A.G. Schneiderman And Eight Other State Attorneys General Probe Retailers Over Use Of On-Call Shifts

Letters To 15 Retailers Express Concern About Unpredictable Work Schedules And Seek Information About Companies’ Use Of Controversial Scheduling Practice

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, along with officials from attorneys general offices from seven other states and the District of Columbia, sent letters to a number of large retail companies regarding their use of ‘on-call’ shifts. 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.  

“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,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “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.” 

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office sent letters to the following retailers and was joined by some or all of the attorneys generals with retail locations in their respective states: 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 collaboration among attorneys general stemmed from their collective concern about the impact of on-call shifts on employees and their families, as well as the national scope of the retail companies involved. The letters request information about the companies’ scheduling practices that may be relevant under various state laws.  

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.”

It continues, “Our letter today is prompted by the concerns outlined above and by our shared interest in the well-being of workers nationwide,” and 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, as a result of an inquiry by Attorney General 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.