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How some are combating the rise of on-call shifts
On-call scheduling has been on the rise in retail during the last decade. But now the practice which asks employees to set aside chunks of time in case they need to be called into work is facing scrutiny and legislation. - photo by Daniel Bendtsen
The Christmas shopping season can mean grueling shifts for retail workers, including on-call scheduling where workers arent getting paid to put their lives on hold.

Like Black Friday, the on-call trend has proliferated over the past decade or so, and only now is facing backlash.

Attorneys from the legal blog Law360 have forecast that "predictable scheduling" could be a major legislation trend in 2016, warning that "employers would be wise to review their scheduling practices now, before facing any official investigation."

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating the practice of on-call scheduling last year, according to The Atlantic, and has reached agreements to end the practice among several major retailers, including The Gap, J. Crew, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works and Victorias Secret.

The University of Chicago subsequently began a study of on-call shifts, piloting alternatives in November for 30 branches of The Gap, including Tech-Enabled Shift Swapping, which allows employees to swap shifts and pick up additional hours via an app and is intended to save management time and reduce the stress of managing scheduling changes.

New York Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy introduced legislation this month that would require employers to compensate an hour of pay for each day their workers are put on-call. Additionally, it requires employers to pay for a four-hour shift when they send their employees home early.

Allowing workers a more stable schedule enables them to plan for essential responsibilities including child care and transportation, Fahys bill states.

The bill only applies to retail, food service and cleaners with at least 50 employees.

According to a study earlier this year by the Economic Policy Institute, the low-income workers have the most irregular schedules, which makes them more likely to experience "greater work-family conflict, and sometimes experience greater work stress."

Im extremely sensitive to the needs of small businesses, Fahy told Times Union. We think were trying to be really sensitive here.

Her measure echoes a national version, the Schedules That Work Act, that was introduced into the House and Senate in July 2014. Despite sponsorship from key Senate Democrats, the bill has stalled. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, tried reviving the bill in August, saying it would protect workers from unfair labor practices.
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