Maine needs a “reporting pay” requirement

Imagine you’re working at a fast-food restaurant. You’re used to getting called in on short notice to fill shifts, but you’re never sure if you’re actually going to work the shifts and get paid. One night your boss texts you to see if you can work the next morning. You say yes. You rearrange your day, sorting out child care and cancelling plans to clear eight hours. You drive to work and find two coworkers also waiting to start shifts. Your boss has overscheduled, just to make sure they have enough staff. Thirty minutes into your shift it becomes clear there aren’t enough customers to justify so many servers and you get sent home. You drive back home, burning more gas, pay the babysitter, and lament having cancelled your plans. You’re out money and time, but there’s nothing preventing your boss from doing this again.

This irregular scheduling practice is one of many that reduces economic security and increases material hardship for workers.1 While data specific to Maine is not available, a number of surveys from other parts of the country show this practice is fairly common, particularly in hospitality and retail industries.

  • 38 percent of Seattle workers with irregular shifts reported having been sent home early from a shift at least once in the previous two weeks2
  • 41 percent of irregular shift workers in Oregon had been sent home early3
  • Just under 8 percent of all retail workers in Washington DC, where reporting pay is required, have been sent home early from a scheduled shift4

Maine legislators are currently considering action to stop this unfair practice. An amendment to LD 1190, “An Act to Ensure a Fair Workweek by Requiring Notice of Work Schedules” from Senator Mike Tipping, would require that any worker called in for a shift expecting to work must be paid at least two hours’ wages at their regular rate of pay. In the example above, the restaurant worker would receive two hours of pay even if they were sent home after 30 minutes. This remedy, known as “reporting pay,” is already law in other states including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The proposal would allow employers some flexibility — if they make a “good faith effort” to alert the employee before they arrive at work, they don’t have to compensate the reporting pay. For example, if a manager overschedules by mistake, they could call an employee immediately before they report for work and tell them they’re no longer needed, without requiring reporting pay. The amended bill would only apply to businesses with at least 10 employees for 120 days each year. Certain seasonal industries would also be exempt from the requirement, as would local public employers. Employers who must send people home due to weather conditions — snow days or dangerously high temperatures, for example — would also be exempt from reporting pay.

Requiring reporting pay would put Maine in alignment with its New England peers, and would be a meaningful protection for workers, preventing them from being exploited by employers who don’t properly value their employees’ time or work expenses. By supporting LD 1190, legislators can protect economic security and uphold respect for Maine workers.