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.

 

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

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/

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.