Abercrombie & Fitch under pressure from New York regulators

Abercrombie & Fitch under pressure from New York regulators

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. will cease using on-call scheduling—which requires workers to make themselves available for shifts that may be cancelled at the last minute—at its New York stores by the end of 2015, according to a letter sent to the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, reports the WSJ Wall Street Journal

The retailer, which operates its namesake stores along with the Hollister chain, was among 13 companies that received notice from Schneiderman in April, warning that they might be violating state law by requiring workers to show up or stay home with little notice. Workers whose shifts are cancelled don’t receive pay, even if they had blocked out that time and made child care or other arrangements.

In a letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Abercrombie general counsel Robert Bostrom said 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.

The change is meant to help “create as stable and predictable a work environment as possible for our employees,” Bostrom wrote. He added the company will begin rolling out the new policy in New York in September, and expects to eventually implement it nationwide.

A number of current and former Abercrombie store associates nationwide left complaints about the scheduling policy on the employer-review site Glassdoor, with some saying 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.

“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.”

 Schneiderman contended in April that on-call scheduling potentially breaks a New York law stating that staffers who report to work for a scheduled shift are entitled to at least four hours of pay at minimum wage, even if they are sent home. A handful of states, including California, have similar laws. The law was conceived before most workers could be easily reached by email or text message.

Abercrombie said it “believes that it has at all times been complying with the law relating to call-in shift scheduling in New York and throughout the United States.”

In June, L Brands Inc. chain Victoria’s Secret, which also received the April letter, told employees it would stop using on-call shifts. The practice was at the centre of a lawsuit filed by an employee, Mayra Casas, last year in California.

The federal judge in the case dismissed some of the schedule-related claims, but took the unusual step of allowing Ms. Casas to appeal that ruling immediately. The Ninth Circuit accepted the case. Its decision will likely be the first on whether workers should be compensated for shifts cancelled on short notice, even if they don’t physically show up to work but check in via phone or text message instead.

A spokesperson confirmed that the company is no longer using on-call scheduling

On-call scheduling allows retailers to staff up quickly during busy times and save on labour costs during slow days. Software now widely used by retailers forecasts staffing needs based on real-time sales and store traffic data.

Workers, labour activists and legislators have criticized the practice, saying it makes employees’ lives and pay unpredictable. Democrats in Congress have twice introduced the Schedules That Work Act, a bill that would give employees more control over their timetables.

The other companies targeted Schneiderman’s office in April are Ann Inc. ; Burlington Stores Inc. ; Crocs Inc. ; Gap Inc. ; J.C. Penney Co. ; J. Crew Group Inc.; Sears Holdings Corp. ; Target Corp. ; TJX Cos.; Urban Outfitters Inc. ; and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

A Gap spokesman said in a statement, “Each of our brands have made a commitment to evaluate their practices and determine where we may be able to improve scheduling stability.”

Target in April said it doesn’t include on-call scheduling where employees are required to see if they are needed for a shift. Sears and Penney on Thursday said that they, too, don’t use the practice for store associates. The other companies didn’t respond to a request for comment.



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