Employment Ethics: On-Call Scheduling of Hourly Labor

business_ethics_highlights_2New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has gone after several retailers for the employment practice of on-call scheduling—demanding as a condition of employment that workers be available to work during specified hours, but paying workers only for the hours management actually uses them. In effect, the resulting employment relation is an option on the worker’s time, purchased at a zero price by the employer. The employer acquires full control of the worker’s time during the on-call scheduled period, but pays only for the part of that time (if any) actually used. That seems fundamentally unfair, given that the employee lacks the ability to line up other remunerative employment should the employer opt not to use her labor. One interesting question to consider is whether the prima facie unfairness attaches to the optioning of employees’ time generally or merely to the zero-pricing of the option. If the latter, what price (e.g., the statutory minimum wage) erases the unfairness? (In a way, salaried employment is the optioning of a worker’s labor at a non-zero price.) >>>

LINK: J. Crew Ending On-Call Scheduling For Workers In Its U.S. Stores (by Mary Beth Quirk for Consumerist)

The list of retailers who have decided to end the practice of on-call scheduling has just grown by one more, as J. Crew announced it will no longer require workers to be available to work shifts on short notice at all its U.S. stores.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters to 13 retailers in April, questioning their use of on-call scheduling and citing possible violations of the state’s requirement to pay hourly staffers for at least four hours when they report for a shift, even if they don’t end up working.

Urban Outfitters recently announced it’d put the kibosh on on-call scheduling in its New York stores, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap have all ended the practice nationwide.

What do you think?


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