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

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

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.

Is There a Robot Waiting To Fill Your Job?

December 18, 2014–  Since the commencement of automation, workers in various industries have feared that their jobs might be replaced by machines. While this topic has been discussed, debated, and satirized in film and television for decades, the fact is that technological progress and job elimination is a reality of a modern economy. For workers outside of factory and clerical positions this fear of automation has never been a legitimate concern; after all, machines can perform many perfunctory tasks, but they can not think and behave like a real person. Or can they?

A recent NY Times article explored an emerging segment of the modern economy-artificial intelligence and robots in the workforce. As 21st century science continues to make exponential advancements in robotic and computer technology it is not just the factory worker whose job is at risk. Robots are now being introduced to provide support or fully replace such diverse positions as airline pilot, Room Service attendant in an upscale hotel, taxi driver, and, even, Thai Food Taster.

This trend, while undeniable, raises numerous questions about whether these advancements are driving people from segments of the workforce, or if they are filling existing, and growing, voids in the economic sector. Are they driving change, or a response to it? While arguments are being proffered to support both positions, robots and advanced computers continue to infilitrate diverse segments of the workforce.  How far will this trend extend?   What push-back will occur?  What does the future hold?  Perhaps, the answers to these questions can only be computed by robots not yet, even, conceived of.

To read the entire NY Times article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/upshot/as-robots-grow-smarter-american-workers-struggle-to-keep-up.html?emc=eta1&_r=0&abt=0002&abg=1

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

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