NY AG Probing Gap, Target & 11 Other Retailers For Possibly Illegal On-Call Scheduling Practices

Over the past several years, companies that employ hourly workers in New York have come under scrutiny for a variety of practices, including not providing reimbursement for uniforms to requiring some work be performed off the clock. Today, the state attorney general’s office began scrutinizing another practice by major retailers: the use of on-call scheduling.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters warning 13 major retail companies including Target, Sears and Gap that some stores may be violating state law by using on-call scheduling systems.

In addition to the warning, the letters – sent on Friday – ask the companies to provide the AG’s office with information about their so-called “on-call shifts,” in which employees are given little notice on whether they are required to show up for work or stay at home without pay.

Companies receiving the inquiries include Target, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ann Taylor parent company Ann Inc. Burlington Stores Inc., Crocs Inc., J.C. Penney Co., J. Crew Group Inc., Sears Holdings Corp., TJX Cos., Urban Outfitters Inc., Williams-Sonoma Inc., and L Brands Inc. – the owner of retailers such as Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret.

In all, the letter asks for information about how the retailers schedule employees, the software they use, and any penalizations workers face if they don’t follow on-call procedures.

While on-call scheduling allows retailers to be more flexible with hours and save on payroll expenses by only having workers report for work if the store is busy, the system can make it difficult for employees to predict when they’ll work and their pay.

In most cases, employees who are scheduled on-call must phone, email or text managers shortly before their shift begins.

According to the letter, this practice 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.”

Under New York law, employers must adhere to a rule that mandates staffers who report to work for a scheduled shift be entitled to at least four hours of pay at minimum wage, even if they are sent home.

The Wall Street Journal reports that several other states have similar rules to the one employed in New York. However, the regulation is rarely enforced because most workers aren’t aware of its existence.

A spokesperson for Gap tells the WSJ that the company is committed to establishing sustainable scheduling practices. In fact, the retailer is currently part of a research project with the University of California, Hastings College of Worklife Law examining workplace scheduling and productivity.

Target says that its scheduling method doesn’t include the use of on-call shifts, and that employees have the ability to check their schedules remotely at least 10 days in advance.

For now, Schneiderman’s office is only looking for information regarding the use of on-call systems, but depending on the data received, the office could take enforcement action.

Retailers Are Under Fire for Work Schedules [The Wall Street Journal]