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Pregnant Workers Win Supreme Court Victory

Young Woman Pregnant Sitting On Arm Chairs In Home Living Room W Stock Photo Photo by khunaspix.  Image ID: 100253535
Young Woman Pregnant Sitting On Arm Chairs In Home Living Room
Photo by khunaspix.
Image ID: 100253535

March 26, 2015– WASHINGTON — In a victory for pregnant women in the workplace, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of a worker who sued shipping giant UPS for pregnancy discrimination, sending her lawsuit back to a lower court where she had previously lost.

The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, hinged on whether or not UPS was justified in putting Peggy Young on unpaid leave after she became pregnant, even though other workers were commonly offered “light duty” for on-the-job injuries or to satisfy requirements under the American with Disabilities Act. The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of keeping Young’s lawsuit alive, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joining the traditionally liberal members of the court….

(Reposted from The Huffington Post 3/25/2015)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/supreme-court-ups-pregancy_n_6940752.html?1427304988

NY Workers Have The Worst Commute in the Nation

Photo by Feelart  Stock photo - Image ID: 100219097
Photo by Feelart
Stock photo – Image ID: 100219097

March 19, 2015-(From The Gothamist) We already had an inkling that commuting in NYC was probably a bit worse than in other cities, but a new study really seals the deal. Comptroller Scott Stringer has released a study comparing New Yorkers’ commuting times to 29 other major America cities, only to find that we have the worst working week commute in the country by far. As Elvis Costello once said, I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.

Read the entire story at: http://gothamist.com/2015/03/18/ny_commute.php

Papa John’s Drivers Win Wage Claims Against Franchisee

(Huffington Post)
(Huffington Post)

March 12, 2014–  When customers of Papa John’s Pizza Franchise, in New York City, were charged a mandatory $1.50 “service fee” they were, falsely, led to believe this was a tip for the delivery driver; however, it was kept, entirely, by the franchisee employer.  At least, this was among the allegations of the New York State Attorney General when he filed an employment lawsuit against the owner of five Papa John’s locations last year.

Last week, a New York State Supreme Court Judge agreed with the Attorney General when she ordered Papa John’s to pay, up to, six years in back wages, overtime, interest, and damages to these delivery drivers.  The court found that, in addition to keeping the “service charges”, the Defendant had utilized the delivery drivers to do numerous employee related tasks during their down time and, therefore, should have been compensated as employees. The court indicated that the tasks assigned were outside of the purview of what a delivery driver is expected to do.  The compensation and damage award is expected to exceed the sum of $2 million.

While the franchisee in this case has indicated an inability to satisfy the judgment, the drivers’ lawyers are considering whether the law will allow the franchisor, Papa John’s Corporate, to be held liable for the actions of the franchisee.  Last year similar labor cases held the McDonald’s Corporate liable for certain, egregious employment actions of their franchisees.

Cases like this will, undoubtedly, have both store owners and Corporate Franchisors examining their daily, routine labor practices with an eye on the possibility of future litigation.

To read more see: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/02/09/papa-johns-ordered-pay-almost-800000-wage-theft-case/

10 Companies That Have Vowed To Raise Their Minimum Wage

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

March 5, 2015– As Congress and many State legislatures are busy debating the merits of increases in the minimum wage for working families, at least 10 major corporate employers have committed to voluntarily raise their employees’ baseline pay from the Federal minimum standard.  Some skeptics might argue that this commitment stems from large scale protests by employees that are working full time jobs but are still unable to survive economically without the aid of public assistance.

The companies, however, have expressed the desire to improve their customer experience through making employees feel more invested in the corporate culture and the success of the organization as a whole.  They see wage empowerment as a tool to achieving that goal.

Regardless of the reasons behind the decision, the impact will be to increase the wages, and discretionary income, of a significant number of U.S. workers because of the sizable market share of each of the companies involved.

The companies include:

1.  Walmart

2.  T.J. Maxx

3.  Starbucks

4.  Ikea

5.  Gap, Inc.

6.  Costco

7.  In-N-Out Burger

8.  Shake Shack

9.  Ben N. Jerry’s

10. Whole Foods

 

To read more please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/companies-minimum-wage_n_6754070.html

New York Food Workers Guaranteed Increased Wages

Photo by stockimages.  Stock Photo - Image ID: 100105597
Photo by stockimages.
Stock Photo – Image ID: 100105597

February 26, 2014- On February 24, 2015 the Acting Commissioner of New York State’s Department of Labor, Mario J. Musolino, announced the passage of certain dramatic wage changes which were, previously, proposed, studied, and debated for four months by the 2014 Hospitality Wage Board regarding the wages of tipped workers in the food and hospitality industries.  The direct impact of these changes is to increase the mandated, guaranteed wages for tipped food and hospitality workers.

Classically, workers in New York State that have relied, primarily, on tips for their compensation have been relegated to sub-minimum wages. Food and hospitality industry workers have relied on the benefit of the generosity of customer’s tips to offset the shortfall between their wage and the New York State Minimum guaranteed wage for all other workers.

Effective December 15, 2015 the NYS guaranteed cash wage for tipped workers in food and hospitality will be $7.50 per hour. This is the first such increase since 2011 when the standard for these workers became $5.65 per hour.

For New York City tipped food and hospitality workers the change allows for a $1 differential, or $8.50 per hour. This differential runs parallel to Governor Cuomo’s initiative to allow for a similar differential in the base minimum wage for all other New York City workers as compared the rest of New York State.

The Commissioner also committed to commence a study which examines the impact of the complete elimination of cash wages and tip credits in the food and hospitality industry in New York State.  The result of that study are expected later this year.

While the obvious impact of the measures are to increase the wages of tipped workers in New York State and New York City the ultimate true impact is not yet known. Currently, some food and hospitality spokespeople have indicated that the industry, in response to the Commissioner’s initiative, is examining a voluntary elimination of tipping for workers and the imposition of a service fee on all checks to consumers while transitioning workers to the State guaranteed minimum wage for all other workers.

First Analysis of Minimum Wage Increases Show Economic Promise

February 19, 2015–  Much of the debate surrounding an increase in the Minimum Wage is whether, or not, it will positively impact the U.S. economy. The initial analysis of the impact of the increases in over 20 states, which was written about in this column last month*, appears to indicate it has had a positive impact on the overall economic picture, albeit small.

Economists reported an, overall, increase in Labor force wages by .045%, in January, partially due to the substantial commitment of a number of states to these hourly wage increases. Morgan Stanley reported that 1.5% of the workforce was impacted by the increases in 21 states.  While this percentage is, actually, substantial it did not have a greater positive result on the economy because the increases in wages, themselves, were not substantial enough to have an impact when spread out over the entire wage pool.

Further commentary by leading economists seems to indicate that the economy was also helped by a continued increase in the number of laborers in the workforce. The Department of Labor reported the biggest three (3) month increase in 17 years, possibly, ending a trend towards months of alternating progress and set backs. There were no indications, whatsoever, that in the markets where wages were increased that the increases in hourly wage lead to layoffs, contractions, decreased profitability, or corporate re-locations as compared to jurisdictions with lower hourly wages.

There does seem to be a building forward momentum in the economy and the job sector. This increase in opportunities will continue to thin the unemployment ranks and should have a natural inclination to raise wages in the marketplace as competition heats up. The lurking danger is that as new higher paying Managerial opportunities are created they will have the tendency to demonstrate net increases in the wage pool figures and these increases may be used by opponents of mandated minimum wage increases as justification that such legislation is not needed.

What is needed as the economy continues to evolve and emerge from the Great Recession is an isolated, detailed analysis of workers and wages at the minimum wage level. By applying this analysis the most needy sectors of the workforce will not suffer from having their stagnation masked by members of the workforce on the more affluent segment of the labor force.

Yet to see an increase in your pay rate after the minimum wage increase? If you are making less than the state minimum wage in New York, contact the wage attorneys at Neil H. Greenberg and Associates for a consultation at 866-546-4752.

*To view the article written in this column last month, click here.

Detroit Man’s Work Pilgrimage Reaps Big Reward

February 5, 2015–  Traffic Jams.   Crowded mass transit.  Trains running late.  These are just a few of the reasons many employees,  justifiably, complain about their commute to and from work.  One man who never complains about his commute, and has never missed a day of work in 10 years, is James Robertson.   Robertson, a Detroit resident, unlike many of the chronic complainers may have the most valid reason of all to begrudge his walk to work.   That is because it is a 21 mile journey.  James Robertson has faithfully, in various stages of inclement weather, managed to walk this pilgrimage to the factory where he works full-time since 2005, without missing a day.

While Robertson has often been praised by his employer as a model employee,  it wasn’t until earlier this month that his dedication paid off.  When the story broke in the Detroit Free Press last week it caught the attention of 19 year old Evan Leedy on Facebook.  Leedy was so moved by Robertson, a stranger’s, dedication that he set out to raise enough funds to alleviate his inspiration of this daily journey.

To date, Leedy has raised, over, $150,000 for his mission of rewarding Robertson’s dedication, including several offers from car dealerships for free vehicles for this, previously, unassuming, quiet, picture of hard work and loyalty.  While Leedy and Robertson had not had the chance to meet prior to the campaign, the Detroit Free Press did arrange a meeting where Robertson expressed his, overwhelming, gratitude to the benevolent teenager.

James Robertson appears to be a model employee and citizen.   The story of Evan Leedy’s mission is, equally, powerful.  Perhaps the more gratifying story would have been if Robertson’s employer had been as proactive as Leedy in rewarding the efforts of this unique employee.

10 Tips on How Employers Can Avoid Lawsuits

Each year, thousands of employment-based lawsuits are filed, and more money is being awarded to claimants (according to the EEOC). Most employment-based lawsuits fall within one of the following ten categories.  Below are some tips to help you avoid getting sued by a current or former employee.

  1. Occupational Safety and Hazard Act (OSHA)

Every worker deserves a safe environment in which to make a living. If an employee reports a hazard, take care of it quickly, and warn all employees to avoid the hazard in the meantime.

  1. Equal Employment Opportunity

Employees have a number of federally protected rights that were created to ensure a discrimination-free work environment.  Avoid discrimination by working with an attorney to create discrimination policies and procedures.  Regularly review these procedures with all managers.

  1. Minimum Wage

According to the General Industry Minimum Wage Act, employers must pay all employees in New York State, including most domestic workers, at least $8.75 per hour (for tipped workers, they should be making this amount or more on average when you add in tips).

  1. Overtime

New York labor laws require an employer to pay overtime to employees, unless otherwise exempt, at the rate of 1½ times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Almost all hourly employees or salaried employees making less than $24,000/year are eligible for overtime.

  1. Paid Time Off (PTO)

In New York City, every employee accrues a minimum of one hour of time off for every 30 hours worked (for employers with fewer than five employees, this time is unpaid). Many employers offer more robust PTO practices which must be appropriately tracked and honored.  Any employee should be paid for unused vacation/sick days at the end of their employment.

  1. Uniform/Supply Reimbursement (if applicable)

The State of New York requires employers to purchase or reimburse employees for uniforms, unless the uniform could be considered normal, everyday clothing.

  1. Wage Garnishment

New York State wage garnishment laws (known as “income execution” laws) generally provide that creditors with judgments can only take up to 10% of your gross wages, although certain exceptions to this rule exist.  Employees may not be penalized (refused promotions, laid off, etc) for current, past or pending garnishments. Failure to properly garnish wages may result in fines.

  1. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Under the FMLA,  eligible and approved City of New York employees are permitted to take up to a maximum of 12 weeks of paid and/or unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for an immediate family member or for the serious illness of the employee. During this time, employees may not be fired or otherwise harassed.

  1. Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

Employers have the fiduciary obligation to provide promised benefits and satisfy ERISA’s requirements for managing and administering private pension and welfare plans.

10. Posters

Posters displaying notifications of workplace rights and employer rules and policies must be on display in a conspicuous area so that employees are able read it. Failure to do so will likely result in fines.

 

If you or someone you know, needs advice from experienced employment attorneys, contact Neil H. Greenberg & Associates. Our attorneys have the skill and experience necessary to help you overcome your legal problems.  Call us today to schedule a consultation: 516-228-5100.

NY Storm Costs Workers $160 Million

January 29, 2015– When NYC’s Mayor Bill de Blasio stood at the podium on Monday and said, “This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before” he was absolutely correct.  While his meteorological prediction fell short by, almost, 20 inches, the financial impact of the storm was unprecedented, and devastating, for City and State workers.  The total cost of lost wages and productivity are estimated at, conservatively, $160 million dollars, as a result of the State and City’s mandatory shut down of public transportation, roads, and manners of ingress and egress out of major municipalities.  The actual cost may be, up to, four times that amount once all the damages are calculated.

In its 110 years of operation, the New York City subway system has never been closed for a snow emergency.   The fact that the underground nature of most of the lines shields it from snow conditions has always been a justification against crippling this form of transportation. However, in this case, Governor Cuomo and the MTA President felt it prudent to cease operation of the system until after the storm had passed.  This single edict by the Governor demonstrated the monumental reliance of New York City’s labor force and economy on its underground rail system.  It also showcased the potential, in an economically fragile environment, that every governmental decision has on the economy of the region.

While it is easy to second guess the decision of the Governor and civic leaders on the decisions made during the storm, it seems clear that they were responding to the forecasts that were provided to them and were, clearly, looking to avoid loss of life, destruction of property, and a prolonged clean up.  Unfortunately, we are in an economic climate where American workers don’t feel their financial situations can sustain, even one, “snow day” where they will be unable to recoup the wages, or lost opportunities.   That is more an indictment of the current state of the economy than it is of a decision by leaders to protect citizens from harm during a storm.

For more information on the storm’s economic impact visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/upshot/shutting-down-new-yorks-subways-is-very-expensive.html?_r=1&abt=0002&abg=1 

Pres. Obama and Gov. Cuomo Fight to Raise Wages

January 22, 2015– In Tuesday Night’s State of the Union address, President Obama made increasing the Federal Minimum Wage a central theme of his economic platform. While this proposal is not new to the President’s agenda, he used a recovering economy and the signs of an increasing Presidential public approval rating to bolster his opportunity to be more vocal on the issue.

While individual states always have the ability to deviate more favorably to employees from the Federal government’s wage standard, the President highlighted the moral responsibility of the Federal Government in setting a heightened National baseline on wages.  He was unequivocal in the expression of his belief that wage increases are essential to improving the fabric of the American workplace and the life of the American worker.

To a Republican controlled Congress, the President challenged “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less that $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest working people in America a raise.” While this dramatic challenge may have resonated with the American people, it may be more rhetoric than policy as the, now Republican majority in the Congress, has vehemently refused to take up any measure increasing the Minimum Wage above the 2009 rate of $7.25 per hour.

The President also focused on other workplace related issues, which he was looking for Congress to take a leadership role in establishing national policy on, including paid sick leave, paternity leave, and universal day care. Once again, under the current make-up of Congress, passage of such legislation is also unlikely.

Meanwhile, in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a significant increase in the state’s current $8.75 per hour minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by 2016, outside of NYC. In a surprising change of position from his stance of late last year, the Governor also proposed a NYC differential of $1.00 per hour in NYC’s minimum wage, or $11.50 per hour by 2016. These increases would make NYC and NYS among the highest minimum wage jurisdictions in the country. Earlier this month, 21 other states implemented minimum wages hikes.

(see http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/21-states-raise-minimum-wage-federal/)

In making his proposal the Governor focused less on the obligation of NYS citizens to support each other, or on the moral obligations of the NYS legislature, but more on New York keeping pace with the healthier state of the economy, “The world has changed. The market is strong and I believe the market, this market, at this rate of strength, can deal with this.” While the proposed wage promulgated by the Governor is far below his original proposal of $13 per hour, it is also unlikely to see clear passage with a New York State Senate in equal opposition as the US. Congress to such a measure.

While a substantial increases in the Federal and New York State minimum wage seem unlikely under the current political climate, the issue is of significant and consequential concern to a financially devastated American workforce. What it will take to transform this powerful political rhetoric into actual implemented legislation is unclear; however, it seems unlikely that these Executive standard bearers are, summarily, willing to concede the issue to their Republican opposition.