NY Attorney General Warns Retailers About On-Call Scheduling

by Harry Sheff

Attorny_General_Eric_T_SchneidermanNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has warned 13 retail chains, including Target, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, JCPenney, J. Crew and TJX Companies, that their use of on-call scheduling for hourly employees may violate state law. Schneiderman sent a letter to the retailers last week asking about their scheduling procedures and penalties for workers who don’t follow the on-call rules.

On-call scheduling has become popular among large retailers over the last several years. By requiring employees to be prepared to come in to work if stores are busy, retailers are able to save money: empty stores aren’t full of workers with nothing to do and busy stores can quickly ramp up staff. But Schneiderman told retailers this leaves “too little time to make arrangements for family needs, let alone to find an alternative source of income to compensate for the lost pay.”

The letters, copies of which were obtained by the Wall Street Journal, said in part, “Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on all employees, especially those in low-wage sectors. Without the security of a definite work schedule, workers who must be ‘on call’ have difficulty making reliable childcare and elder-care arrangements, encounter obstacles in pursuing their education, and in general experience adverse financial and health effects, as well as overall stress and strain on family life. The requirement of being on call also interferes with such employees’ ability to obtain supplemental employment in order to ensure financial security for their families.”

While New York law requires employees who show up for a scheduled shift be paid for at least four hours of minimum wage whether they are sent home early or not, enforcement has been erratic. Eight states and Washington, D.C. have such laws.