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Gap Employee Compares On-Call Shifts to Unemployment

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Photo: Brian Harkin for Racked

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Last year, Gap got plenty of attention when it became one of the first retailers to pledge to increase its minimum wage to $10/hour by this year. As the minimum wage bar continues to rise in pockets across the US, one Minnesota-based Gap employee, RL Stephens II, publicly argued on The Guardian that even if the minimum wage does hike up to $15/hour, that won't help him put food on the table as long as on-call shifts are still in effect.

Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch have both pledged to stop the shady practice, which entails keeping employees in the dark on whether they are working or not until the last minute before their shifts start. In the Gap employee's case, he said that the earliest he was notified on whether or not he was working certain shifts was two hours beforehand. A typical week would involve nine hours of scheduled work shifts and eighteen hours picked up via on-call scheduling.

"The volatility of on-call scheduling, in combination with the low pay, meant my life at Gap wasn't all that different from when I was unemployed," Stephens writes. "Though I was working, I still had to go to a food pantry for groceries. In winter, I had to choose between racking up heat bills I couldn't afford and freezing in my apartment. My landlord would ask me when I'd have the rent money, but I couldn't give her an answer because I never knew how many hours I'd actually work in a given week. I couldn't afford to live in the city where I worked, so I had to transfer to a Gap store back home."

He also pointed to the rising tide of executive compensation (Gap's former CEO's pay package jumped from $5.9 million in 2010 to $16 million in 2014) while minimum wage employees continue to struggle with numerous problems stemming from on-call shift work.

"Unpredictable last-minute scheduling makes it difficult to budget and turns even the most basic decisions into headaches," Stephens continues. "Will we need babysitters for our children? Will we be able to make a doctor's appointment? Will we have to rush to Gap from our second jobs?"