Making Victoria’s Secret Pay For Keeping Staff "On Call"
June 3, 2015 3:38 PM   Subscribe

The controversial form of scheduling locks staff into shifts that can be canceled at the last minute, with no pay.

A class action lawsuit initiated by former Victoria's Secret employee Mayra C. claims that Victoria's Secret violated labour laws by forcing employees to work "call-in days" - days that an employee needs be available with no guarantee of getting any work, or pay.

However, this lawsuit could impact more than just Victoria's Secret. The New York Attorney General's office has sent letters to 13 retailers regarding their "on-call" practices. The AG's office says it has "reason to believe" these retailers, which include J. Crew, Urban Outfitters, Gap, and others, may be using this kind of scheduling.
posted by dotgirl (70 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Overdue.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:53 PM on June 3, 2015 [40 favorites]


"Only recently have retailers ramped up the use of such shifts"

Maybe they're using a different definition of "recently," but Gap has been doing this since at least 2006. Fuckers.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


This has been practice since I last worked retail/fastfood in the early 90s. Was bullshit then, too.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:58 PM on June 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


These are known as zero-hours contracts in the UK, and IIRC most of the candidates in the recent election made a point of saying they were very concerned about them, but given the outcome there's little reason to expect anything will be done now.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:02 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Doesn't Walmart also do something similar? I recall reading once that they require their employees to be on-call 24-7. Anyone?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow. Lame. I've worked retail for 33 years and managed / owned stores for many of them. I've never had a problem scheduling. I'd suggest if someone does, they are incompetent at their job.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:06 PM on June 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


Hmmm. It looks like Judge Wu will not be considering the on-call/just-in-time-scheduling aspect of the case:
the call-in employees were not entitled to recovery under a California labor law, known as Wage Order 7-2001, entitling employees to pay when they report to work but are furnished less than half of their scheduled shift.
That's too bad because this practice is pretty shitty. I'd think that two "on call" hours should be worth one "at work" hour, and that's exactly what California says in its Wage Order:

(A) Each workday an employee is required to report for work and does report, but is not put to work or is furnished less than half said employee's usual or scheduled day's work, the employee shall be paid for half the usual or scheduled day's work, but in no event for less than two (2) hours nor more than four (4) hours, at the employee's regular rate of pay, which shall not be less than the minimum wage.

Losing the ability to recover for this severely limits the applicability of the class action.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:06 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Old Navy did this in the late 90's-early 2000s. I got screwed over a lot on this.
posted by oflinkey at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is shitty, and all the more so because these companies know that they're not paying even the full-timers enough so they don't need to get another job that they could be going to in these times.
posted by Etrigan at 4:09 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I'm on call it's at 1/8th pay, with a 4 hour minimum when activated.

But I have a union.
posted by bonehead at 4:12 PM on June 3, 2015 [64 favorites]


How controversial is it really if everybody in the world who does not profit off of this system thinks that it's a piece of shit?
posted by entropone at 4:15 PM on June 3, 2015 [28 favorites]


This was the number one complaint I had about working retail back 20 years ago, they mercilessly screw people over changing schedules at the last minute. Even worse than being "on call", I remember showing up to work at the grocery store for a six hour shift, and being told 90 minutes in that it was slow so I could "take the rest of the day off!". This is actually a bigger deal than raising the minimum wage 50 cents, since you have to keep your schedule open so you can't work somewhere else, or god forbid, enjoy time off, but whenever they feel they have the slightest excess capacity, you're done.
posted by skewed at 4:19 PM on June 3, 2015 [27 favorites]


What would be the effect of a store that uses on-call scheduling switching to traditional scheduling, where people know 100% what their shifts are?

It allows the manager to get someone in to cover someone else's shift in case of illness or other absence. So rather than scheduling and paying four people when you only need three, you schedule three and have three more on call in case the first three don't make it in.
posted by Etrigan at 4:20 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


These are known as zero-hours contracts in the UK, and IIRC most of the candidates in the recent election made a point of saying they were very concerned about them, but given the outcome there's little reason to expect anything will be done now.

This was amazing to me as an American following the UK elections. I agree it seems unlikely anybody will do anything about it, but shitty treatment of workers, specifically shitty things that US retailers have been doing for years and years with very little attention, was actually a major election issue that candidates were expected to weigh in on. It's like looking around and realizing "wait, not everyone thinks this is ok?"
posted by zachlipton at 4:25 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


“Consumers are just unpredictable, when they will or won’t buy,” Rowley said. “Gas prices are at a significant low right now, which frees up a lot of money in people’s hands. You’d think retail sales would be up significantly because of that — they’re not. When you ask economists, nobody can tell why people aren’t shopping.”

Maybe the fact that a substantial number of employees don't know if they're going to work 10 hours or 30 hours from week to week has something to do with consumers being unpredictable spenders.
posted by pie ninja at 4:27 PM on June 3, 2015 [123 favorites]


Hah! They did this to me at restaurants I used to work at in college.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:32 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


skewed has it. That's exactly how it is for part timers at the retail place I work. It's only about profit. Another employeebot can be hired to replace you in an instant.
posted by mightshould at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Funny, time my employer expects me to do what they tell me to do is time they pay me for. I'm thrilled to see this lawsuit happening. On call scheduling should be illegal for non-salaried workers. At the very least, people should absolutely be compensated.

Count me also as former retail management who did scheduling without this bullshit.
posted by prewar lemonade at 4:46 PM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Reporting is whatever form you make a report on. If someone is on-call, they are essentially working.
posted by corb at 4:47 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a retail manager in malls for many years from 1989-1998, and I never understood the practice of weird shifts, on-call, or cancelling shifts at the last minute. Every once in awhile, we'd have some scheduling shenanigans with an employee or two who weren't reliable, but doing my job well meant keeping my people happy, and that wasn't hard if you made sure you worked out everyone's schedule well ahead of time.
posted by xingcat at 4:49 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Everything about this is terrible and I don't want to repeat anything people have said already, but: Why isn't illegal to make it a condition of employment that employees call you - i.e. it is a job requirement, and then not pay them for the time they spend on hold?

When I was in my young and ornery life stage I always put down time spent doing work-related stuff on the phone (calling other people to get shifts covered, etc) down on my timecard... even though I was being paid more hourly to take on this type of responsibility. I'm sure they didn't want me to, but they didn't argue with me about it.

But then I was in a better position than these folks.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:50 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


It isn't just retail that's tempted to do this. When project management makes an unachievable schedule and has to shut one of the jobs down for the day, or a piece of equipment breaks, or the previous shop isn't done when they were supposed to be, or any number of things, I end up with a bunch of my people sitting around. I can keep them doing useful things like preparing for upcoming jobs and what-have-you or lend them to other job sites to get them paid on another funding source usually, but if I can't, the project who asked for them is still on the hook for paying them. You'd better believe that the project (who pays me the money to pay the technicians) would love to make me send them home instead.

Can't though. Union agreement.
posted by ctmf at 5:01 PM on June 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


For the last couple of years, I responsible for much less onerous "on call" shifts a few nights a week. This was for emergency phone support, on nights after I worked a regular shift. Theoretically, I could have done many regular activities while on call, and some of my coworkers did. But we needed internet access to help people and I didn't own a laptop, so I usually stuck close to home.

Even in this white-ish collar, salaried version of on-call, it ate up so much of my life. I could not take evening classes. I missed out on social engagements; family events; all kinds of things. I never felt at ease because I could get a call any time. Fortunately for me, my employer is ethical, and I was paid regardless of whether I got a call that night. Still, the day I was freed from on-call shifts marked a transformation in my quality of life.

I don't think it's possible to underestimate how damaging it is to people, especially those most likely to be in precarious financial positions, to not be permitted to plan their lives, or their budgets, from one day to the next.
posted by prewar lemonade at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


How controversial is it really if everybody in the world who does not profit off of this system thinks that it's a piece of shit?

Because it still exists.
posted by inturnaround at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The restaurants I worked at years ago all did this routinely. Often it was a seasonal thing - good weather = patio open = you're on. Cloudy weather = we can't make up our fucking minds so call back again in an hour. I hated it then and I hate it now.

I'm with skewed though, even worse were when you were on for an hour, then cut for the rest of the shift. One place I worked was horrible for that. The same place also had tipping out to management (in addition to host/busperson/bar/kitchen as most waitstaff normally do), being charged for uniforms, being obligated to be on the floor 15 minutes before we were paid to be on the floor, having to clock out before doing side duties, routine sexual harassment, and last minute scheduling. I took them to the labour board when I left and actually got some money back, mostly for the clocking in early/clocking out late thing. God I was glad to quit that place.
posted by Cuke at 5:39 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Most grocery stores do this. Even ones you like and think would be above it.

Even some like, huggy soft and fuzzy innocent old grandpas name on the sign neighborhood grocery stores that have been there for 70 years and only have one or two stores do this.

Yeah there was always an on call day built into schedule.

The issue here is places where it's literally all the time every day. They wont hire you unless your schedule is essentially wide open(or they will hire people with fixed blocks in their schedules, but only a few a store, and usually only students). Then EVERY DAY is an on call day, and your schedule can be changed the day before ANY DAY.

One of the the worst parts of it is the cockholms syndrome though, which is what i call it when your job abuses you in to being a dickhead against your own "team" and thinking it's justified.

As in, a place like this changes the schedule day of and then you not only get written up for not showing up because you didn't call in and find out your shift had switched, but your coworkers whine at you for having to work an extra two hours instead of getting to go home to take bong rips and play GTA(which, realistically, is what they're going to do even if they're 45).

It wasn't ever the showing up and getting sent home that bothered me. Unless i needed the money desperately, wooo, day off, lets get drunnnnk. It was the 10 phone calls in a row at 8am "ET! You're supposed to be here for your 7:45 shift!" "what the fuck i dont work until 3" "Well it says here on the schedule..."

To be fair i was just out of high school and my living expenses were so incredibly dirt cheap that looking back on nearly a decade ago now, it feels like it was 1960s prices.

Wow. Lame. I've worked retail for 33 years and managed / owned stores for many of them. I've never had a problem scheduling. I'd suggest if someone does, they are incompetent at their job.

It's entirely places where the district manager or corporate is obsessed with labor hours. It's either a software thing, or something the manager is browbeat in to running every half hour(or more often). If they sell 6479 instead of 6500 the morning shift, then they're over the ratio by bla bla and two people need to go home. Or if the projection is lower for that day shifts get switched, or...

Realistically these systems should have some sort of hysteresis built in of "well these people already came in so they have to stay for X minimum hours" or "don't call anyone in unless it reaches Y amount". The problem is that doesn't extract the absolutely optimum ratio of money from the store so meh, or something.

Fuck, i'd even support a law saying they could do call ins but they had to be truly optional and they had to bring you in for at least X number of hours. 4 sounds good. There were summers and other times where i had nothing better to do, needed money, and would have worked like 12 hours every day if they'd let me.(and occasionally did)
posted by emptythought at 5:42 PM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Even the Quakers do this, and fire you for complaining. Zero-hour contracts are ubiquitous in the UK, and have basically been the primary focus of the IWW in Britain for a long time now.

Whatever you call the practice, it's sick and dehumanizing. It's basically your boss telling you, "Fuck your life, your body belongs to us no matter where you are." It's like, they can't force you to literally live at your job, so they came up with the next best thing.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:57 PM on June 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


We need an end to employment-at-will and the idea that owners or managers are dictatorial bosses rather than leaders.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:58 PM on June 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Competence in scheduling implies hiring ( and paying for ) competent managers to do the scheduling.

That's obviously an expense to be minimized.
posted by mikelieman at 6:03 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


As far as I can tell, in Ontario the law is that if you are required to present yourself at work, you get a guaranteed 3 hours, whether or not you actually worked them. That's not great, because I can't find anything about telephone scheduling and such. But it's something. Because this type of practice, 0-hour contracts or whatever, are terrible bullshit.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:16 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also: support your local union drive!
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:16 PM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Harper's recently had an article about the intense employee monitoring that UPS uses to track labor costs. A lot of companies, retail and otherwise, are now monitoring money in versus money out from the penny to the minute. All thanks to technology. People are a cost. You have to control cost. The impact on the people shuffled in and out during the day as business intake rises and falls is not important. It's free market capitalism, people. At least it's the "free market capitalism" worshipped by some. I'm now reading Marx...
posted by njohnson23 at 6:23 PM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Where my son works, each week's scheduling is based on the previous week's revenue. So no one knows how many hours (if any) they will get until the day before the work week starts, when corporate runs the previous week's numbers.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:30 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


They used to do something like this when my roommate was a manager at Pizza Hut, but it was generally arranged in advance and was seen as a favor of sorts to the employee and the employees mostly liked it since it wasn't every single shift being that way.

From their perspective, it beat the hell out of showing up and then getting sent home early because it was slow. Also, it wasn't required in the sense that missing a call in would get you written up.

That's what I find so ridiculous about the way things have been going in the last few years. Companies take things that could be construed as a win win and go to an extreme that fucks over the workers.
posted by wierdo at 6:46 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is routine practice in nurse staffing. Generally, about one third of all nurses on a hospital's payroll are hired as per diem, with no guaranteed hours and no benefits. Despite the nursing shortage, it is very difficult to get a job with benefits; per diem jobs are much more common nowadays.

At one hospital I work for (as a benefitted staff nurse, thank heaven), if your status is per diem and you are scheduled to work on a particular day, you can be called as late as two hours before the start of your scheduled shift and be cancelled (and you get no pay at all for the day and too bad if you already arranged for childcare) or put on call (at half pay for the shift). Once you're on call you need to be able to be present on the unit and ready to work 30 minutes after you get called in, and you can be called in at any time during the eight or twelve hours of your shift.

It's pretty difficult to do anything meaningful and still be able to meet that 30 minute requirement. Many of the per diem nurses live too far from the hospital to meet the requirement, or would get stuck in traffic even if they lived close, so they report to work anyway and sit in the break room and twiddle their thumbs.

At another hospital I work for (as a per diem nurse), I give the staffing office my availability during the scheduling period and generally get confirmed for zero shifts. On the days I said I was available, I'll get a phone call two hours before my shift starts (so the phone rings at 5:00 am) asking if I want to work. I'm under no obligation to answer the phone or say yes, but I won't get paid if I don't work. Once I'm confirmed, I can neither be cancelled nor put on call. If I'm confirmed, I get paid--which is why they rarely confirm me.

Neither of these are tenable models for financial well-being unless one is partnered to someone with a predictable paycheck.
posted by jesourie at 6:47 PM on June 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also: support your local union drive!

Ok, so, seriously and honestly, what does this mean?

I work a job at at workplace that has no chance of unionization any time soon, so I can't support a union by joining one. But if there is some other way to support "unions" or even a union, I would like to hear about it.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:51 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Read Harry Braverman and abandon luddite-as-pejorative.
posted by gorbweaver at 6:59 PM on June 3, 2015


My best friend in high school worked at the local movie theater and would regularly get her weekends and sometime school nights wrecked by having to be on-call Friday and Saturday nights.

I had an employer try this and my father (who had been a union member and organizer for years) was livid, because, as he said "If you're giving them your time, they need to pay you." Luckily, I was a middle-class kid who just needed the job for spending money, and I lived in a place with lots of other retail/food service jobs, so it was easy for me to quit.

To do this to people who need their earnings to survive (which is most retail and food service workers) just because managers can't get their shit together to plan shifts, or want to avoid paying for an extra 6 hours of minimum wage a few times a week, is pretty much despicable.
posted by lunasol at 7:20 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think it's possible to underestimate how damaging it is to people, especially those most likely to be in precarious financial positions, to not be permitted to plan their lives, or their budgets, from one day to the next.

This. Thank you for putting it so well. And I may just be bitter, but I'm convinced that they do it not because employee quality of life doesn't matter to them, but because it DOES matter; they want them demoralized and stabbing their fellow employees in the back to sell more GapCards so that they can get those prized hours.

It's entirely places where the district manager or corporate is obsessed with labor hours. It's either a software thing, or something the manager is browbeat in to running every half hour(or more often). If they sell 6479 instead of 6500 the morning shift, then they're over the ratio by bla bla and two people need to go home. Or if the projection is lower for that day shifts get switched, or...

Yes, this is exactly how it worked for us. We did run the numbers every hour and got a little pep talk at the beginning of our shifts about how the numbers were looking. Hah.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Juffo-Wup: I work a job at at workplace that has no chance of unionization any time soon, so I can't support a union by joining one.

Why not? Serious question. Here in Australia, anyone can join a union and it's got nothing to do with whether there is majority support or a union agreement in a specific workplace.

(Plus of course there is no chance of unionisation if nobody joins a union…)
posted by robcorr at 7:38 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


“Consumers are just unpredictable, when they will or won’t buy,” Rowley said. “Gas prices are at a significant low right now, which frees up a lot of money in people’s hands. You’d think retail sales would be up significantly because of that — they’re not. When you ask economists, nobody can tell why people aren’t shopping.”

People who aren't being paid can't buy things, news at 11
posted by effugas at 7:39 PM on June 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


I used to work at Ikea, and on the contrary to most people's experiences in this thread, I can say that Ikea was tremendous about this - we got our schedules a month in advance. There was no such thing as an on-call shift - if you were scheduled, then you were going to work that shift. Sometimes when it would be slow they'd ask the cashiers if anyone wanted to volunteer to go home (and only get paid for the amount of time already worked), but they would never make you go home or cancel your shift. I would sometimes take up that offer if I had pressing school deadlines, or really wanted to watch a hockey game or whatever.

I don't know if they're still like this, but Ikea was generally very good to its employees when I worked there.
posted by just_ducky at 8:16 PM on June 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


"Losing the ability to recover for this severely limits the applicability of the class action."

I thought that was part of what they were appealing.

At least if that decision stands, it's a relatively easy legislative fix to clarify "report for work" to include doing so by calling (or any telecommunication). I mean, as easy as any labor law is to get passed, but we are just one shy of a Democratic supermajority here. A buddy of mine is working for the state senator who just passed a bill in the senate to get health care access for illegal immigrants, and this would probably both cost less and be more popular.

(Too bad if we put it on the ballot, all the bosses would just put everyone on call for election day.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whenever I am stuck in a bad workplace (and I have never been in as bad a place as this), I just take to goldbricking and generally being as much of a drag on the system as possible. It's good for the soul.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:31 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I showed up to point out the incredible myopia of the quote noted by effugas above. Insane.
Enraging.

I can't help but be optimistic that reason will prevail here. It seems like too obvious a legal point: time that your employer ties up is time you can't spend doing something else.

Like working another job. The quote from one industry hack (I can't bring myself to read that article again) about how on-call employees can simply "call while having lunch an hour away" shows just how stupid and fictional the world they think they live in is.
posted by asavage at 8:59 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Competence in scheduling implies hiring ( and paying for ) competent managers to do the scheduling.

That's obviously an expense to be minimized.


The thing is, this on-demand system is seen as competence in scheduling. It's just that software is doing it with no regard for humanity. It's "efficient"!
posted by emptythought at 10:09 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not just the on call situation though, where there's some vague hope of legal reform in selected states at least, but the entire unpredictability of zero hours. Being sent home and losing pay because sales are slow is equally ridiculous. Low wage workers have the downside of their wages pegged far more closely to the profitability of the business on a day to day basis than senior management, with no upside if business is booming. And these are practices that are so common we don't even bother to consider them as anything unusual. At least UK politics have spent a little bit of time hand-wringing over "zero hours contracts"; Americans don't tend to call it anything other than the standard terms of working a crappy job.

Somehow, it became universally accepted that of course your boss can send you home at lunch if the computer says so and you only get paid for a half day or that you can just find your hours cut to zero for a few weeks in a row and that's how you realize you got fired.
posted by zachlipton at 10:19 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: “Whenever I am stuck in a bad workplace (and I have never been in as bad a place as this), I just take to goldbricking and generally being as much of a drag on the system as possible. It's good for the soul.”
I knew a guy who worked retail whose motto was, “Fuck them. If they're gonna pay me minimum wage, I'm gonna steal shit."
posted by ob1quixote at 10:38 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


“Fuck them. If they're gonna pay me minimum wage, I'm gonna steal shit."

I thought everybody thought that. Sheeit.

ob. King Missile.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:48 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Even worse than being "on call", I remember showing up to work at the grocery store for a six hour shift, and being told 90 minutes in that it was slow so I could "take the rest of the day off!". This is actually a bigger deal than raising the minimum wage 50 cents, since you have to keep your schedule open so you can't work somewhere else, or god forbid, enjoy time off, but whenever they feel they have the slightest excess capacity, you're done.

No, this is worse because it's the exact same thing except you got paid for 90 minutes and an employee under this scheme gets paid nothing. The biggest money saving for the employer is not having to pay that 90 minutes, the employee still doesn't have an outside life and has no clue how much money they're going to earn in a week (except that it will never be 40 hours).
posted by shelleycat at 10:51 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I knew a guy who worked retail whose motto was, “Fuck them. If they're gonna pay me minimum wage, I'm gonna steal shit."

And this is why "loss prevention" at most stores spends like 75% of their effort targeting "internal shrinkage" or whatever euphemism they call it now.

When my friends worked at best buy, they always pointed out that it was completely possible to bring in a random receipt(or not, even), load a huge tv or a fancy computer or whatever in a cart, and just wave at the door greeter guy and leave. You'd have been home for hours before they even figured out what happened.

But the breakroom, backstock, locker area, and other employee areas? Monitored like a goddamn missile silo. Shitloads of cameras, sensors, security, you name it. The consistent joke was that it was probably 5x easier to steal as a customer than as an employee. And it was helped by the fact that none of the employees except for a few Dwight Schrutes cared, and would just go "not my circus, not my monkeys" even if it was blatant.

People were constantly getting fired for trying to steal shit in honestly james bond ways, while random tweakers were coming and filling their backpacks up with laptops and leaving.

I have known of no retail job that didn't work this way. Some places didn't even have LP staff, and had no chase and no confrontation policies. But they monitored the hell out of employee areas/employee theft.
posted by emptythought at 10:55 PM on June 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


They pulled this sort of crap on us at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. If the weather was at all iffy ,you were supposed to sit by the phone (if you had one ,this was the early 80's) and wait. You had no hope of doing anything else with your day.
posted by boilermonster at 11:11 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I knew a guy who worked retail whose motto was, “Fuck them. If they're gonna pay me minimum wage, I'm gonna steal shit."

Chris Rock's observation about the minimum wage comes to mind - it's basically employers saying "Hey - if I could pay you less, I would."
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:12 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


No, this is worse because it's the exact same thing except you got paid for 90 minutes and an employee under this scheme gets paid nothing.

Except that it could literally cost you most of those 90 minutes of wages to get to and from work and you might spend an hour or two in each direction on public transit. I mean both situations are bad, don't get me wrong; this doesn't have to turn into a misery competition here.
posted by zachlipton at 11:17 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Passing the savings on to you, kind of like a slaughterhouse for immortal cows who just line right back up for the kill room. They really do hate us for our freedoms!
posted by lon_star at 12:03 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


"When my friends worked at best buy, they always pointed out that it was completely possible to bring in a random receipt(or not, even), load a huge tv or a fancy computer or whatever in a cart, and just wave at the door greeter guy and leave. You'd have been home for hours before they even figured out what happened.

But the breakroom, backstock, locker area, and other employee areas? Monitored like a goddamn missile silo. Shitloads of cameras, sensors, security, you name it. The consistent joke was that it was probably 5x easier to steal as a customer than as an employee. And it was helped by the fact that none of the employees except for a few Dwight Schrutes cared, and would just go "not my circus, not my monkeys" even if it was blatant.
"

I had a friend who worked at Borders through the transition from human business to corporate suckhole, and he never stole a thing there until they instituted mandatory bag checks at the end of shifts — which was, of course, unpaid. (Which I think the SCOTUS just said was totes cool, but it might have just been the SCOCA.) Once they did that, it became his mission to steal something every single shift he worked. He never got caught — and he got me into Ween, so thanks Borders and shoplifting!
posted by klangklangston at 12:49 AM on June 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


One winter I picked up a short-term holiday job at a major department store. It wasn't strictly on-call, but I had unpredictable hours from week to week, mostly full-time. There was a day I wasn't scheduled, and it was pouring rain, and I didn't drive so either I was reliant on my boyfriend's availability/willingness to drive me out there or I had to succumb to the whims of an underfunded public transit system. In the pouring rain. The manager called me and asked if I could work, like right now, and I said no. She asked why and my answer was some polite variation on "because I can't." She hung up and that business never scheduled me for ANY hours again after that, which was fine because I hated it there.
posted by mirepoix at 12:50 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


One other huge benefit to employers of this situation is that it is nearly impossible for their employees to attend college because they will inevitably have to work whenever they have class. Thus, their employees will be stuck at these shit jobs forever.

Every semester, I lose at least one really good student to work/class conflicts.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Low wage workers have the downside of their wages pegged far more closely to the profitability of the business on a day to day basis than senior management, with no upside if business is booming.

Man, this is bringing me BACK--this is all exactly the stuff I used to say as a smart college student arguing against the dreaded on call. Like it's MY fault that those hideous highlighter-yellow khakis that you decided are the cornerstone of your brand this season aren't selling. Stop trying to make fetch happen.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:27 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have thankfully never been in a job like this, but I did work one where you could be "let off" early if it wasn't busy - meaning that after I drove 30 minutes to get there, expecting a several-hour shift, they told me to leave after half an hour.
Then again this manager also told me that I "had to" be in the store with uniform on etc five minutes before my shift started. I told her that up until the second I was required to clock in it was none of their business where I was as long as I was ready to work at clock-in. I did not last long.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:37 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


But the breakroom, backstock, locker area, and other employee areas? Monitored like a goddamn missile silo. Shitloads of cameras, sensors, security, you name it.

Yes, this, so much. I worked at Total Wine a few years ago and counting our till at the end of a shift was monitored by cameras, cross-checked with two paper receipts (we had to use an old-timey accounting calculator that frequently fucked up but for some reason that was the policy), manual counting, data entry to the computer system, and a third round of reckoning with a manager to be sure the numbers were where they ought to be. It was pretty demoralizing.

Also, for "full time" hours, the only option was a handful of eleven-hour shifts per week--no sitting allowed, with hideous embroidered polo shirt tucked in, no tattoos visible. $8/hour, no benefits except a steep discount on wine. Which was basically not a benefit at all for the overall quality of life decrease from exhaustion + drinking too much wine after shifts, leading to hangovers and weight gain etc.

The unpredictably scheduled eleven-hour shifts were becoming ruinous so I switched to "half time," and my schedule dried up to 4 hours per week, 10 hours per week. So I was earning $32 - $80 per week, pre-tax, on a schedule that I didn't see until a day before the week started. Of course I had to quit as soon as I found a job that paid $8.25. But that job didn't help me not get behind on student loans either, so. Capitalism!
posted by witchen at 7:51 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I have a union.

Younger Monster recently obtained a job at Libbey Glass, working on the line. He is about to be sworn into the American Flint Glass Worker's Union. (One of the older fellas on the line said that he could just sign the paper, but that he really should go and be sworn in, it's really cool, the Flints are one of the oldest Unions in the country.)

I cannot tell you how ridiculously happy and relieved I am. At 19, he has a certain measure of job security. He is working at an iconic Toledo company with deep roots in the community, getting paid more than anyone else in our household, with fantastic benefits (for example, after he has been there a year, Libbey will pay for school), great working conditions, and no "on call" bullshit. He works hard - it's HOT in a glass factory - but he comes home from his shift every day HAPPY.

His first two jobs liked to pull the "on call" nonsense. I had to deal with that in a couple of jobs in my life, and it was an absolute horror. Anyone who doesn't think we need unions has never played indentured servant to an asshole employer.
posted by MissySedai at 8:28 AM on June 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


"not my circus, not my monkeys"

klangklangston has just given me my new motto.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:52 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


This on call $#¡+ really is really employers wanting something for nothing. Also using those debit cards which incur fees to pay people.
All of it stinks. How dare we call ourselves civilized and advanced while having this arrangement!?!
Seriously, working conditions and a chance at a job are issues no politician here wants to talk about.
We get a steady diet of scandal on the so - called news, instead of serious discussions of the ways people are rendered disposable.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


@MissySedai, congratulations to Younger Monster!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:07 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


emptythought:The thing is, this on-demand system is seen as competence in scheduling. It's just that software is doing it with no regard for humanity. It's "efficient"!

So, I work in a contact centre (which is a fancy way of saying we reply to peoples' emails as well as answer their phone calls). Part of my job at the moment is investigating which workforce management platform we're going to buy - which we need, because planning the rotas for 250+ people answering phone calls and emails for a bunch of the company's clients is getting into beyond-a-joke territory for the people that are currently doing it manually (not me, thankfully).

Once we buy whatever we buy, we plug in a profile for every member of staff - what they're trained to deal with, any restrictions (eg for childcare/study) etc - and we plug in what we're expecting to receive in terms of calls/emails for every client, and it builds a rota for the month so everything's covered.

So far, we've looked at seven or eight different platforms. The sales people demo-ing every single one have focused - and focused heavily - on how their software will allow us to make "operational efficiencies" - i.e. we can just schedule individual people in for 18, or 30, or however many hours a week, as and when they're needed to meet demand. Or if we appear to be scheduling people in for a bunch of 10 hour weeks for a month, we can just let them go instead.

Every single one has been jaw-on-the-floor astounded that this isn't why we want to buy the platform in the first place, since we don't do zero-hour contracts, and that once someone is given a permanent position which says we'll give them the UK full time hours of 37.5/week, they'll always get that many hours, and pretty much the only reason they'll get sacked or laid off is for gross misconduct, because once they've passed a 3 month probation and been given a permanent contract it's a case of "if we're paying you, we will find something productive for you to do, even if it's stuffing envelopes".

Not coincidentally, a big part of the reason that we haven't shelled out the enormous amounts of money demanded by any of these companies is that none of their packages seem to be optimised to do what we want them to do, i.e. actual management of the workforce; instead they're optimised so that we can tell people "oh, you had a shift that starts in two hours. Sorry. Quiet day. Stay at home instead, and by the way you're not getting paid for the shift(s) that you planned your day(s) around."

It's an abhorrent way to treat staff on shift-pattern work.
posted by Len at 10:24 AM on June 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


This is all about employers continuing to shift risk to their employees. Just as defined-contribution plans like the 401(k) replacing defined-benefit pensions shift investment risk from employers to employees, "call-in days" shift staffing risk. Employers minimize both lost sales from understaffing, and excess staff expense from overstaffing, while employees end up bearing the cost.
posted by ogooglebar at 10:29 AM on June 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Len, I imagine your management has realized that treating employees like people instead of pegs to be fitted into holes results in more job satisfaction, which translates into greater productivity and higher profits.

It's a tragedy that more employers haven't figured this out.
posted by ogooglebar at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I used to work at Ikea, and on the contrary to most people's experiences in this thread, I can say that Ikea was tremendous about this - we got our schedules a month in advance. There was no such thing as an on-call shift - if you were scheduled, then you were going to work that shift. Sometimes when it would be slow they'd ask the cashiers if anyone wanted to volunteer to go home (and only get paid for the amount of time already worked), but they would never make you go home or cancel your shift. I would sometimes take up that offer if I had pressing school deadlines, or really wanted to watch a hockey game or whatever.

I don't know if they're still like this, but Ikea was generally very good to its employees when I worked there.
posted by just_ducky at 8:16 PM on June 3


That's because you don't get to the size/scope of Ikea without knowing what you're doing.

Corporate success and humane treatment of your staff are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there's an argument that "better" companies (for some definition of better) are not only able to out-compete other companies, but they do so because they avoid this kind of staffing nonsense.

How do you find these places? The tell is companies with employee numbers that are surprisingly small given their stature/output. That disparity means they're getting results by being both smarter and prioritizing finding/leveraging talent, as opposed to just throwing bodies at the wall willy-nilly in the hopes that something sticks.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It says something horrific about these businesses that they engage in these practices without offering any sort of compensation to their employees for the opportunity costs those employees incur.

I could be wrong about this but I strongly suspect that if businesses wanting to use this kind of staffing model offered even a paltry flex-shift incentive they'd have employees fighting to schedule that way; an extra $5 per shift means a lot at that end of the income scale.

But as long as there's no price tag attached to the misery it causes employees, most employers are not going to offer an incentive out of the goodness of their hearts and many won't see that a miserable and maximally exploited workforce has no loyalty and only minimal incentive to perform. It's a catastrophic race to the bottom for everyone, only it takes a while longer for the employer to feel the effects.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:16 AM on June 5, 2015


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