Fifteen retailers - including Forever 21, BCBG Max Azria, Aeropostale, and Uniqlo, among others – are under fire thanks to their practice of on-call scheduling. Several states have taken to investigating employers' usage of such scheduling - which often result in retail workers' shifts being canceled with little notice.
According to Reuters, "The attorneys general of eight states and Washington D.C. on Tuesday sent letters to 15 retailers, including Aeropostale, Payless and Coach, asking whether and how they use so-called on-call scheduling. It's a practice used by some retailers and other businesses in which workers must call their employers to check if they are needed for scheduled shifts and are not paid if their hours are cut."
The officials are primarily concerned with workers' well-being, "since on-call shifts can lead to smaller paychecks and make it difficult to plan child care, work a second job or take classes."
The large-scale move across the U.S. comes on the heels of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into on-call scheduling in April 2015. Shortly thereafter, several retailers, including Gap Inc and Bath & Body Works, announced they were ending the practice.
"Even if the inquiries don't lead to legal action against the retailers, they will likely pressure more companies to end on-call scheduling, according to organizers with workers' rights groups and unions including the AFL-CIO," says Reuters. "They could also convince some lawmakers to back scheduling proposals that have been introduced in at least a dozen states and cities, they said. The bills generally would require employers to post schedules weeks in advance and pay workers whose shifts are canceled or who are called in on short notice."
"(The attorney general investigations) show how serious of an issue this is, and it's just inevitable that other elected officials will follow their lead," said Ari Schwartz of nonprofit Jobs With Justice, the lead organizer of a campaign to pass a scheduling law in Washington, D.C.
At least eight states, including California and New York, have laws requiring that employees be compensated if they report for work and are sent home, but it is not clear if those apply to on-call scheduling since workers do not have to actually show up.
Employers and plaintiffs' lawyers are watching a series of pending class actions against retailers including Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc, Pacific Sunwear and Forever 21 that claim on-call scheduling violates the existing laws.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the issue later this year in a lawsuit against Victoria's Secret. A federal judge in 2014 said California's law applied only to employees who come in to work and dismissed claims involving on-call scheduling.