Retailers to drop on-call scheduling amid state probes

(Reuters) - Six U.S. retailers will no longer require hourly employees to check whether they are still needed for work and risk having their scheduled shifts canceled with little notice, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Tuesday.

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Schneiderman and his counterparts in seven states, including California and Illinois, have sent letters to a number of companies in the last year requesting information about their scheduling practices.

In the letters, state officials said workers can be harmed by “unpredictable” schedules that can increase stress, strain family life and make it harder to arrange child care or pursue an education.

The companies to end on-call scheduling are Aeropostale Inc AROPQ.PK, Carter's Inc CRI.N, David's Tea Inc DTEA.O, Walt Disney Co DIS.N, Pacific Sunwear of California Inc PSUN.MU and Zumiez Inc ZUMZ.O.

“People should not have to keep the day open, arrange for child care, and give up other opportunities without being compensated for their time,” Schneiderman said in a statement, noting an estimated 50,000 U.S. workers will benefit from the agreements.

Carter’s confirmed the agreement and declined further comment. David’s Tea, a representative said, has always complied with state scheduling laws and is ending its use of on-call scheduling “in the spirit of cooperation.”

The other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

The letters to the companies also said on-call scheduling may violate state labor laws requiring workers to be paid for at least part of a day even if they are told to stay home, and is not a “business necessity” given that some retailers had already abandoned the practice.

Since last year, Abercrombie & Fitch ANF.N Co, Gap Inc, Pier 1 Imports PIR.N Inc, and L Brands Inc LB.N , the parent of Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret Stores LLC, among other companies, have said they would stop using on-call scheduling.

Elizabeth Falcon, an organizer with the union-backed group Jobs With Justice, which is pushing proposals to ban on-call scheduling, said the agreements showed retailers have the means to provide workers with more predictable schedules.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco in October heard a case in which Victoria’s Secret is accused of violating California law by not paying workers whose shifts were canceled with little notice. The case, in which the workers appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit, has yet to be decided.

Schneiderman’s office said most companies that have stopped using on-call scheduling replaced it with a “pooling arrangement” to ensure adequate staffing.

Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alan Crosby and Bill Trott