A bill that would require Iowa businesses to provide employees a written copy of workplace rules sparked outrage from Republicans Monday. Democrats in the Senate approved the measure, over the objections of Republicans like Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton.
“We don’t need a law. Employers already do what is required,” McKinley said. “We know of instances where Farmer Joe hires Jimmy to come out and work for him for 20 hours a week to keep the place going. They don’t have a written handbook. It’s generally a handshake. I think this is a solution looking for a problem.”
The bill requires businesses to notify employees when there are changes in workplace rules. Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, says the bill strikes a good balance. “Currently, employers do not have to inform their employees about terms and policies of employment such as sick leave, vacation pay and other matters in an employment agreement unless the employee requests that information in writing,” Jochum says. She says the bill was drafted in response to complaints from some Iowa workers.
“There are some employees in this state who were not aware that they needed to give the employer a four week notice in order to get vacation time and have it paid for. They gave a two-week notice and they were notified that they could, of course, take the vacation time, but it would be unpaid,” Jochum says. “There have been employees who have gone to the hospital with their children only to find out when they got there that the terms of their health policy had been changed and their deductibles had been increased.”
Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says his sold his hardware store and ran for the legislature because he was tired of all the paperwork. “We are just strapping these small businesses with more and more paperwork. There is no doubt about it,” Zaun said. “There’s probably an isolated (incident) where a business didn’t communicate. Well, you know what? I’d look at the employee and say, ‘Why didn’t find out what the benefits are? Why didn’t you find out what was going on before you took that position? You know, I get sick and tired of businesses getting beat up.”
The bill passed on a 28 to 17 vote. All Republicans voted against it. The 28 “yes” votes came from Democrats like Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo. “I’m kind of struck in awe that my colleagues from the other side of the aisle would get up and even argue something that is so common sense,” Dotzler said.
Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, suggested the bill would create problems for her daughter-in-law who lets one of her six employees work for store merchandise, while others are paid varying wages and one isn’t paid at all.
“It just adds, to me, more paperwork and she’s, you know, added these jobs to the community,” Boettger said. “Folks, I think this is just more government intrusion.” If the bill becomes law, business who fail to provide employees with a written copy of workplace rules could be fined $100 for each violation.
Listen to the entire debate here: Senate debate 22:40 MP3