Victoria's Secret is ending the use of on-call scheduling in its stores, employes were told yesterday — a major reversal of a policy that wreaked havoc on the lives of tens of thousands of retail workers across the country.
The chain told employees it would no longer use the controversial scheduling practice, which requires staff to be available for shifts that can be cancelled at the last minute with no compensation, three current and former staff told BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity.
It also told staff that they will be notified in advance if upcoming shifts may involve "extensions" that require them to work past their scheduled end time. Workers will also be able to sign up for extra hours if they want them, the ex-employees told BuzzFeed News. Store managers were briefed on the new policies last week.
A source familiar with the company confirmed the changes to scheduling policy. L Brands, Victoria's Secret's parent company, declined to comment.
Victoria's Secret was at the center of a BuzzFeed News story earlier this month for its widespread use of "call-in" shifts — days that an employee needs be available, often until hours before start time, with no guarantee of getting any work or pay.
Victoria's Secret, which is owned by L Brands, was sued for the practice in California last year, in a case that largely centered around whether "reporting for work" includes being available for call-in shifts (and therefore compensation if the shift is canceled).
The judge in that case dismissed the call-in reporting time claim but gave lawyers permission to appeal the decision to a higher court for an authoritative interpretation of what it means to "report for work" under the state's labor laws. At the time, Victoria's Secret declined to comment to BuzzFeed News on its scheduling practices, citing the pending litigation, which is still under way.
On-call scheduling has become a common industry practice, employed by many of the country's largest retailers. In April, the New York State attorney general sent letters to 13 retailers — naming 27 different national chains they operate — seeking information about their scheduling practices because the office had "reason to believe" they were using uncompensated on-call shifts. The chains in question, from J.Crew to Sears, are all household names; collectively they operate more than 16,000 stores in North America, BuzzFeed News found.
In abandoning the policy, Victoria's Secret has set what could become an important precedent for other retailers evaluating the practice as regulatory heat intensifies. A spokesperson for the AG's office said in an email last week that it didn't have any updates on the investigation.
The Victoria's Secret lawsuit in California claimed employees may be scheduled for more than 30 hours of work across five days in a week, but ultimately work only 10 of those hours because of call-in shifts.
In their response to the complaint, lawyers for Victoria's Secret "conservatively" estimated that if the company were required to shell out at least two hours in wages for every canceled call-in shift between July 2010 and August 2014, it would cost $25.1 million — just for its part-timers in California.
With additional reporting by Cora Lewis