Buzzfeed reports the chain’s controversial form of scheduling locks staff into shifts that can be canceled at the last minute, with no pay. But a lawsuit in California, and investigation in New York, could lead to big changes.
Until earlier this year, Erin Hurley worked part-time at a Bath & Body Works in Marietta, Georgia, often spending 12 hours a week smiling at shoppers and selling them body lotion and candles in scents like “Moonlight Path” and “Endless Weekend.”
She would have liked more hours, and was regularly scheduled for at least twice as many. But most of those extra shifts came in the form of “call-in” work: days that an employee needs be available, often until hours before start time, with no guarantee of getting any work, or pay.
“I had to call one hour before,” Hurley, 26, told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “I was about 25 to 30 minutes away, depending on traffic. They would either put me on hold or I would have to call a store several times before someone would pick up. I would be looking at my watch and starting to sweat because I would be late. They stressed to get there on time.”
Hurley would work 30 hours on a good week. The next, she might clock in 10, even though still she had to be ready to come in within an hour of each call. That made it hard to find other part-time work to smooth out the unpredictable hours, and her income fluctuated wildly, although the payments for her car, student loans, credit cards, cell phone, and groceries stayed just the same.
Hurley’s experience with call-in shifts has become a common tale in the retail industry. Chains keep employees on the hook up until the last minute, a move that costs them nothing and helps minimize labor costs. Software helps them understand staffing needs in real time, and evidence suggests a national chain can save tens of millions of dollars a year by keeping workers on call and canceling at the last minute, rather than paying for an hour or two of work by staffers sent home when business is slow.