Abercrombie & Fitch Co. will no longer use on-call scheduling at its New York stores after receiving a warning from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. His office in April warned 13 retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, that they may be in violation of New York laws by using the practice.
“On-call scheduling” or “just-in-time scheduling” requires that workers come in at the last minute or get sent home depending on a retailer’s needs that day or that hour.
In a letter sent to Schneiderman’s office and reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, the retailer said that workers will get their schedules a week in advance and can opt in to get alerts about additional shifts on short notice.
Retail working conditions are joining minimum wage hikes as an issue gaining the attention of lawmakers and regulators in several states and at the federal level. Algorithms in software have helped retailers cut costs through extremely efficient staffing — a practice known as “just-in-time scheduling.” But that’s also making life difficult for workers who are trying to manage their households, attend school, work additional jobs, or earn enough money to get by.
The practice can be especially bad for part-time workers. In 2012, one in three retail employees worked part-time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that number is growing.
“The biggest issue for workers today is scheduling,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which negotiated contracts for those Manhattan stores, told the New York Times. “It’s not just about how much they’re paid per hour, but how many hours a week they get to work.”
Between that increased scrutiny and an economy that finally allows workers to be pickier about jobs they take, more retailers may need to find ways to trim costs that don’t wreak havoc on their employees’ lives—or attract warning letters from law enforcement.
Indeed, Abercrombie & Fitch said it expects to eventually make the change nationwide.
“Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on all employees, especially those in low-wage sectors,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Abercrombie and Fitch is taking an important step that others should follow.”