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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    Marx proposes limit on mandated consecutive work days

    Sen. Martha Marx, D-New London, has proposed a bill that would prohibit employers from mandating an employee work more than six days in a row, a measure designed to help nurses like herself and home health aides. The bill got a hearing before the Labor and Public Employees Committee on Thursday.

    Current state law says employers can’t compel “any employee engaged in any commercial occupation or in the work of any industrial process to work more than six days in any calendar week.”

    Marx said amid staffing shortages, nurses are being scheduled to work Monday through Saturday of one week and Sunday through Friday of the next. That means they can be working 12 days in a row, but it’s not against the law because it’s six days in each week.

    “We’re asking for one day off, so we can go grocery shopping, so we can do whatever we want to do. It’s nobody’s business what we do,” Marx said. “But just give us one day off.”

    The senator said her proposal does nothing to stop people from voluntarily working extra hours. Her bill drew union support and opposition from business and trade organizations.

    AFT Connecticut Vice President John Brady said schedules of 12 days in a row “are not uncommon” for visiting nurses and nursing assistants, and while they don’t violate the letter of the law, they violate the spirit.

    “Not only is this detrimental to the retention of critical staff that already faces shortages, but it is also unsafe for patients,” he wrote. “A healthcare professional who is not rested is unable to give the level of care they are trained to provide and that they have dedicated their lives to. It drives people from the profession.”

    Sherri Dayton, a Quaker Hill resident who works as an emergency care center nurse and serves as president of the Backus Federation of Nurses, said working fatigue can cause mistakes, which “have high consequences because we deal with people’s lives.” She added, “A work-life balance is essential, especially in high-stress jobs.”

    In addition to Brady and Dayton, one other registered nurse and one home health aide also submitted testimony in favor.

    Business organizations oppose bill

    People representing the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Greater New Haven & Quinnipiac Chambers of Commerce, Connecticut Broadcast Association, Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants, and Connecticut Conference of Municipalities submitted written testimony opposing the bill.

    “While most employers are already in compliance with this proposal, there are certain industries where this inflexible policy would interfere with necessary non-traditional scheduling arrangements,” CBIA lobbyist Eric Gjede wrote. “Employees enter these work arrangements with full knowledge of the non-traditional work hours, which is often negotiated during collective bargaining.”

    He voiced concern the bill “could jeopardize public health during a crisis or deepen the already severe workforce shortages of some of our flagship industries.”

    Calling the proposal impractical, CCM said inclement weather events and public health/safety emergencies may require municipalities to schedule employees for more than six days. The association recommended exempting municipalities “since these situations are typically collectively bargained.”

    Bonnie Stewart, executive director and CEO of the society of CPAs, said times of the year when tax returns, audits and other projects are due can require accountants to work more than six consecutive days. She said accounting and advisory firms recognize this and generally have generous paid time off policies.

    Michael Ryan, president of the Connecticut Broadcasters Association, said the bill doesn’t consider the realities of the broadcasting business and other industries.

    “Coverage of severe weather, breaking news, and sporting events often requires ‘live’ coverage beyond regularly scheduled workdays,” he wrote. Ryan also said the pandemic led to station layoffs and downsizing, meaning stations don’t have a reserve pool of employees.

    Having read the testimony in opposition, Marx questioned whether employers are obeying current law. She also said if a business plan “is based on earnings on the backs of the hardest working people, then my advice to you is change your business plan.”

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