“Workers’ Voices” is a series on A Better Balance’s blog highlighting the firsthand experiences of workers from across the country. For some workers we are in touch with, they are covered by federal, state, or local workplace protections that make a world of difference in their ability to care for themselves and their loved ones. For others, their experiences highlight the glaring gaps that remain in our laws.
The below is a story from Alma, a Community Advocate with A Better Balance.
My name is Alma, and I work as a host at a restaurant in Washington. I am a single mom with three young children. My job at the restaurant is how I feed my kids and put a roof over our heads. I try to work as many hours as I can in order to provide for them, but my employer’s scheduling practices make it extremely difficult for me to have steady, predictable hours and income. My manager routinely does not give out the schedule for the week until the very last minute. There are times when I don’t receive a schedule at all, so I have to check in on a day-to-day basis to ask if I am supposed to work the next day and, if so, at what time. I don’t always receive a response. Sometimes I won’t get a text until midnight saying I need to work the next day. And that’s being generous—there have even been times when I wasn’t told until the same day that I needed to report to work.
This is normal at my job, and it affects my paycheck. With enough notice, I am able to hire a babysitter, but I can’t ask a babysitter to be “on call” for me all day in case I am called into work. So when my manager asks me to report to work at the last minute and I don’t have childcare available, I have no choice but to stay home with my kids and lose pay. Recently, I had to attend a parent-teacher conference, which I informed my manager about ahead of time, and she said she understood. But then she ended up scheduling me to work at that exact time. I had to attend the conference, so I lost out on pay for that day.
“This is normal at my job, and it affects my paycheck. With enough notice, I am able to hire a babysitter, but I can’t ask a babysitter to be “on call” for me all day in case I am called into work.”
I faced similar challenges around scheduling at a previous job I had as a bartender. At that job, I was often sent home after only two hours, even though I had been scheduled to work for five hours, because business was slow. Since I could not consistently rely on earning enough money at my shift to even pay for my child’s babysitter, I had to tell them that I couldn’t come in just to work for only two hours. The bar’s solution was to hire another bartender, which resulted in fewer hours to go around.
I believe Congress should pass the Schedules That Work Act so that employers are not allowed to take advantage of their employees like this, especially single moms like me who are simply trying to earn an income while taking care of our kids.