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

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

 

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.

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