DCist.com: Karl Racine Joins Attorneys General In 8 States To Investigate Retailers That Use On-Call Schedules

DCist.com, by Rachel Sadon

Updated with a statement from Forever 21

On-call shifts and unpredictable schedules are among labor activists' targets right now, and they seem to be making some headway.

District Attorney General Karl Racine joined up with his counterparts in eight states to inquire about the scheduling practices of thirteen major retailers, specifically the use of on-call shifts.

The AGs asked American Eagle, Aéropostale, Payless, Disney, Coach, Forever 21, and others if they assign shifts on the same day. In such cases, employees must call in a few hours before they are scheduled to come to inquire if they've actually been assigned to work that day.

“Workers whose employers use on-call scheduling must keep the day free, arrange child care, and give up the chance to work at another job or attend school. This kind of scheduling is not a business necessity,” Racine said in a release. “This is a question of basic fairness for working people."

In the District, it is also a question of legality: city law requires employees be paid for at least four hours if they report to work but aren't assigned anything to do.

At least one company is already denying the allegations. "Contrary to published reports, Forever 21 does not permit on-call scheduling nor do we have a company policy around doing so," the company said in a statement.

After New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent out a previous round of letters, Gap, L Brands and Abercrombie and Fitch all ended the practice. 

“The movement for Just Hours has clear momentum, from the landmark San Francisco rules ushering in better schedules and hours to the announcement from the many attorneys general today," said Erica Smiley, an organizing director at Jobs With Justice. "Our coalitions in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and D.C. are leading the fight to make sure that working people have greater certainty about their work schedules so they can spend time with their families while being able to support them,”

The D.C. Council is also considering legislation that would require employers to post work schedules 21 days in advance. The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act, which was introduced by Vincent Orange and co-sponsored by seven other councilmembers, has the support of labor advocates and at least one union, but the business community has rallied against it.

Zina Pierre, a spokesperson for the DC Jobs and Growth Partnership, recently argued that such a law could derail staffing for sports games as an example of the legislation's consequences. "Rescheduled games that turn a regularly scheduled evening game into a day-night doubleheader, or extra-inning games that last longer than anticipated could create a scenario where local businesses may have to choose between being penalized financially or understaffed," Pierre said in a release.

But several small business owners have pushed back and said the scheduling law would not be a burden. "We post our schedules two weeks in advance. We don’t use on-call shifts. We realize how ridiculous that is," said Gina Schaefer, the owner of five local Ace Hardware stores.