New York Attorney General Questions On-Call Shifts

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters to 13 retailers on April 10 warning them that their on-call shift practices might violate state law. 

On-call shifts, which require employees to check in up to a few hours before a shift starts to see if they are needed, have been under increased criticism from labor activists as their use becomes more widespread. 

The letters were sent to Target, Gap Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Ann Inc., Burlington Stores Inc., Crocs Inc., J.C. Penney Co., J. Crew, L Brands Inc., Sears Holding Corp., TJX Cos., Urban Outfitters Inc., and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

“Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on all employees, especially those in low-wage sectors,” said the letter, which was signed by Terri Gerstein, labor bureau chief. “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 their education, and in general experience adverse financial and health effects, as well as overall stress and strain on family life. The requirement of being on call also interferes with such employees’ ability to obtain supplemental employment in order to ensure financial security for their families.”

The letter continues: “In addition to the concerns outlined above, 12 NYCRR 142-2.3 provides, ‘[a]n 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.’”

The retailers were asked to respond with details of their scheduling practices, including documentation, by May 4.