The Minimum Wage Battle Heats Up In NY

Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

June 18, 2015– The Minimum wage battle heated up this week in New York as Fast Food workers filled an auditorium on New York University’s campus to testify before a panel appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to examine the wage issue.  This hearing comes on the heals of last week’s historic increase in Los Angeles to $15 per hour for their minimum wage. ( See http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/los-angeles-becomes-largest-city-to-enact-15-wage-law/)

At the hearing more than 30 Fast Food and other workers testified about their inability to survive, live, and afford housing on the wages they earn under the current economic scheme.   They, boldly, are seeking an increase from $8.75 per hour to $15 per hour in order to offset the economic disparity between their wages and their cost of living.

NYC’s Mayor, Bill De Blasio, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been vocal advocates of this historic increase for the 180,000 Fast Food workers residing and working in New York State.  Despite the opposition of major employers over the alleged adverse economic impact of these significant wage changes it is expected that increases will be announced shortly.  The Los Angeles increase seems to have been the momentum shift these East Coast workers were looking for.

To read the entire NY Times Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/16/nyregion/board-hears-support-for-raising-food-workers-minimum-wage.html?_r=1

Los Angeles Becomes Largest City to Enact $15 Wage Law

“Los Angeles - Feb 9, 2014: View Of Hollywood Boulevard In Sunset” by David Castillo Dominici
“Los Angeles – Feb 9, 2014: View Of Hollywood Boulevard In Sunset” by David Castillo Dominici

June 11, 2015-While the nation debates the issue and large companies promise some movement on their minimum wage floor, the City of Los Angeles has acted, and acted swiftly.   Wednesday night, by an overwhelming majority, the City Council voted to increase the City minimum wage to $15 per hour.  While the measure still needs to be signed into law by Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, he has already indicated that he will do so without hesitation.

This increase makes the minimum wage in Los Angeles double the Federal Standard and on parity with only a few jurisdictions.   The size and visibility of the city make the increase historic.  Mayor Garcetti and Mayor De Blasio of New York City have have both been vocal advocates of this change, yet, New York City’s leader has not managed to garner enough support to accomplish this goal.   It remains to be seen if this change on the West Coast will prompt a similar response in the East.

While labor advocates have applauded the action, many large employers have renounced it as crippling to their profitability during a time when the economy is still fragile.  Overtures are already being made to engage in massive lay-offs or corporate relocations.  The impact on these employers may not be as significant as these companies would have the public believe as the increase phases in over the course of several years, with provisions to extend the commencement time for smaller employers.

While the impact of the increase is being debated labor advocates and businesses will be keenly focused on signs of the impact on the Los Angeles economy and how it relates to the rest of the national employment picture.

To read the entire story:

http://americasmarkets.usatoday.com/2015/06/10/10-an-hour-minimum-wage-passed-in-la/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatodaycommoney-topstories

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.

 

 

 

 

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/

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

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?”

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. 

Ask Not For Whom The Overtime Bell Tolls, For It May Now Be Tolling For Thee

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It is probably safe to say that well paid employees who have earned prestigious employment titles and are receiving weekly salaries believe themselves NOT to be entitled to over-time pay.  Similarly, their employers feel confident that the weekly salary is all the compensation these employees are entitled to receive. That is to say that the employers have taken comfort in labeling these employees as being exempt from overtime by relying on what is commonly known as the “administrative exception.” However, as recent cases have illuminated, many employers may be in for a rude awakening, these employees may be owed substantial back overtime wages.

Most recently, on November 20, 2009 the United States Court Of Appeals For The Second Circuit decided the case of Davis v. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.  The Davis case is a class action seeking overtime wages for a group of employees known as “underwriters.” 

  Continue reading “Ask Not For Whom The Overtime Bell Tolls, For It May Now Be Tolling For Thee”