New York AG Probes Retailers Over Use of On-Call Shifts

April 15, 2016

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, along with officials from attorneys general offices from seven other states and the District of Columbia, recently sent letters to a number of large retail companies regarding their use of “on-call” shifts.

Schneiderman said employees assigned to such shifts must call their employer — typically an hour or two before a scheduled shift — to find out if they will be assigned to work that day. The letter seeks information and documents related to the companies’ use of on-call shifts, Schneiderman said on April 13.

Schneiderman said on-call shifts are unfair to workers who must keep the day free, arrange for child care, and give up the chance to get another job or attend a class — often all for nothing.

“On-call shifts are not a business necessity, as we see from the many retailers that no longer use this unjust method of scheduling work hours,” he said.

Schneiderman’s office sent letters to American Eagle, Aeropostale, Payless, Disney, Coach, PacSun, Forever 21, Vans, Justice Just for Girls, BCBG Maxazria, Tilly’s, Inc., David’s Tea, Zumiez, Uniqlo, and Carter’s.

The letter states, “Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on employees. 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 an education, and in general experience higher incidences of adverse health effects, overall stress, and strain on family life than workers who enjoy the stability of knowing their schedules reasonably in advance.”

The letter continues, “Our letter today is prompted by the concerns outlined above and by our shared interest in the well-being of workers nationwide.”

The letter also notes that certain states have laws regarding reporting or call in pay laws applicable within those jurisdictions.

New York State has a “call in pay” regulation that provides, “An employee who by request or permission of the employer reports for work on any day shall be paid for at least four hours, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less, at the basic minimum hourly wage.” (12 NYCRR 142-2.3.)

In 2015, following an inquiry by Schneiderman into on-call scheduling, brands including Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, J.Crew, Urban Outfitters, Pier 1 Imports, and L Brands (parent company of Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret) all agreed to end the practice of assigning on-call shifts.

The letters were signed by representatives of the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island. Several offices signed only letters to retailers located within their states.

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