Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is probing chain clothing retailers for their practice of on-call scheduling, which forces workers into a purgatory of not knowing from day to day whether they'll have to report for duty, making something as simple as planning childcare or attending college extremely difficult—if the boss doesn't force you to quit school altogether.
The Attorney General's Office hit several multinational companies, including Urban Outfitters, Target, Sears, and the Gap, with stern letters demanding documentation on their scheduling. On-call arrangements for low-wage jobs have grown in popularity with the rise of scheduling software that tracks sales numbers so that managers can vary the staffing from day to day to accommodate fluctuations in demand. The result is that employees often don't know until the night before, or even the morning of, whether they will have to work a shift.
The letters read:
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.
The investigation hinges on a New York labor law that requires companies to pay employees four hours worth of wages if they report for work but don't put in a shift. This is the first time the law has been interpreted to include calling and texting into work as "reporting," according to an office spokeswoman. Schneiderman's Labor Bureau is demanding extensive records from the companies, 13 in all, by next month. The rest of the operations in the state's sights are:
Abercrombie & Fitch
Burlington Coat Factory
Clothing retailers, it should be noted, aren't the only offenders. As articles for the New York Time and the Nation note, Jamba Juice, Walmart, and Starbucks are also big on keeping workers guessing, as are big companies across the hospitality, airline, package delivery, and financial services sectors.
The Bloomingdale's flagship store, on the other hand, is unionized, and guarantees "at least twenty hours weekly and twenty-one days advanced scheduling notice," according to The Nation.
Our nomination for the next labor crusade New York politicians should take on: banning stores opening on Thanksgiving. Seventy-nine percent of Gothamist readers polled agree—making people work retail jobs on Turkey Day is abhorrent.