Inan article written by Krystina Gustafson, on-call scheduling is discussed. On-callscheduling is a strategy used by certain companies within the retail industry.It’s when companies wait until the last possible minute to tell their employeeswhether they are needed or not, depending on the volume of the store that day. Companieslike Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and Urban Outfitters were referred tothroughout the article, stating that they have either completely discontinuedthe scheduling practice or that it is in the works across their stores.
However,companies like L Brands, J Crew, and Pier 1 Imports, had no comment when askedabout their plan involving on-call scheduling. This practice causes issues foremployees, as they have other responsibilities, as well as limits a worker’sability to plan ahead. This strategy brings about a hugeethical problem. Is it ethical to put that kind of responsibility on theiremployees? In certain cases, employees rely on these on-call shifts or they haveother responsibilities that need to be put first. On-call scheduling has thepower to limit an employee’s ability to plan ahead or even to make a steadywage. It is not fair for an employee to not come in for their shift, especiallyif they were counting on that as part of their income. It is also not fair tocall in an employee, who may have previous commitments, like child care oranother job. Many retail employees are in their 20s and 30s, they rely on theirplaces of employment for flexibility.
Which brings up the point, that schedulesshould be created and distributed with enough time to make changes in anyplans. However, if legislation getsinvolved with the scheduling practices of these retail companies, it could haveboth positive and negative consequences, depending on each employee’sindividual point of view. Two organizations have been working across thecountry to eliminate on-call scheduling: Jobs with Justice and the AttorneyGeneral’s Office. The second organization, Jobs With Justice, is an organizationbased in San Francisco. The organization worked to pass the Retail Workers Billof Rights. This ordinance requires employers to give workers their schedules twoweeks in advance, and additionally how they inform their employees of anychanges.
The Attorney General’s Office has created a New York regulation, whereemployees who show up at their employer’s request, will still be paid a “predictabilitypay”, which can be contingent upon the circumstances. Across the industry, it has beendifficult to do away with on-call scheduling. Consumers are starting to findimportance in worker’s rights, which leads to companies wanting to make realefforts to move away from the practice. But it has proven to be difficult;deficiency with technology and staffing, and accuracy measuring flows oftraffic have been made a challenge for these retail companies. On-callscheduling is not something that can just easily disappear overnight. As a hired consultant of J Crew, itis evident that this company faces a dilemma. The issues that surround on-callscheduling are complex, they have to be given a serious amount of thoughtbefore deciding on one option. If they get rid of on-call scheduling, it couldcause issues within their company, internally.
But, if J Crew keeps theiron-call scheduling policy, legal issues may occur. There are many options for JCrew to consider, keeping in mind that each one has its advantages and disadvantages,involving different stakeholders. A stakeholder is a person or groupthat can affect or be affected by an organization’s actions, objectives, andpolicies.
There are many stakeholders inthis case: employees, worker advocacy groups, government agencies, andconsumers. The two most important stakeholders are the employees and theconsumers. These two groups hold more power over the latter. Employees are keyto run the company, without them the company technically wouldn’t exist.
With havingboth economic and legal power, they are important stakeholders for a company. Ithas been suggested that happier workers make happier business. If theirconcerns aren’t taken into consideration, they may decide to not work withinthat company anymore. The other most important stakeholders are the consumers orcustomers. They hold economic, legal, and informational power within themarket. Consumers are becoming more aware of worker’s rights and these rightsare becoming important to them.
Just like the employees, if the concerns of theconsumers are ignored, they may not shop with that company in the future. As mentioned previously, there arevarious paths that J Crew can take with their on-call scheduling policy. If JCrew were to completely eliminate on-call scheduling, all stakeholders wouldhave their concerns resolved, however, J Crew could face their owndifficulties. These difficulties will stem from learning how to schedule,without on-call shifts, to their benefit, possibly with new technology.Utilitarianism is the ethical reasoning that supports this course of action. Bydefinition, utilitarianism is the alternative that will produce the greatestoverall good.Freemarket ethics supports the second course of action, which is to keep on-callscheduling.
Based on the principals of Milton Friedman, free market ethics asksif the decision is profitable and legal. By keeping the scheduling practice, JCrew would profit. On-call scheduling is a means to cut costs, but it wouldonly be short-term expenses. According to the article, on-call scheduling islegal; however, regulations concerning “predictability pay” are in place. Keeping the on-call practices wouldbe compliant with the ethical reasoning of free market-ethics. If J Crew wereto ask their employees, individually, how they would like to be scheduled, thatwould follow ethics of care. This ethical reasoning follows that people areinterwoven in deep relationships, therefore, decisions need to be made withinthose relationships. To align with another ethical reasoning, Deontology, JCrew could choose to keep the on-call scheduling strategy but use a differenttechnology to allow employees to volunteer for shifts once they are open.
Theycould also disperse schedules earlier than two weeks in advance, which wouldallow employees more time to plan. Deontology is defined by having respect forlife, fairness, telling the truth, and keeping promises. By allowing employeesto volunteer or giving them their schedules far in advance, companies arekeeping things fair, with respect for other’s lives. J Crew could choose from numerouscourses of action, but the best option would be to completely do away withon-call scheduling. By ending the use of on-call scheduling, employees andcustomers will benefit, creating the most overall good possible.
Although JCrew may face challenges, it’s in their best interest to find another way toplan schedules better. New technology will allow J Crew’s management teams toschedule their employee’s shifts more accurately. Once the challenges presentedare resolved, J Crew will ultimately benefit from this decision too.