Under pressure, major retailers ditch on-call scheduling
In recent years, many retail and restaurant chains have turned to on-call scheduling, a practice in which employees must be prepared to come in for a shift, but could find out at the last minute that they don't have to report to work.
It's a strategy that helps companies keep a lid on costs but has drawn fierce criticism from labor advocates, who say it makes life unnecessarily difficult for workers to coordinate child care and juggle other personal commitments.
Now, several big chains are walking away from the practice after an inquiry by a group of state attorneys general from across the country.
The Illinois attorney general's office said Tuesday that David's Tea, Aeropostale, Disney, PacSun, Zumiez and Carter's have each ceased using this type of scheduling at their stores after discussions related to the probe -- a move that benefits some 50,000 employees.
“It’s unfair for employers to alert employees mere hours before a scheduled shift if they are going to work,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Our investigation into on-call scheduling practices for low-wage workers resulted in several major employers abandoning these unreasonable practices.”
Attorneys general from seven other states and Washington, D.C., investigated on-call scheduling.
"On-call shifts are not a business necessity and should be a thing of the past. People should not have to keep the day open, arrange for child care, and give up other opportunities without being compensated for their time," said Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, in a statement. "I am pleased that these companies have stepped up to the plate and agreed to stop using this unfair method of scheduling."
A spokeswoman for the Disney Store confirmed that the retailer abandoned on-call scheduling earlier this year, though she did not specify whether it was in response to the inquiry. A spokeswoman for David's Tea confirmed that it has voluntarily agreed not to use on-call shifts anymore. PacSun declined to comment. Representatives for the other three retailers named in the attorney general's press release did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The group of retailers is the latest in a growing list of defectors from the on-call scheduling model. The issue came into a particularly harsh spotlight in 2014 when the New York Times profiled a Starbucks employee whose life was a constant cloud of chaos as a result of this practice.
The coffee giant ditched the model almost immediately after that story published, and subsequently, so did many other big names in retail, including Victoria's Secret, J. Crew and Urban Outfitters.
The New York attorney general's office said its latest inquiry also examined scheduling practices at stores such as Uniqlo, Coach, Justice and American Eagle. Those companies responded by saying that they had not been using the on-call set-up or had recently stopped doing so, officials said.