Attorney General Racine Announces Agreements with Major Retailers to Stop On-Call Shift Scheduling

Disney, Aeropostale, Carter’s and Other Retailers Agree to Cease Burdensome Practice 

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine, along with attorneys general from seven states, announced that several major retailers have agreed to stop using “on-call” shift scheduling following an inquiry by the multi-state coalition of attorneys generals. An estimated 50,000 workers nationwide will benefit from the agreements to end the burdensome scheduling practice, which requires employees to call their employer – typically an hour or two before a scheduled shift – to find out if they will be assigned to work that day.

The District joined the coalition of attorneys general in sending a joint inquiry letter to 13 large retailers in April of this year seeking information and documents related to their use of on-call shifts.  In response, five companies (Aeropostale, Carter’s, Disney, PacSun, and Zumiez) reported that they were using on-call shifts. However, after discussions with the state attorneys general, all agreed to stop doing so. None of the retailers are currently using on-call shifts. A sixth retailer, David’s Tea, has also stopped the practice of using on-call shifts.

In addition to ending the use of on-call shifts, four of the companies (Carter’s, Disney, David’s Tea, and Zumiez) committed to providing employees with their work schedules at least one week in advance of the start of the work week. Such advance notice allows employees to plan ahead to cover child care and other obligations.

“On-call scheduling imposes an unfair burden on workers who are often forced to make costly child and parental care arrangements without the certainty that they will, in fact, be needed on the job,” Attorney General Racine said. 

These six companies all found alternative staffing methods for addressing unanticipated employee absences or fluctuations in business volume; typically, some kind of pool arrangement has been implemented in lieu of on-call shifts.

The collaboration among attorneys general stemmed from their collective concern about the impact of on-call shifts on employees and their families, as well as the national scope of the retail companies involved.

The April letter from the attorneys general states, “Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on employees. Without the security of a definite work schedule, workers who must be ‘on call’ have difficulty making reliable childcare and elder-care arrangements, encounter obstacles in pursuing an education, and in general experience higher incidences of adverse health effects, overall stress, and strain on family life than workers who enjoy the stability of knowing their schedules reasonably in advance.”

It continues, “Our letter today is prompted by the concerns outlined above and by our shared interest in the well-being of workers nationwide,” and notes that certain states have laws regarding reporting or call in pay laws applicable within those jurisdictions.

District law requires employers to pay employees who report for work on a given day but are not assigned any work at least four hours of regular wages. “The employer shall pay the employee for at least four (4) hours for each day on which the employee reports for work under general or specific instructions but is given no work or is given less than four hours of work, except that if the employee is regularly scheduled for less than four hours a day, such employee shall be paid for the hours regularly scheduled. The minimum daily wage shall be calculated as follows: payment at the employee's regular rate for the hours worked, plus payment at the minimum wage for the hours not worked, as described above.” 7 D.C.M.R. § 907.1.

The letters were signed by representatives of the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island. Several offices signed only letters to retailers located within their respective jurisdictions.