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.

Mixed News For Employees As 2nd Fiscal Quarter Begins

Photo by David Castillo Dominici.  Image ID: 100157605
Photo by David Castillo Dominici.
Image ID: 100157605

April 9, 2015-U.S. workers, as they attempt to understand what is happening in the American job market, are being confused by mixed economic signals which, simultaneously, forecast an economic expansion and economic slow down.  For many workers these mixed economic signals have made financial planning for their family’s future a nightmare.

Last week’s economic indicators foretold of some instability in the employment sector.   For the first time this year unemployment claims increased over the prior month’s filings, indicating, potentially, that an increased number of Americans were out of work.  Similarly, the hiring numbers for new employees also indicated a contraction over the, more robust, prior six months. These two factors, in isolation, could be the signs of a real economic slowdown and trouble for working families that have not yet recovered from the depths of the Great Recession. However, it may be too early to judge the state of the economy based on these factors because the relative increases, and contractions, were not significant enough to demand panic, yet.  There could be a number of fluctuating components, from the weather, to increased eligibility for unemployment filing, that may have contributed to these alarming figures.   The real test of whether this is a trend, or an anomaly, will be the results of April’s figures in these areas.

Meanwhile, there appears to be some hopeful signs for American workers as some of the country’s largest employers have begun to raise their minimum wage, voluntarily, above the Federal and state standards.   Employers such as Walmart, McDonalds, and AETNA have all begun implementing these increases, with other companies, likely, to follow suit.  While the raises they have instituted are not close to the wages some labor groups and government officials have been calling for, they are a positive economic trend for employees.

For employees looking to improve their standard of living by seeking higher wages, within, or outside of their current positions it may be a difficult time to forecast what the remainder of 2015 will bring.  For many, perhaps, fear of a second wave of economic downturn will inhibit their willingness to leave the security of their current position for a new, higher paying job.   It may also impede their confidence in seeking an increase in wages in their current employment, if they are employed. The net result may be a kind of economic stagnation and paralysis that is the result of the insecurity caused by years of economic fear and struggle for American workers.

 

 

 

 

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

Career Builder’s Top Interview Body Language Mistakes

January 15, 2015–  At the commencement of each new year, Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder, conducts a nationwide survey of employers to uncover employment trends and interview patterns that may be used to guide prospective job seekers in their quest for new employment.  A look at 2014’s results revealed some interesting feedback on the body language of candidates seeking employment.  In ranking non-verbal cues identified by Human Resource managers, in finding the most professional candidates, CareerBuilder ranked the Top 10 Body language mistakes candidates made in interviews over the course of the past year:

  1. Failing to make eye contact
  2. Failing to smile
  3. Playing with something on the table
  4. Having bad posture
  5. Fidgeting too much in their seat
  6. Crossing their arms over their chest
  7. Playing with their hair or touching their face
  8. Having a weak handshake
  9. Using too many hand gestures
  10. Having a handshake that is too strong

The Human Resource managers surveyed also provided an interesting and humorous look at some of the outlandish behavior of candidates seeking employment.   These included:

  • Candidate answered cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a “private” conversation.
  • Candidate told the interviewer he wouldn’t be able to stay with the job long because he thought he might get an inheritance if his uncle died – and his uncle “wasn’t looking too good.”
  • Candidate asked the interviewer for a ride home after the interview.
  • Candidate smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room.
  • Candidate said she could not provide a writing sample because all of her writing had been for the CIA and it was “classified.”
  • Candidate told the interviewer he was fired for beating up his last boss.
  • When applicant was offered food before the interview he declined, saying that he didn’t want to line his stomach with grease before going out drinking.
  • A candidate for an accounting position said she was a “people person,” not a “numbers person.”
  • Candidate flushed the toilet while talking to the interviewer during a phone interview.
  • Candidate took out a hair brush and brushed her hair mid-interview.

By reviewing the actual feedback and comments of current employers job seekers can better understand the expectations of employers in the marketplace and better prepare themselves for interviews in a very competitive job market.

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2015/01/15/6704558/employers-tell-all-the-most-unusual.html#storylink=cpy

21 States Raise The Minimum Wage Above the Federal

January 8, 2014– The start of 2015 marked the commencement of an unprecedented number of U.S. states rolling out increases in their state minimum wage laws.   21 states in total, plus the addition of the District of Columbia, began the New Year with increases in the minimum wage that were the result of referendums of the November’s mid term elections, and state legislation.   All of these jurisdictions exceeded the Federal Standard of $7.25 per hour, which has been in effect since 2009.   While the Obama Administration has not been able to accomplish a national increase in the wage standard, these multi-state increases bring the total number of states whose minimum wage figure exceeds the Federal Government’s to 29, indicating a majority of jurisdictions do find the current Federal standard to be out of date.   While these states may agree that the Federal standard is out dated they do not have a uniform approach to remedying the issue, with a disparity of $2.75 per hour between the lowest and highest of the new state standards.

Below is a list of the States with January 1, 2015 minimum wage increases.

STATE 2014 WAGE 2015 WAGE
Alaska $7.75 $8.75
Arizona $7.90 $8.04
Arkansas $6.25 $7.75
Colorado $8.00 $8.23
Connecticut $8.70 $9.15
Florida $7.93 $8.05
Hawaii $7.25 $7.75
Maryland $7.25 $8.00
Massachusetts $8.00 $9.00
Missouri $7.50 $7.65
Montana $7.90 $8.05
Nebraska $7.25 $8.00
New Jersey $8.25 $8.38
New York $8.00 $8.75
Ohio $7.25 $8.10
Oregon $9.10 $9.25
Rhode Island $8.00 $9.00
South Dakota $7.25 $8.50
Vermont $8.73 $9.15
Washington $8.05 $9.47
West Virginia $7.25 $8.00
Washington D.C. $8.50 $10.50 (JULY 2015)

Minimum Wage Freeze Cost American Workers $8.64 Trillion Since 2009

December 4, 2014–  Now that the mid-term elections have come and gone without any action being taken to raise the Federal minimum wage, it is unclear when, or if, any National legislation will be forthcoming. Throughout the current election season populist candidates were touting, seemingly revolutionary increases to the Federal minimum wage, with numbers, as high as, $15 per hour being debated.  Surprisingly, many of these pro-labor candidates were defeated in their election, or re-election, bids for office leaving the probability of immediate action abandoned. The complexion of the incoming Congress has already indicated its early opposition to major changes in this area.

So how does this inaction on the Federal Minimum wage issue impact the American workforce. According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research: “Congressional failure to raise the minimum wage is costing America’s working families and the economy overall. With millions of workers losing billions in pay since 2009 — and hundreds of billions of dollars since the high water mark for the minimum wage in 1968 — it’s no wonder families are falling farther behind and income inequality has exploded even as corporate profits and CEO compensation soar.”

The figure calculated by the CEPR, as of last Monday, is a staggering $6.84 trillion dollar in cumulative losses in wages to the American worker since 2009, as a result of the failure to increase the minimum wage.   Advocates for the increase argue that no legislative gridlock has damaged American workers more, and, possibly, the Amercan Economy.

While opponents of dramatic wage increases sound the alarms of corporate closures, outsourcing, and, general, economic calamity as a result of doubling the minimum wage they have failed to make, even, the slightest movement towards having this figure even, remotely, keep up with the cost of living. Meanwhile, as all indications are that certain segments of the economy are poised for a fiscal rebound from the depths of the Great Recession, the unemployed and underemployed are finding that having a job and working the maximum number of hours they are physically able to withstand is doing little to improve their chances at capturing even a glimpse of the American Dream that their parents told them so much about.

While relative inflation has been low during the period of time from 2009 to the present, one need only compare the isolated statistic of Food Inflation to the Federal minimum wage during this period to see the true impact on the American household. While wages have remained flat, according the US Department of Labor Statistics, Food Inflation has increased at a rate of 4.25% per year from 2009-2014. Combine this with dramatic, recent cuts in the Federal Food Assistance programs and it paints a picture of an underemployed, overworked, and hungry American Family.

If Ghandi was right, and “The True Measure of Any Society can found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” what does the U.S’s national lack of concern over the essential financial solvency of its most vulnerable workers say about it as a society?

 

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

FedEx Ground Drivers-Employees or Independent Contractors

November 13, 2014–  “Five days a week for 10 years, Agostino Scalercio left his house before 6 a.m., drove to a depot to pick up a truck, and worked a 10-hour shift delivering packages in San Diego. He first worked for Roadway Package System, a national delivery company whose founders included former United Parcel Service (UPS) managers, and continued driving trucks when FedEx (FDX) bought RPS in 1998. FedEx Ground assigned Scalercio a service area. The company, he says, had strict standards about delivery times, the drivers’ grooming, truck maintenance, and deadlines for handing in paperwork, and deducted money from his pay to cover the cost of his uniform, truck washings, and the scanner used to log shipments……”

(For the rest of Josh Eldelson’s article from BusinessWeek.com click the link below.)

 

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-16/fedex-ground-says-its-drivers-arent-employees-dot-the-courts-will-decide

Employment Resources For Veterans

October 30, 2014–  As Veteran’s Day 2014 quickly approaches we have decided to provide some resources to assist the men and woman who have dedicated themselves to protecting the freedoms and lives of ordinary Americans in finding employment after their service with the military is complete.   The list is not exhaustive and is not in any order of priority:

1.  http://www.military.com–  Military.com offers a careers section with the “largest veteran job board in the world.” Individuals can search for jobs, create and post resumes, network with other veterans and find nearby career fairs. There’s a list of military friendly employers, including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Allstate, Walmart and Boeing.

2.  http://www.vetjobs.com–   VetJobs makes it easy to reach transitioning military, National Guard, Reserve Component Members and veterans that have separated over the last several decades and are now productive members of the civilian work force in all disciplines, and their family members.  VetJobs is a leading source for candidates with security clearances!

3.   http://www.fedshirevets.gov–  America’s Veteran is the official website of the U.S. Government, operated by the Office of Personnel Management to help vets find jobs in the federal government. Individuals can search for jobs as a veteran, transitioning service member or family member.

4.   http://nvf.org–  Since 1985 ​the​ National Veterans Foundation has helped over 350,000 veterans and their families with crisis and information services through ​the nation’s first toll-free, vet-to-vet hotline for all U.S. veterans and their families.​

5.   https://www.robinhood.org/vetresources–  A network of sites offering veterans access to social services. Counselors work with veterans to determine which benefits they are eligible for in as little as 15 minutes, and then guide them through the application process and connect them to other on-site services.

6.  http://www.veterans.ny.gov–  New York State’s Official Veteran’s resource page.

7.  http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/veterans/returningvets.html–  Nassau County’s Official Veteran’s resource page.

8.  http://www.nyc.gov/html/vets/html/services/employment.shtml–  New York City’s Official Veteran’s resource page.

HAPPY VETERAN’S DAY and thank you for your service!

Volunteer Firefighters Score A Legal Victory in NYS

September 24, 2014– NYS Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance personnel scored a moral and legal victory this week when the New York State Legislature amended New York State Labor Laws in favor of granting these emergency service workers the right to be absent, with some limitations,  from work during declared “States of Emergency”.  While the legislation does not go as far as to make these absences paid leave time, it does prohibit employers from firing these employees in retaliation for the time off.

Historically, volunteer firefighters and other emergency workers, who risked their health, safety, and lives during crisis periods, often faced recrimination from employers that failed to acknowledge the value that their service provided for the improvement of the community.   This recrimination was deemed to have a “chilling” effect on recruitment of qualified candidates, who feared retaliatory treatment from vindictive employers, yet it was, entirely, legal.

Volunteer Firefighters and emergency personnel have played vital roles in responding to significant crisis events, including 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, in recent years.  The passing of the legislation was heralded by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, the largest association of volunteer firefighter’s in the state.

The new law is set to go into effect on December 22, 2014.

Read more: http://www.uticaod.com/article/20140924/News/140929664#ixzz3EM185O00

For the complete story, please see Michael Virtanen’s Associated Press story, which was circulated on September 24, 2014: http://www.uticaod.com/article/20140924/NEWS/140929664

 

Why We Celebrate Labor Day

August 28, 2014-  On September 1, 2014 people all around the United States will observe Labor Day in the companionship of family and friends.   The day will be marked by family gatherings, parades, beach trips, and the 2nd largest retail shopping day of the year (Black Friday is the first).  While most Americans associate the holiday with the last chance to frolic in the Summer Sun, as the season draws to a close, and others view it as the final celebration before the “back to school” mayhem commences, it is important to remember what the holiday stands for, and to, briefly, recall its history.

Labor Day is a celebration of the American worker. In the words of the United States Department of Labor, the holiday “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”  This, truly, is the one day a year dedicated to the men and women who labor all year long to solidify the economic viability, prosperity, and vitality of the nation.  While the face of the labor force has changed dramatically since its adoption, it is the one day when citizens are encouraged to devote, at the very least, a moment to the rich, proud history of the American worker.

The idea of a Labor holiday started to take hold in the 1880’s, with individual states, including New York State, adopting legislation to recognize American Workers.   It took, approximately, ten years before the concept took hold as a national concept, and the holiday became adopted as a National Day of Observance in 1894.  Upon adoption it was determined that the holiday would be observed on the first Monday of each September, in order to provide an extended weekend in a time when Sunday was a day devoted to families in the United States.

Over the, more than, 100 years since the adoption of Labor Day as a holiday the relative unity and bargaining powers of American workers, as well as their economic conditions, have varied considerably.   What has not changed is the importance of the American worker in maintaining the United States as a vital presence in the global economy.  While football, retail sales, NASCAR, and “back to school “may be on the minds of Americans over the Labor Day weekend take some time to be thankful for the workers.