Lambert

Susan Lambert

Associate Professor of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
Areas of Expertise:
  • Inequality & the Middle Class
  • Children & Families
  • Jobs & Workers

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About Susan

Lambert looks at how everyday employer practices shape the odds that ordinary working people can earn a decent living and fulfill their caregiving responsibilities. She pays particular attention to what employers do and why and to scheduling practices in hourly jobs. In the last two decades, Lambert has conducted studies of hourly jobs and workplace practices in private firms in several industries and has analyzed national survey data on the prevalence of problematic scheduling practices in the U.S. She co-directs (with Julia Henly and Marci Ybarra) the Employment Instability Researchers Network (EINet) which is currently focused on improving the measurement of working conditions in national surveys. In addition to her scholarship, she regularly collaborates with labor groups, such as the AFL-CIO and the Center for Popular Democracy, officials in federal, state, and city governments, private employers in the retail sector, and policy organizations such as the Center for Equitable Growth, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Lambert’s work with these groups focuses on establishing new labor standards to improve the quality of jobs at the bottom of the U.S. labor market, through both voluntary employer action and legislative initiatives. 

Briefs

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

  • Peter J. Fugiel
  • Julia R. Henly

Podcast

Publications

"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. 

"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.

"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).

"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. 

"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. 

"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. 

"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.

In the News

Susan Lambert's research on Nina GolgowskiSusan Lambert, "Steady Hours Boost Retail Worker Productivity and Sales, Study Finds," HuffPost, March 28, 2018.
Susan Lambert quoted in Joan C. Williams, Saravanan Kesavan, and Lisa McCorkell, "Research: When Retail Workers Have Stable Schedules, Sales and Productivity Go Up" Harvard Business Review, March 29, 2018.
Susan Lambert quoted in Alieza Durana, "More Families Feel Insecure. That's Because they Are" Slate, March 21, 2018.
Susan Lambert quoted in Emily Sullivan, "When A Full-Time Job isn't Enough To Make It" National Public Radio, February 2, 2018.
Susan Lambert quoted on the effect of working multiple jobs in Emily Sullivan, "When a Full-Time Job isn't Enough To Make It" National Public Radio, February 2, 2018.
Susan Lambert quoted on scheduling practices in Peter Szekely, "Not So Fast: U.S. Restaurant Workers Seek Ban on Surprise Scheduling" Reuters, July 17, 2017.
Susan Lambert quoted on the value of full-time employees in Rachel Feintzeig, "Full-Time Hires Buck the Trend at Fast-Food, Retail Chains" Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2016.
Susan Lambert quoted on manager accountability for labor and sales in Seth Freed Wessler, "Shift Change: ‘Just-in-Time’ Scheduling Creates Chaos for Workers" NBC News, May 10, 2014.
Susan Lambert quoted on fixing labor standards via scheduling in Steven Greenhouse, "A Push to Give Steadier Shifts to Part-Timers" New York Times, July 16, 2014.
"Stability is Good for Employees and Bosses," Susan Lambert, New York Times, July 16, 2014.
Susan Lambert quoted on parenting and fluctuating schedules of part-time employment in Katherine Peralta, "Democrats’ Bill Aims to Regulate Workplace Scheduling" US News, July 29, 2014.
Susan Lambert quoted on workforce optimization technology in Allison Linn, "A Grim Long-Term Outlook for Retail…Workers" CNBC, July 30, 2014.
Guest to discuss the displacement of professionals after the recession on NPR: Diane Rehm Show, Susan Lambert, August 7, 2014.
Guest to discuss the effects of part-time job employment and the economy on NPR: All Things Considered, Susan Lambert, August 24, 2014.
Susan Lambert's research on part-time employee scheduling discussed in Frawn JohnsonSusan Lambert, "How Airbnb and Uber are Changing the Nature of Work," National Journal, November 13, 2014.
Guest to discuss the effects of unpredictable work schedules on NPR: All Things Considered, Susan Lambert, November 23, 2014.
Susan Lambert quoted on full-time versus part-time workers in Alana Semuels, "When Raising the Minimum Wage Isn't Enough" The Atlantic, November 25, 2014.
Susan Lambert quoted on companies over hiring and being understaffed in Alain Sherter, "For Some Starbucks Workers, Job Leaves Bitter Taste" CBS Money Watch, November 26, 2014.
Guest to discuss the effects of unpredictable work schedules on NPR: Marketplace, Susan Lambert, January 26, 2014.
Susan Lambert quoted on the harmful effects of part-time employee schedules in Steven Greenhouse, "In Service Sector, No Rest for the Working" New York Times, February 21, 2015.
Susan Lambert quoted on part-time employee work schedules in Hiroko Tabuchi, "Next Goal for Walmart Workers: More Hours" New York Times, February 25, 2015.
Susan Lambert quoted on full-time versus part-time workers in Esther Kaplan, "The Spy Who Fired Me" Harper’s, March 2015.
Susan Lambert quoted on part-time employee work schedules in Nathan Schneider, "Have We Seen the End of the 8-Hour Day" The Nation, March 12, 2015.
Susan Lambert's research on young employees’ work schedules discussed in Julie Cook RamirezSusan Lambert (with Peter J. Fugiel), "The Perils of Part-Time," Human Resource Executive, November 6, 2014.