The New York City Council on Tuesday introduced a package of bills that would ban on-call scheduling and other inflexible, unpredictable scheduling practices deemed unfair by retail workers and many policymakers, according to the council's website.
The bills in some cases go further than what has been proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said in September he would push for legislation to give fast food and retail workers advance notice of schedules and penalty pay for last-minute changes.
The state of New York has also pushed against on-call scheduling practices, with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office warning several retailers that aspects of such practices are already against state law, which prompted Urban Outfitters, Gap Inc., L. Brands, J. Crew, Pier 1 and Abercrombie & Fitch to end on-call scheduling.
Algorithms in scheduling software have helped retailers cut costs through efficient staffing, but have also made life difficult for workers who are trying to manage households, attend school or work additional jobs. New York isn’t the only place to find growing antipathy toward the practice of on-call scheduling. Seattle, San Francisco and Bay Area city Emeryville have also passed laws limiting and penalizing the practice.
In New York, the proposed bills would ensure that when hours become available, they’re offered first to existing employees, before new workers are hired. Many part-time workers remain willing to work full-time but can’t find the positions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This will offer a pathway to full-time work. The bills also provide remedies and protections to retail workers when on-call scheduling does occur and establish a process for employees to seek flexible work arrangements, among other provisions.
"People working in fast food and retail have made clear that higher wages are not enough without hours they can count on," Elianne Farhat, Deputy Campaign Director of the Fair Workweek Initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. "Now more than ever, parents and students need more input into their work hours so they can balance working hard with caring for their families, attending college classes and participating in our community.”
Indeed, retailers should be prepared to see more such concerns, warnings and even legislation from more states and jurisdictions across the country as on call scheduling gets more scrutiny, Gail Gottehrer, a labor and employment litigator at Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider in New York, told Retail Dive last year. “This can be especially difficult for multi-state employers,” Gottehrer said. “If you’re in a lot of jurisdictions it can be complicated to get things right.”