Seyfarth Synopsis: The California Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment yesterday heard and approved AB 5, The Opportunity to Work Act, as it continues to move through the legislative process.

The Opportunity to Work Act, which would require employers to offer hours to part-time employees before hiring new employees or temporary workers, yesterday cleared its first hurdle in the legislative process, receiving a go-ahead vote from the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment. Read and watch our summaries of the bill. Next stop: Assembly Appropriations.

The bill’s co-author, Assembly member Gonzalez-Fletcher, kicked off Wednesday’s hearing by touting AB 5’s purported benefits and protections for employees in the retail and fast food industries. Conceding that the bill leaves much to be desired among members of the business community, she emphasized her desire to work with businesses to refine the bill’s language.

Opponents highlighted the ambiguities in AB 5’s language and the difficulties employers would likely face in implementing its provisions. They presented surveys and statistics that conflicted with those presented by the bill’s proponents. For example, the proponents stated that most part-time workers want to work full time, while opponents claimed that 5% of all part-time workers harbor such a desire.

Opponents posed questions such as: How exactly are employers supposed to offer additional hours in a non-discriminatory fashion? Must employers offer hours to all employees (in the same or similar position)? How are employers supposed to notify employees of the additional hours? Do the hours get awarded to the first employee to respond? What if an employee wants to work only a portion (e.g., one or two hours) of the offered shift? Must the employer then ask other employees to cover the remaining hours? Does the bill’s requirement that employers document their offers of additional hours to current employees mean that employers must keep copies of all employee communications, or require employees to sign written acknowledgements of each offer of additional hours?

These questions, Gonzalez-Fletcher assured, arise from intentional ambiguities that she wants to clarify with the help of business owners. She’s already considering amendments that would

  • delay implementation of the bill (for one year) for 501(c)(3) organizations,
  • create a carve-out for collective bargaining agreements that expressly define work hours,
  • limit the bill’s application to only the location where the additional hours are available, if the employer has locations throughout the state, and
  • provide an employee opt-out provision.

We’ll keep monitoring this bill’s progress through the legislative process and keep you updated.