Abercrombie & Fitch to end on-call work schedules

Four months after the New York state attorney general launched a probe of how some of the nation's largest retailers schedule their workers, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) is pulling the plug on the controversial practice known as on-call work.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in April requested detailed information about scheduling practices from Abercrombie and 12 other retailers, saying his office had received reports of more employers setting shifts the night before or even just a few hours in advance, including these 13.

In New York, if workers shows up for a shift that they end up not being needed for, they're legally entitled to four hours of pay. So, Schneiderman's investigation delved into possible violations.

Retailers and restaurant chains have increasingly turned to sophisticated scheduling software that lets them change work schedules at the last minute, depending on staffing needs. While the practice helps corporate bottom lines, it can play havoc with the lives of employees, who don't know how many hours they'll work or when.

"Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on all employees, especially those in low-wage sectors," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Workers who must be 'on call' have difficulty making reliable child care and elder care arrangements, encounter obstacles in pursuing their education, and in general experience adverse financial and health effects, as well as overall stress and strain on family life."

"Over time we will discontinue the use of call-in shifts throughout the United States, and will begin that process in New York this September," a spokesperson for the youth-focused retailer said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "We believe that this change is beneficial to our store associates, and reflects our commitment to creating a positive work environment."

Abercrombie's hourly and shift workers will no longer be required to hold their schedules open for shifts they might not be asked to work, and they'll be given a lists of their scheduled shifts a week in advance, the company said in a letter to Schneiderman's office.

To handle unanticipated scheduling needs, Abercrombie said it would ask employees if they want to receive email alerts notifying them when an unexpected scheduling need crops up, and those who want to get the alerts won't be obliged to work the shifts offered.

At the end of fiscal 2014, Abercrombie operated 969 stores, 799 in the U.S. As of March 26, 2015, the company employed approximately 65,000 associates, of which approximately 57,000 were part-time, according to a regulatory filing.