By Arthur Zaczkiewicz
with contributions from Evan Clark
 on April 13, 2016
Outside the opening of Forever 21's Fifth Avenue location.

A coalition of attorneys general from eight states as well as the District of Columbia sent letters to 15 retailers requesting information about their use of “on-call” scheduling.

“On-call” scheduling involves workers phoning in – typically an hour prior to their scheduled shift – to confirm they will be assigned to work that day.

Earlier this year, the National Retail Federation came out against proposed legislation limiting the practice in D.C., and there’s been lawsuits involving “on call” scheduling with retailers such as Forever 21, see story here.

Letters were sent to American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Aéropostale Inc., Payless Shoe Source, Disney Inc., Coach Inc., Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., Forever 21, Vans, BCBG Maxazria, Tilly’s Inc., Zumiez Inc., Uniqlo, Ascena Retail Group Inc.’s Justice chain, David’s Tea and Carter’s.

Forever 21 said in a statement that, “Contrary to published reports, Forever 21 does not permit on-call scheduling nor do we have a company policy around doing so.”

The group is being led by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman and includes officials from California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island.

Schneiderman investigated the issue last year and Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Gap Inc. and J. Crew, among others, agreed to end the scheduling practice.

A spokesman for Schneiderman said retailers in the latest round were “just sort of the next on the list” and could have come to the attention of law officials through complaints, advocacy groups or other means.

“Right now, we’re curious about the practices that they are using and we’re just asking questions at this point,” the spokesman said of the letters of inquiry, which are not legally binding.

Schneiderman said on-call shifts “are unfair to workers who must keep the day free, arrange for child care, and give up the chance to get another job or attend a class — often all for nothing. On-call shifts are not a business necessity, as we see from the many retailers that no longer use this unjust method of scheduling work hours.”

The letter sent to the retailers said the practice takes a toll on workers. “Without the security of a definite work schedule, workers who must be ‘on call’ have difficulty making reliable child care 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.”

A statement from Schneiderman’s office said the collaboration among the “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 letters request information about the companies’ scheduling practices that may be relevant under various state laws.”

In New York, the state’s “call in pay” regulation stipulates that, “An employee who by request or permission of the employer reports for work on any day shall be paid for at least four hours, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less.”