable scheduling and compensation for "show up time" after sponsors acknowledged they would not compromise on a key change sought by the restaurant industry.

It signaled the first major loss by the House Democrats' more progressive wing, which has offered legislation already facing veto threats from the governor.

House Bill 1118 died on an 2-8 vote in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, with the committee's chair, vice-chair and two other Democrats voting it down, along with the committee's four Republicans.

The measure would have required an employer to provide written notice of an employee's work schedule 14 days in advance. Under the proposal, hours cannot vary by more than 15% without the employee's written consent, and, if the employee agrees to pick up more hours, that also must be in writing.

Shifts that get canceled at the last minute — such as for inclement weather — would have required the employer to provide "predictability pay" of up to two hours. Also, the employee would get an extra hour of pay for consenting to add a shift at the last minute, unless initiated by the employee. 

The bill would also have required at least 12 hours between shifts, unless the employer obtains written consent for less than that. And existing employees must be given first right of refusal for additional hours before the employer can make new hires.

Employees would have the right to request scheduling changes of all kinds. That would address one of the concerns raised by several witnesses in a Feb. 16 hearing — that they were unable to go to their children's school events, meet with teachers, go to medical appointments or care for aging family members.

The bill went through a seven-hour hearing on Feb. 16, with business owners outnumbering supporters by about 3 to 1. A rewrite to gain the support that the bill needed to get out of the committee was hinted at during the hearing.

But the amendment never surfaced. 

Opponents said changes contained in the amendment were not enough to move them to support or be neutral, and several warned they will abandon plans to expand their businesses in Colorado if the bill succeeds.

Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, one of the bill's sponsors, claimed the bill faced misinformation by the "corporate lobby" and special interest groups.

"We urged you to think about who you had heard from in the lobby and what that is, who has the resources and means to hire representation that can be down here all day, every single day, talking to you and providing their version of what this bill does," she said.

Testimony came from people who were not covered by the bill, she said, adding, "Our workers could never outnumber the corporate lobby and we could not get out from under the piles of misinformation."

Referring to the changes, cosponsor Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, said backers were willing to change the business size, push out implementation, phase in the bill, scale back enforcement and more.

"Unfortunately, what we heard from the committee is that unless we remove protections for all restaurant workers from this bill completely, we don't have the votes to move this bill forward," she said. 

That was a line they would not cross based on their values and who the bill was intended to protect, she said.

Rep. William Lindstedt, D-Broomfield, said his "no" vote was a tough one, but, without the amendment, he couldn't support the legislation.

"I would love the opportunity to work on something maybe narrower in the future to try to stand up for workers, many of whom have have been exploited," he said.

But the bill, as written, just isn't ready to solve that problem, he said.

Committee Chair Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, a business owner who also voted "no," said she worries about unintended consequences that, in the end, could hurt the very people the bill is intended to help, as well as damage to the restaurant industry, which she said is still facing the effects of COVID-19, including worker shortages. 

Amabile encouraged the sponsors to keep working at it.

A statement from the Colorado Restaurant Association said it is "incredibly relieved" by the bill's demise. 

“The restaurant industry is a professional haven for creative, hard-working people who need flexible scheduling so they can manage other aspects of their lives, such as childcare, school, and second jobs,” said Sonia Riggs, the association's president and CEO. “We are grateful to the committee members for listening to the hundreds of restaurant operators and employees who raised their voices in force against this bill over the past several weeks."

Riggs added: "The industry is nowhere near recovered from three years of operational challenges and soaring inflation, and this bill would have irreparably harmed Colorado restaurant workers, consumers, and businesses of all sizes.”

The Colorado Chamber of Commerce's Loren Furman, in a statement Thursday, said the "restrictive scheduling bill was one of the worst bills for business we’ve seen from the Legislature in years, and that was reflected by the significant backlash from business owners across the state."

"This proposal would have imposed harsh penalties on employers for things out of their control, stripping away much-needed flexibility for both businesses and their employees," Furman said. 

Supporters lamented the bill's failure to advance.

Nina DiSalvo, policy director at Towards Justice, said it is "always unfortunate to miss an opportunity to do right by workers."

"But we are particularly troubled by the role misinformation played in undermining the Fair Workweek Act this year," DiSalvo said. "Our coalition is committed to dispelling misinformation and to finding policy solutions that empower workers and employers to create predictable schedules, predictable incomes, and a healthy and stable workforce.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.