New York State Nail Salons Come Under Fire For Worker Abuses

Courtesy of Freedigitalimages.net
Courtesy of Freedigitalimages.net

May 21, 2015– On a daily basis, women, and often men, across the City of New York patronize one of 2,000 nail salons in order to treat themselves to grooming at the hands of professional manicurists. The customers, often financially middle and upper class individuals, shell out significant fees for these periodic treatments in luxurious salons by industrious workers skilled at the art of beautifying their clients’ nails through the art of manicure and pedicure. Despite the, sometimes, exorbitant fees paid New York City residents for this service, a recent study has revealed that many of the workers performing the pricey services have been subject to extreme wage and hour abuses at the hands of their employers.

According to a NY Times survey of 150 nail salons in NYC, “a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse.”

In addition to wage related employment abuses recent studies have revealed that salon workers are exposed to various, toxic chemicals associated with the trade without the benefit of proper training, proper safety equipment, sufficient ventilation, or a proper understanding of the hazards they are exposed to.

New York State, and New York City in particular, has the highest per capita of the, over, 17,000 nail salons found throughout the United States. With the high cost of living in New York, the $1.50 per hour that is estimated to be the prevailing wage, including tips, for these workers is far below any established poverty line anywhere in the country.

These abuses seem to disproportionately impact the immigrant population in New York City because it is immigrants that fill the majority of these positions. The two largest groups impacted are Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Many of these workers, despite being the subject of gross employment abuses fear recrimination or unemployment as retribution for hiring employment law firms to present their grievances.

So what does the future hold for these oppressed salon workers?  Is there a roadmap to relief from the onslaught of abuses they sustain daily?  The Salon industry does not seem poised to make meaningful changes on its own.  State Salon Licensing Boards and Government Agencies are currently overwhelmed with large caseloads offering no relief for these hard working employees.  The one thing that is certain is that until someone does more than just study the conditions for this large group of workers their lives will not improve.

Domino’s Pizza Latest Franchise To Settle Wage Claims

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April 15, 2015– Five owners of a total of 29 Domino’s Pizza stores across New York State have agreed to pay a combined $970,000 in restitution to workers to settle labor violation complaints, Attorney General  Scheiderman’s office reported Tuesday.

The violations, in general, involved minimum wage and tip rules and allegations that the subject stores failed to properly reimburse delivery workers who used their own cars or bicycles for deliveries, according to the state’s official news release

The settlements follow similar cases last year involving another 26 stores statewide.

From the Official Press Release:  NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced settlements totaling $970,000 with four current Domino’s Pizza franchisees, who together own 29 stores across New York State, as well as with one former franchisee who owned 6 stores. With stores located in Cortland, Dutchess, Erie, Genesee, Monroe, Nassau, New York, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, the franchisees admitted to a number of labor violations, including minimum wage, overtime or other basic labor law protections. In light of today’s agreements – which follow similar settlements last year with the owners of 26 other Domino’s stores statewide – Attorney General Schneiderman also called on the Domino’s Pizza corporation and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Doyle to exercise increased oversight of Domino’s franchisees’ pay practices.

For the entire transcript visit: http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-settlements-five-domino’s-pizza-franchisees-violating

Amazon Workers Fight For Fair Pay?

October 16, 2014-Most of the American public is familiar with the internet marketplace known as Amazon.com.  What most people didn’t know until last week was that Amazon.com employees are required to pass through mandatory security checkpoints, after their shifts.  This mandatory protocol often delays their departure from work, by an average of,  30 minutes per day.  This procedure was put into place due to significant company financial losses, which Amazon alleges, is the result of, out of control, employee theft.  Employees, as a matter of practice, clock out from work, daily, and then line up to pass through secure check points similar to those utilized at the major airports throughout the country.

Now those same employees have filed a series of lawsuits against Amazon, claiming that the time spent administering these security procedures should be considered part of their employment. Furthermore, they are demanding they be paid up until the point that they have completed their security inspections.  They have alleged that Amazon has violated Labor Laws by requiring them to adhere to these practices, without the benefit of pay.  They are seeking back pay, as well as a change in policy.  Amazon has fired back, vigorously defending the suit on several legal grounds, but more significantly, highlighting the irony that employee behavior, as a class, necessitated the costly procedures be implemented in the first place.

At the heart of the matter will be a legal interpretation of the 1947 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The U.S. Supreme Court will look at the facts, in question, and decide whether the security checkpoints set up by Amazon, and other major companies dealing with employee theft, constitute “integral and indispensable” components of what the workers were paid, by the employer, to do.  The classic example cited by the employees is that employers, such as butchers, are required, by law, to pay for the time their employees spend sharpening their tools, as integral to their job.   They liken the checkpoint requirement to this scenario.  In contrast, employers are not legally required to pay employees for their travel time to and from work.  Amazon relies on this premise in defense of its position that the security checkpoint is akin to the ride home.

Whose interpretation is correct?  The parties, and the public, will soon discover.  While this case involves one company, Amazon.com, the results may significant consequences on the finances of many U.S. companies.  The additional expense of increased base wages, plus the, potential, impact on overtime wages could lead to increased consumer prices, or a decrease in hiring, or, although, highly unlikely, a dismantling of the security checkpoints, entirely, as more cost prohibitive than the theft they are trying to eliminate.

If you, or someone you know, is the victim of wage violations or is owed back pay, please contact the New York Employment Attorneys at Neil H. Greenberg & Associates.  Our attorneys will help you to fight labor violations and get compensation for your work.  Call us today at 516-228-5100!

 

Neil H. Greenberg, Esq. Featured in the News

October 9, 2014– Neil H. Greenberg, Esq., was featured in a series of News Stories regarding the firm’s representation of certain Defendants in a high profile, Federal, Employment matter being litigated in New York State.  The below intro and link is from the Southampton Press coverage of the ongoing matter:

 

Water Mill Couple To Go To Trial After Judge Refuses To Dismiss Forced Labor Allegations

Publication: The Southampton Press

By Erin McKinley Oct 3, 2014 4:27 PM 

Oct 8, 2014 10:10 AM

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a case against a Water Mill couple in which a former employee claims the pair forced her into indentured servitude between 2005 and 2008.

The suit, which will now be the subject of a trial, was filed by Ni Ketut Sulastri of Bali, who now resides in North Sea, in July 2012. She alleges that she had been hired, through an intermediary in Bali, by Lawrence and Rose Halsey to work for the Halseys’ children’s shoe-making business, Coastal Projection Corporation. She said she was promised a stipend of $450 per month, a 9-to-5 workday, room and board, and help with obtaining lawful permanent resident status…..

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Water-Mill/82334/Water-Mill-Couple-To-Go-To-Trial-After-Judge-Refuses-To-Dismiss-Forced-Labor-Allegations

Executive Order Affects Federal Contractors and Employees

On July 31, 2014 President Obama signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order.  Essentially, this executive order requires federal government contractors (with contracts valued at more than $500,000) to disclose any labor law violations from the past three years. Furthermore, the order gives regulatory agency additional guidelines on how to past violations should factor in when considering awarding a federal contract. According to the White House, the new rules and regulations are expected to take effect sometime in 2016.

What is considered a labor law violation?

According to the Executive Order, “labor law violations” refer to violations of the 14 covered federal statutes and Executive Orders, and also include state laws that address wage & hour, safety & health, collective bargaining, family & medical leave, and civil rights protections. Thus, any violation of the following acts would be considered a “labor law violation:”

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA)

Continue reading “Executive Order Affects Federal Contractors and Employees”

Livery Drivers Triumph Over Sitcom Star In Wage Dispute

It sounds like a dream job.    You finally get the call to work as a professional driver for a famous television celebrity during a Hollywood production.   You show up, ready to work, and do whatever is required of you, including working 19 hours a day to please your employer.  Then, after the production is complete, you wait to be compensated for the work you have done.    As days and days go by with no money and no, meaningful, response to your requests, that dream starts to become a nightmare.  Your demands for payment go unanswered for some time.  As you become increasingly more frustrated, you have no choice but to hire an Employment Lawyer to manage your wage dispute, protect your rights, and get you paid what you have earned from this mega-star.

While these allegations may sound like the plot of television show, they are, in fact, the claims of two drivers who were forced to take, former That 70’s Show star, Wilmer Valderrama to Federal Court in California, in order to get paid, last month. While the case has since settled, with a favorable resolution to the the employees, Valderrama’s team raised every possible defense along the way, including the fact that the drivers were not his “employees” but independent contractors and, therefore, were only entitled to base pay with no overtime for the 19 hour, sleepless shifts they dedicated to serving the TV actor’s needs.

While it may seem remarkable that hard working employees, who do everything required and requested of them, in the course of their employment have to retain skilled attorneys to protect their rights against employers, celebrity or otherwise, it is, sadly, an all too common an occurrence.  The defenses raised by Valderrama are not limited to celebrity employers.   All across the country employers of every size, and in every industry, are taking advantage of hard working employees every day.   When these employers are called to task on this behavior so many of them attempt to defend their actions through unsupported claims and defenses.  It is, often, only through the intervention of experienced Employment Law Firms that hard working employees, eventually, receive what they duly entitled to.

If you, or someone you know has suffered from minimum wage issues, it is important that they immediately contact an experienced Employment Attorney.  A qualified attorney can help employees stand up for their rights and recover compensation for their lost wages.