Why it matters

More employers have agreed to halt the practice of "on-call scheduling" after receiving warning letters from a coalition of state Attorneys General. Led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the AGs of seven other states and the District of Columbia sent missives to 15 national retailers arguing the practice—where employees call their employer an hour or two before a scheduled shift to see if they will work that day—"take[s] a toll on employees," resulting in "higher incidences of adverse health effects, overall stress, and strain on family life." Six of the recipients agreed to stop the practice, Schneiderman announced, which will impact an estimated 50,000 employees nationwide. Four of those companies also promised to provide work schedules at least one week in advance to workers. The other nine employers responded that they either did not use the practice or had already stopped it. The focus on the practice began in 2015, when both regulators and employees challenged on-call scheduling in investigations and class actions.

Detailed discussion

In 2015, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched a campaign against the practice of "on-call scheduling," expressing concern about the impact of such a practice on the workforce. After sending a series of letters to employers operating in the state, Schneiderman announced that several retailers—including Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, J.Crew, Urban Outfitters, and Pier 1 Imports—agreed to halt the use of such scheduling, which requires employees to call their employer, typically a few hours before their shift, to confirm whether they will be working that day.

Joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, Schneiderman sent another round of letters to national retailers last April.

"Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on employees," the AGs wrote. "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 was triggered by these concerns as well as the fact that certain states have laws regarding reporting or call-in pay laws, the AGs added. For example, New York 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."

Of the 15 recipients, 9 (American Eagle, BCBG Max Azria, Coach, Forever 21, Justice: Just for Girls, Payless, Tilly's, Inc., Uniqlo, and Vans) replied that they either did not engage in on-call scheduling or recently stopped the practice. Six more promised to stop, an agreement that will impact an estimated 50,000 employees nationwide, Schneiderman said. In addition, four of the companies also committed to providing their workers with schedules at least one week in advance of the workweek.

"On-call shifts are not a business necessity and should be a thing of the past," Schneiderman said in a statement. "People should not have to keep the day open, arrange for child care, and give up other opportunities without being compensated for their time. I am pleased that these companies have stepped up to the plate and agreed to stop using this unfair method of scheduling."