Starbucks Changes Scheduling Practices To Make Them More Humane For Employees

CREDIT: AP/Ted S. Warren

A day after the New York Times featured a story about a Starbucks employee whose erratic schedule wreaked havoc on her life, the company announced that it would change scheduling practices to make its employees’ lives easier.

In an email to 130,000 workers, the president of U.S. stores Cliff Burrows said the company would end the practice of having them “clopen,” or close up stores late at night only to have to turn around and come back a few hours later to reopen them. Stores will have to post the schedule of employee work hours at least a week in advance. The changes will also include allowing for more input from managers into scheduling, reducing the sole reliance on software, and transferring workers to closer stores if they have to commute more than an hour.

The changes sound small, and in some ways they are incremental. But these practices are widespread and bring hardship for many retail workers. Nearly half of part-time workers and just under 40 percent of full-time workers find out their schedules a week ahead of time or less. Workers have described showing up to work only to be told there isn’t enough demand and being sent home, and McDonalds workers have sued the company over its reliance on computers that constantly calculate labor costs, prompting managers to make workers clock out when the numbers get too high. If workers can’t depend on schedules in advance, it makes it nearly impossible to plan for things like child care, transportation, or college classes.

Meanwhile, many can’t get enough hours to support their families. There are 7.5 million people who are in part-time jobs but would rather be working full time, a sharp increase from a little under 4.5 million in 2008.

In light of the hardship that these practices cause workers, some lawmakers are looking to take action. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Schedules that Work Act in July, which would require employers to give workers their schedules at least two weeks in advance and give them an hour’s pay for each shift that’s changed within 24 hours. It would also require employers to give workers some pay if they’re sent home before the end of their shifts or call in but aren’t given work. And workers would be given the right to request a flexible, predictable, or stable schedule, although an employer wouldn’t have to necessarily provide it unless the worker has a caregiving obligation, a second job, a serious health condition, or is in school or a job training program.

States are also taking a look at these issues. In California, lawmakers are working on legislation that would require large retail chains to offer current employees more hours before hiring more workers. It would also require the companies to give workers some pay if they are required to be on-call or their shifts are cancelled within 24 hours. The Fair Workweek Initiative is also pushing for similar kinds of laws in places such as Milwaukee, New York, and Santa Clara, CA.