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OM in the News: Abercrombie–and Others–Agree to End “On-Call” Scheduling

August 13, 2015

a&fAbercrombie & Fitch will cease using on-call scheduling—which requires workers to make themselves available for shifts that may be canceled at the last minute—at its New York stores by the end of 2015, reports The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 7, 2015). The retailer, which also operates the Hollister chain, was among 13 companies that received notice from the N.Y. state attorney general, warning that they might be violating state law by requiring workers to show up or stay home with little notice. “Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on all employees, especially those in low-wage sectors,” said the attorney general.

Workers whose shifts are canceled don’t receive pay, even if they had blocked out that time and made child care or other arrangements. A&F workers say that they were expected to be on call at least twice a week and were often told to stay home just an hour before their shifts were to start. On-call scheduling allows retailers to staff up quickly during busy times and save on labor costs during slow days. Software now widely used by retailers forecasts staffing needs based on real-time sales and store traffic data. Workers, labor activists and legislators have criticized the practice, saying it makes employees’ lives and pay unpredictable.

A&F workers will now receive their schedules one week in advance and can opt in to receive alerts about additional shifts that need to be filled on short notice. Victoria’s Secret, which also received the letter, told employees it would stop using on-call shifts. The other companies targeted by the state are:  Burlington; Crocs ; Gap; J.C. Penney; J. Crew; Sears; Target ; TJX; Urban Outfitters; Ann Inc.; and Williams-Sonoma.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. How common is on-call scheduling?
  2. What are the ethical issues involved?
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