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the Federal Government’s to 29, indicating a majority of jurisdictions do find the current Federal standard to be out of date.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. 

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

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.

Does Low Unemployment Signal the End of the Recession?

August 7, 2014– Does Low Unemployment signal the end of the Recession?  July’s Unemployment Report, released by the Department of Labor earlier today, indicates growth in many major hiring sectors of the economy.   For the sixth straight month hiring increased and the unemployment rate decreased.   Is this trend an indication that the painful financial times are over and that a robust economy is right around the corner?   Perhaps; however, there are certain disturbing trends in the employment data which may make a celebration premature.

One of those negative trends is that the number of part time workers who are employed, yet would desire more work hours, held steady at, a staggering, 7.5 million Americans.  This number is an indicator that employers are still very gun shy about hiring full time workers, or converting part time employees to full time status, where they may earn, much needed benefits and overtime pay.  In recent years this segment has given rise to the popularity of the term, “underemployed“. Continue reading “Does Low Unemployment Signal the End of the Recession?”

NYC Paid Sick Leave Law Takes Effect

July 30, 2014– In April of this year New York City’s Mayor signed the “Paid Sick Leave Act” into law.  This law impacts all existing, and new NYC workers, employed after May 1, 2014.  Below are some of the highlights of the law:

What is the Purpose of the Act?

The act provides Sick Leave for all employees in New York City, employed on or after May 1, 2014.

Who is Covered?

  • The act covers all companies in New York City,  employing 5 people, or more.
  • Both Full and Part time employees are eligible, so long as they work a total of 80 hours in one calendar year.
  • In the case of domestic workers there is no “5 employee” requirement to obtain coverage.

What is required of Employers Under the Act?

  • Employers with 5 employees, or more, must provide PAID sick leave to covered employees.
  • Employers with less than 5 employees must allow employees to access the same sick leave time as their larger counterparts; however, these small employers are not required to pay employees for the sick time.

Continue reading “NYC Paid Sick Leave Law Takes Effect”

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. 

State Audit Reveals Pitfalls To Employment Case Resolution

If you are a worker seeking justice in an employment dispute you may be wondering whether you need an attorney concentrating in the Employment Law area to assist you with your claim.  After all, you can file your claim yourself with the appropriate Administrative Agency and hope for a favorable resolution.  Many workers are lead to believe that the simple filing of a claim with an agency, such as the Department of Labor, will protect their legal rights in these matters.

Continue reading “State Audit Reveals Pitfalls To Employment Case Resolution”