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.

McDonald’s Workers Stage Protests In Spite of Voluntary Pay Increases

The center of the wage controversy
The center of the wage controversy

May 7, 2015–  Earlier this year McDonald’s Corporation announced it would be voluntarily raising its base pay to $9.90 an hour.   This figure exceeds the current Federal and State minimum wage requirements.  While the fast food giant’s compensation also exceeds the base pay for numbers of large employers throughout the United States it is far below the increase sought by a vocal band of fast food workers that call themselves Fight For 15.

Fight For 15 is an emerging band of increasingly organized fast food workers seeking a base pay of $15 an hour as their minimum wage.  These workers make it clear that it is more than a matter of principle for them.   It is economics.   The group, through its video and literary campaign, have spotlighted full-time employees with several years of employment with McDonald’s, and similarly situated companies, that are unable to meet the most basic of household expenses.   Many of these full-time employees are on government assistance because their full-time pay does not exceed the established poverty line.   Fight For 15 is looking to dispel the notion that being on government assistance and lacking work ethic are synonymous concepts.  They argue they are just being undervalued and underpaid.

McDonald’s workers have announced their intention to stage a protest at the May 21st Annual Shareholder’s meeting to highlight the economic plight of the workers.  They intend to present a petition signed by, over, 1 million Americans calling for the pay raises they are seeking.  This would not be the first such protest by the group.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s is in the midst of increasing economic pressure from rising food costs, diminishing sales, and competition.  Announcements have been made to close a number of locations and to undergo a revitalization of the company into a more “progressive” burger company.  New CEO Steve Easterbrook has made verbal commitments to address training, pay, and benefits on an ongoing basis; however, with 420,000 workers nationwide he has been unwilling to commit to a, more than, $6 per hour increase per worker.  The economic impact of this dramatic increase on the company is unclear.

Workers and employers across the country are carefully watching the McDonald’s saga unfold. The impact of the changes, or resistance thereto, for such a large employer and industry leader will likely resonate far beyond the purview of the Golden Arches.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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/

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.

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.

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.

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