New York AG Targets Rise of “On-Call” Retail Employees


By: Amanda M. Cash

New York’s Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, recently launched an inquiry into 13 major retailers, including Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew Group, L. Brands, Burlington Coat Factory, TJX Companies, Urban Outfitters, Target, Sears, Williams Sonoma, Crocs, Ann Inc. and J.C. Penney.

The Attorney General sent letters to these retailers questioning a practice where retailers keep workers “on call” for shifts.  According to the Attorney General, these “on-call” shifts require employees to report by phone, text, or email prior to their shift.  Hourly employees sometimes will not find out until the night before or the morning of the shift whether they will actually work a shift.

Employers prefer these types of “on-call” shifts as it helps retailers staff their shifts based on store traffic forecasts.  Of course, for employees, it causes difficulties in planning for things such as childcare or school schedules.  Reportedly, JCPenny, Ann Inc., and Sears Holding have denied utilizing “on-call” scheduling, while it is unclear whether the other retailers have utilized such “on-call” scheduling.

The New York Attorney General is targeting this “on call” practice based on a New York state law that requires employers to pay hourly workers who report for a scheduled shift for at least 4 hours of work.  The emails, texts, and phone calls are being interpreted by the New York Attorney General as “reporting” for a scheduled shift.

These 13 retailers now have until May 4 to provide the New York Attorney General with information regarding the processes they follow to schedule on-call shifts, such as whether they use computerized systems and penalize employees who do not follow on-call procedures.  He also asked the companies for any analysis they might have conducted on cost savings associated with on-call shifts and the impact on workers’ wellbeing. We will keep you updated with any new developments on this story.