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The Way Major Retailers Schedule Their Work Shifts Might Be Illegal

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A class-action lawsuit in California against Victoria’s Secret's use of on-call scheduling could cause major changes in labor practices for retailers across the country, according to Buzzfeed News. The report takes a hard look at what it's like for retail workers who are forced to be available for shifts that they might ultimately not get paid to work. The unpredictability this creates can make it impossible to schedule reliable child care or make a living wage.

A Victoria's Secret employee named Mayra Casas struggled with the company's on-call scheduling, and filed a lawsuit against the brand last July. The suit claims in part that companies that require workers to be available on-call should pay them if their shifts are canceled, in the same way they would have to under state law if the person physically showed up to work but was sent home. Victoria's Secret maintains that a canceled call-in shift doesn't merit any pay because employees never have to physically come to work. VS declined to comment to Buzzfeed, citing the ongoing litigation.

Meanwhile, the New York State attorney general’s office labor bureau has sent letters to 13 retailers including Urban Outfitters, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, J.Crew, and Sears asking the brands to provide information about their scheduling practices. Maheshwari reports that all 13 retailers are household names and collectively operate more than 16,000 stores in North America.

The current system of call-in shifts saves retailers a lot of money (tens of millions of dollars a year), and if it were to change, it could be very costly. Lawyers for Victoria’s Secret in the California lawsuit "conservatively" estimated that if the company had to pay at least two hours in wages for every call-in shift that was canceled between July 2010 and August 2014, that would cost $25.1 million.