Starbucks automated shift scheduling system ruins employees' lives

Occurred: August 2014

The use of an 'unpredictable' automated scheduling system by Starbucks in the US is seen to have made it impossible for some employees to lead normal lives, and resulted in significant emotional and financial distress.

In August 2014, the New York Times published an in-depth portrayal of the impact Starbucks' use of a Kronos algorithmic scheduling system was having on the life of 22-year-old barista and single mother Jannette Navarro, notably: 

The article caused an outcry and forced Starbucks to change its scheduling policy by posting work hours a week in advance for its 130,000 employees in the US. 

It also announced changes to improve “stability and consistency” for its employees, including an end to “clopening,” the practice of scheduling employees to work opening and closing shifts back to back.

In April 2015, New York attorney general's office launched an investigation into the 'on-call' scheduling practices of 13 national retail chains. Amongst other things, it wanted to know whether these companies used Kronos software to algorithmically generate schedules.

The NYT and Attorney General investigations persuaded Kronos to update its software in such a way as to tie fairer scheduling practices to reductions in absenteeism and turnover.

Operator: Starbucks
Developer: UKG/Kronos

Country: USA

Sector: Food/food services 

Purpose: Schedule employee shifts

Technology: Scheduling algorithm
Issue: Employment; Ethics

Transparency: Governance