The city of Seattle has commissioned a research survey to determine if any legislation could be needed to regulate how companies set workers' schedules.
The survey, being conducted by Vigdor Measurement & Evaluation, seeks to find out how often employers are making scheduling changes, how unpredictable schedules affect employees and how a scheduling policy would affect business operations. There are two versions of the survey, one for managers and the other for employees.
Margot Grant Gould of Vigdor Measurement & Evaluation said San Francisco is currently the only city that regulates how employers conduct work schedules, which requires payment premiums in some cases if a schedule is changed with less than seven days notice.
"It's more commonly known as the San Francisco retail workers bill of rights," she said, adding Washington, D.C., is also considering similar legislation. "I haven't seen this done before, in terms of doing a reevaluation of what those issues may be."
Research team leader Jake Vigdor said the hope is to get 500 responses for each survey by the June 3 deadline, adding a notification pushed out by the city to anyone with a business license in Seattle on Friday had resulted in a large spike in participation. Employee survey responses were at more than 580 by Monday and about 400 for scheduling managers. Vigdor said surveys will continue to be accepted, as the more provided, the greater the team can break down the data.
"It will let us be able to slice and dice the data, industry by industry or neighborhood by neighborhood," he said.
The city expects to have the results of the surveys in a report in July.
Vigdor said the Office of Policy Innovation in Mayor Ed Murray’s Office first contacted him, and his research team has been in steady contact with representatives there, as well as the Seattle City Council and Office of Labor Standards. The city is paying $65,000 for the survey.
Vigdor used 26 participants in a pilot survey, including representatives from the Washington Retail Association, chamber of commerce and other business organizations, which allowed for the creation of a more thorough final survey.
The surveys are currently only available in English, Gould said, but additional languages are expected to be online within the next two weeks.
"We're really leaning on the city to help us with the translation piece," she said. "We'll see what's hopefully made available."
Vigdor said it will start with an East African translation, followed by Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin and possibly more, adding immigrant populations are typically the most marginalized groups in any economy.
There's no certainty any legislation will be drafted based on the results of the surveys, Vigdor said, but he expects his research team will continue to work with the city once a report is complete, should such a decision be made.
Vigdor is also working with other University of Washington faculty in the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance under a contract with the city to evaluate Seattle's minimum wage, which increased this year and will continue to increase in increments for the next several years, reaching $15 an hour for Schedule 1 employers in 2018 and Schedule 2 employers with minimum compensation in 2019.
"We're in no danger of running out of work anytime soon," he said.
A team of 60 is currently collecting price data across the city, speaking with Seattle employees and also analyzing the effect of minimum wage increases in other major cities.
To find out more about the study and take the survey, go to schedulinginseattle.org. A $5 e-gift card is no longer being offered as an incentive to take the survey, which takes about 16 minutes to complete, but all respondents still qualify for a drawing to win a $400 card.