Susan J. Lambert

Professor, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, University of Chicago
Chapter Member: Chicagoland SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Susan

Lambert’s research focuses on how employer practices shape the quality of jobs, the lives of low-paid workers, and inequality in society. Overarching themes in Lambert’s research include the widespread prevalence of precarious scheduling practices in the US labor market and their negative ramifications for workers, families, and employers. Lambert regularly advises government, labor, and business on strategies to improve jobs in ways that balance the needs of employers for labor flexibility with the needs of workers for stable and predictable hours and earnings.


The Realities of Unpredictable Work Schedules for America's Hourly Employees

  • Peter J. Fugiel
  • Julia R. Henly

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Quoted by Joan C. Williams, Saravanan Kesavan, and Lisa McCorkell in "Research: When Retail Workers Have Stable Schedules, Sales and Productivity Go Up," Harvard Business Review, March 29, 2018.
Research discussed by Nina Golgowski, in "Steady Hours Boost Retail Worker Productivity and Sales, Study Finds," HuffPost, March 28, 2018.
Quoted by Alieza Durana in "More Families Feel Insecure. That's Because they Are," Slate, March 21, 2018.
Quoted by Emily Sullivan in "When a Full-Time Job isn't Enough To Make It," National Public Radio, February 2, 2018.
Quoted by Emily Sullivan in "When A Full-Time Job isn't Enough To Make It," National Public Radio, February 2, 2018.
Quoted by Peter Szekely in "Not So Fast: U.S. Restaurant Workers Seek Ban on Surprise Scheduling," Reuters, July 17, 2017.
Quoted by Rachel Feintzeig in "Full-Time Hires Buck the Trend at Fast-Food, Retail Chains," Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2016.
Quoted by Esther Kaplan in "The Spy Who Fired Me," Harper’s, March 2015.
Quoted by Nathan Schneider in "Have We Seen the End of the 8-Hour Day," The Nation, March 12, 2015.
Quoted by Hiroko Tabuchi in "Next Goal for Walmart Workers: More Hours," New York Times, February 25, 2015.
Quoted by Steven Greenhouse in "In Service Sector, No Rest for the Working," New York Times, February 21, 2015.
Quoted by Alain Sherter in "For Some Starbucks Workers, Job Leaves Bitter Taste," CBS Money Watch, November 26, 2014.
Quoted by Alana Semuels in "When Raising the Minimum Wage Isn't Enough," The Atlantic, November 25, 2014.
Guest on NPR: All Things Considered, November 23, 2014.
Research discussed by Frawn Johnson, in "How Airbnb and Uber are Changing the Nature of Work," National Journal, November 13, 2014.
Guest on NPR: All Things Considered, August 24, 2014.
Guest on NPR: Diane Rehm Show, August 7, 2014.
Quoted by Allison Linn in "A Grim Long-Term Outlook for Retail…Workers," CNBC, July 30, 2014.
Quoted by Katherine Peralta in "Democrats’ Bill Aims to Regulate Workplace Scheduling," US News, July 29, 2014.
Opinion: "Stability is Good for Employees and Bosses," Susan J. Lambert, New York Times, July 16, 2014.
Quoted by Steven Greenhouse in "A Push to Give Steadier Shifts to Part-Timers," New York Times, July 16, 2014.
Quoted by Seth Freed Wessler in "Shift Change: ‘Just-in-Time’ Scheduling Creates Chaos for Workers," NBC News, May 10, 2014.
Guest on NPR: Marketplace, January 26, 2014.


"Precarious Work Schedules among Early-Career Employees in the U.S.: A National Snapshot," (with Peter J. Fugiel and Julia R. Henly), EINet, August 2014.

Describes the distribution of three dimensions of work schedules - advance schedule notice, fluctuating work hours, and schedule control - across early-career workers in hourly and non-hourly jobs, overall and separated by gender, regular work hours (full-time/part-time), race, and occupation. Suggests some implications of these descriptive findings for public policy and future research.

"Unpredictable Work Timing in Retail Jobs: Implications for Employee Work-Life Outcomes" (with Julia R. Henly). Industrial and Labor Relations Review 67, no. 3 (2014): 986-1016.

Presents findings from a study of female hourly retail workers indicating that schedule unpredictability fuels stress and work-to-family conflict regardless of how much input workers have into the timing of their work hours. 

"Passing the Buck: Labor Flexibility Practices That Transfer Risk onto Hourly Workers" Human Relations 61, no. 9 (2008): 1203-1227.

Provides insight into the daily accountability requirements that press front-line managers to make quick adjustments to work schedules and offers examples of the problematic scheduling practices that result. Uses data from a comparative study of 88 non-production jobs in 22 work sites in four industries (hospitality, retail, transportation, and financial services).

"The Limits of Voluntary Employer Action for Improving Low-Level Jobs" in Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility, edited by Marion Crain and Michael Sherraden (Oxford University Press, 2014), 120-129.

Explains how and why some employers design jobs in ways that render low-level workers irrelevant to the bottom-line, in turn making the “business case” for improving low-level jobs a hard sell. 

"Added Benefits: The Link between Work-Life Benefits and Organizational Citizenship Behavior" Academy of Management Journal 43, no. 5 (2000): 801-815.

Employs a rigorous, longitudinal design to look at how a company’s family-responsive benefits sparked good employee performance, performance that went beyond completing basic job tasks well to include participation in total quality initiatives.

"Schedule Flexibility in Hourly Jobs: Unanticipated Consequences and Promising Directions" (with Julia R. Henly and Haley Lock ). Community, Work & Family 15, no. 3 (2012): 293-315.

Draws on a set of studies to show how conventional flexibility options do not always map well onto hourly jobs, and in certain instances, may disadvantage workers by undermining their ability to earn an adequate living. Offers alternative approaches to implementing flexibility in hourly jobs when hours are scarce and fluctuating rather than long and rigid. 

"Workplace Policies as Social Policy" Social Service Review 67, no. 2 (1993): 237-260.

Explains why understanding employer policy and practice is essential to formulating effective social policy in the U.S.