Urban Outfitters to end on-call shifts nationwide

Urban Outfitters on Wednesday said that it will end on-call shifts for employees at all of its North America stores, three weeks after promising to discontinue the controversial practice at its New York locations.

The move will be made across its portfolio of stores, which include Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People. Between these three nameplates, the company operates 518 stores in North American and employs 23,000 people.

Pedestrians pass in front of an Urban Outfitters store in New York.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Urban became the subject of some criticism following its initial announcement, as several other retailers who have recently made similar promises extended their pledges nationwide. According to a source close to the matter, Urban's change had been in the works before the company received a letter from New York's attorney general in the spring.

"We are always looking for ways to improve, and as such we have decided to end on-call scheduling for all [Urban] brand associates throughout North America," the company said in a statement.

"We look forward to continuing to find ways to better fulfill our mission of providing fashion and lifestyle essentials to our dedicated customers."

Since New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an inquiry into 13 major retail chains in April, six others have responded that they will stop scheduling workers for on-call shifts.

These types of hours help retailers save money by making last-minute staffing decisions based on demand, but make it difficult for employees to plan for child care or schedule hours at another job.

Customers walks outside Macy's Herald Square after the store opened its doors at 8 pm Thanksgiving day in New York City.
The business behind Thanksgiving Day shopping
A Lord & Taylor shopping bag at a mall in Fairfax, Virginia.
The latest retailer to join discount deluge
Workers gift-wrap orders for delivery at Amazon's distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Amazon hiring more than Penney's, Walmart combined

Gap in August said that it would end on-call shifts at all of its stores, following similar decisions by Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria's Secret. Victoria's Secret's sister company Bath & Body Works followed its lead with a similar announcement last month.

More recently, J.Crew said last week that it would end on-call shifts nationwide and provide one week of advance notice about schedules to employees at all New York store locations.

"This agreement is the latest in an ongoing inquiry into the practice of on-call scheduling and is the sixth agreement we have reached with a major retailer this year," Schneiderman said in a statement at the time.

Earlier this month, Urban Outfitters came under fire over media reports that said it was asking salaried employees to volunteer to work at its fulfillment centers.