On-Call Scheduling

In the service industry and retail world, on-call scheduling is practice that many employees have known.  On-call scheduling is a labor practice where employees are on standby until their employer calls them to work, most often during special events or peak hours.  Businesses typically use on-call scheduling to offset labor costs, where they have few employees during slow hours, and more during peak hours.  Opponents of this practice generally point to the fact that on-call employees are hardly guaranteed shifts, which can create problems.  The on-call employees are required to have the day cleared in case of them being needed to come in to work, but in the event that there is no work it prevents the employee from other gainful employment.  This is known as “waiting pay,” which may in the future run afoul of basic FLSA protections.

On-call scheduling may be now a thing of the past.  In April, regulators from 8 states, including: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia sent letters to national retailers to request information about their scheduling policies, handbooks, sample schedules and payroll records.  Even before the scrutiny by regulators, major retailers including: J Crew, Urban Outfitters, the Gap, and Bath & Body Works ended their on-call scheduling practice in October 2015.

Locally, the city of Minneapolis tried to challenge on-call scheduling this past autumn.  In the Working Families Agenda Proposal, Major Betsy Hodges and City Council members brought forward a proposed ordinance that would require Minneapolis businesses to create schedules four weeks in advance.  Eventually, this ordinance did not go forward after much backlash by small business owners.  It was eventually revises to only two weeks advance, but the ordinance did not go through. The shift away from on-call scheduling seems to be gaining momentum with larger retailers.  In October, retailer Forever 21 was sued for requiring employees for on-call shifts, but failing to pay these employees for reporting to work, then being sent home. 

Will more retailers and small businesses continue to move away from on-call scheduling?  Contact myHRcounsel to have your scheduling and policies reviewed.