Most Americans know that the Republicans rode a victory wave on November 4th, winning control of the Senate by a substantial margin; increasing gains in the house; and winning more Governorships than Democrats.

But we’d like to draw your attention to another, also profound “breaking wave.” Voters in South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Alaska all passed measures to increase the minimum wage. The California cities of Oakland and San Francisco also passed minimum wage increases.

Since 2009, the national minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25, prompting much consternation from labor advocates. While the elections didn’t touch the federal number, they did illustrate that the electorate – in “red” and “blue” states alike – appears to be hungry for change with respect to minimum wage rules.

The National Employment Law Project’s (NELP) Tsedeye Gebreselassie shared her glee with the New York Times: “I can’t stress how popular of an issue [the minimum wage] is among voters, regardless of political affiliation.” Illinois and Wisconsin also said Yes to measures that will require lawmakers to raise wages for over a million workers in those states.

Interestingly, the wage hikes passed in deep “red” states, including Arkansas, South Dakota, and Alaska. They even attracted the support of many prominent Republicans. For instance, in Alaska, the major GOP candidates up for election all backed the minimum wage measure.

Curiously, though, politicians who oppose minimum wage increases do not always pay a price with the electorate. In 2013, for instance, voters in New Jersey passed a hike to that state’s minimum wage by 60 percent… but they also reelected Governor Christie, who had opposed that hike, by a similarly wide margin.

The question is: will these minimum wage victories presage more successes for reformers?

One economic analysis suggests that, if the federal government suddenly raises the minimum wage to $10.10, 500,000 job losses would ensue, but 16 million to 24 million workers would get substantially more money. On balance, how would such changes impact the economy?

We’ll talk more in depth about this issue in our next post. For now, if you need assistance regarding a wage and hour, tip pool violation, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation case, please call 1-866-348-7394, or email info@jhllp.com to speak with an experienced, qualified New York employment lawyer with Joseph & Kirschenbaum.

As the U.S. labor world digests the news of the passage of measures in six states (and two cities in California) that have elevated the minimum wage, workers and their families probably are wondering just how high the minimum wage might climb in various states and across the U.S.

On the one hand, when wages are too low, that’s obviously problematic. As we discussed in our recent analysis comparing the lives of fast-food workers in Denmark with fast-food workers here in the United States, when you can’t make enough to pay rent, cover your medical bills, and feed your family — and you’re constantly at risk of losing your job or being made redundant — you suffer, your family suffers, and the community around you suffers.

But critics of minimum wage increases counter that raising the minimum wage too high can disincentivize employers from hiring and instead push them to outsource or automate. In aggregate, this process could increase unemployment rates and ultimately torpedo the economy.

The real question is: what do the data actually tell us?

The answer is: a lot.

As an article in Politico recently put it: “an argument frequently raised against increasing the minimum wage is that it lowers employment. But a string of economic studies over the past two decades saw little or no employment impact when minimums were raised at the federal or state level, leaving most economists reasonably confident that the increases [in South Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska, and Arkansas] won’t be notably detrimental in that regard.”

Of course, some economists are worried about the bolder $15 minimum wage hikes in Seattle and San Francisco. The Politico piece quotes a Georgetown economist, Harry Holzer, who said: “I would be reluctant to go above $10 [an hour for the minimum wage]… at that level you do create incentives for employers to either move jobs… or automate more.”

Here’s the bottom line. Irrespective of economic theory, voters are increasingly tired of stagnant minimum wages; they are taking to the ballot box to correct what they perceive to be an imbalance. Of course, fighting for your rights and for fair wages is not always so simple. If you need help battling back against an employer who has harassed you, discriminated against you, or subjected you to tip pool violations or violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), call the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team today at 1-866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.

The American Northwest has quickly become a hot bed of progressive activism, especially with respect to labor law.

Earlier this summer, the city of Seattle adopted a $15 per hour minimum wage. It also became only the second city in the entire nation to create its own office just for enforcing labor standards by opening the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

But despite the optimism from city officials, like Mayor Ed Murray, some observers worry that Seattle’s government will have a hard time enforcing the $15 minimum wage. And even if the model in Seattle works, the questions remain:

•    Can other cities around the nation successfully adopt similar minimum wage protections?

•    Will other cities establish labor agencies to protect the rights of workers and negotiate fair agreements between labor and management?

In the wake of the action in Seattle, New York governor Andrew Cuomo — together with labor advocates and workers in New York City – has advocated aggressively to end to the so-called subminimum wage here in the Empire State. Delivery workers, service workers, restaurant workers and other employers sometimes earn just $5 per hour — well under the minimum wage. Approximately 70 percent of people who earn this subminimum wage are women, who already need to contend with a gender pay gap of around $0.83 to $1 in the Big Apple.

A July 2014 report published by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) says that doing away with the subminimum wage would help approximately 230,000 workers in New York City. NELP’s researchers also insist that the seven states that have mandated a full minimum wage for tipped workers have enjoyed excellent growth in their restaurant sectors. They are doing better than New York, in fact!

While it’s heartening to see labor advocates and politicians on both the West Coast and the East Coast advocating for fair wages and fighting for the rights of tipped workers, we are fully aware that many employers still subject their workers to unfair treatment, tip pool violations, FLSA violations, harassment, discrimination, retaliation and beyond.

Call the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team today at 1-866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com for insight into how we can help you.

Most Americans know that the Republicans rode a victory wave on November 4th, winning control of the Senate by a substantial margin; increasing gains in the house; and winning more Governorships than Democrats.

But we’d like to draw your attention to another, also profound “breaking wave.” Voters in South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Alaska all passed measures to increase the minimum wage. The California cities of Oakland and San Francisco also passed minimum wage increases.

Since 2009, the national minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25, prompting much consternation from labor advocates. While the elections didn’t touch the federal number, they did illustrate that the electorate – in “red” and “blue” states alike – appears to be hungry for change with respect to minimum wage rules.

The National Employment Law Project’s (NELP) Tsedeye Gebreselassie shared his glee with the New York Times: “I can’t stress how popular of an issue [the minimum wage] is among voters, regardless of political affiliation.” Illinois and Wisconsin also said Yes to measures that will require lawmakers to raise wages for over a million workers in those states.

Interestingly, the wage hikes passed in deep “red” states, including Arkansas, South Dakota, and Alaska. They even attracted the support of many prominent Republicans. For instance, in Alaska, the major GOP candidates up for election all backed the minimum wage measure.

Curiously, though, politicians who oppose minimum wage increases do not always pay a price with the electorate. In 2013, for instance, voters in New Jersey passed a hike to that state’s minimum wage by 60 percent… but they also reelected Governor Christie, who had opposed that hike, by a similarly wide margin.

The question is: will these minimum wage victories presage more successes for reformers?

One economic analysis suggests that, if the federal government suddenly raises the minimum wage to $10.10, 500,000 job losses would ensue, but 16 million to 24 million workers would get substantially more money. On balance, how would such changes impact the economy?

We’ll talk more in depth about this issue in our next post. For now, if you need assistance regarding a wage and hour, tip pool violation, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation case, please call 1-866-348-7394, or email info@jhllp.com to speak with an experienced, qualified New York employment lawyer with Joseph & Kirschenbaum.

A viral Facebook post inspired Israeli legislators to alter that country’s labor laws, making it illegal for employers to seize portions of employees’ paychecks.

Here’s how the exciting story (with a happy ending) played out, according to local media.

A Jaffa Port club called The Container hired a woman named Anat Kamrad as a server, but she opted out of working at the restaurant because of the establishment’s radical rules regarding customer returns. Per Kamrad, if a customer didn’t like a dish and sent it back, the server would have to pay half the cost of the meal. If a customer left without paying, the server would have to pay the entire cost of the meal, no matter how much the meal itself cost.

Kamrad’s Facebook status about these crazy rules went viral. It received over 850 likes and 120 shares, prompting the attention of concerned citizens and journalists, who ultimately inspired The Container to change its rules.

MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) proposed legislation in the wake of Kamrad’s post to curtail this kind of abusive and unfair employer behavior in Israel. Miller said “the law will bring an end to the absurd and scandalous phenomenon in which a junior employee who works hard and gets a low salary and pays a fine even if he or she was unable to prevent the damages caused. If the employer claims the worker caused damage, he or she can prove it in court and not use his or her authority to punish the worker.”

It’s a shame that it sometimes takes dramatic abuse to inspire corrective action. What is interesting about this restaurant worker’s story, however, is that her protest began online in an innocuous, un-strategic fashion. In other words, she did not set out to “take down” the restaurant or to inspire national civic change. But her story touched people so much that it not only inspired the restaurant to change its payment practices but also motivated local legislators to take a stand for the rights of workers and correct what was clearly a disturbing inequality.

If someone you know and love needs help with a New York wage and hour, harassment, discrimination or retaliation case, the highly qualified and very respected attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help you understand your needs and goals and advocate aggressively for you. Call us at 1-866-348-7394 for, or email us at info@jhllp.com for help now.

Our New York wage and hour attorneys strive to assist workers who’ve experienced grievous harms, like harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. We also hope to educate the broader public about some of the shameful practices that contribute to worker misery and inequality.

To wit, a recent story in the New York Times caught our eye and kindled our ire.

Apparently, fast food restaurants around the country, such as Jimmy John’s, have been asking their sandwich shop workers to sign “non-compete” clauses. If you’re not familiar with these clauses, they are agreements that prevent employees from seeking work at competitive businesses within a certain timeframe.

Non-competes obviously make sense if you’re a high level executive working on a complex, sensitive engineering project. A company doesn’t want to lose an engineer to a rival firm and to allow that person to share precious and sensitive information.

On the other hand, they make very little sense when it comes to sandwich shop workers.

As employee at Jimmy John’s who ditches his company and takes up a position with Subway or Blimpie will not be exporting any valuable company secrets or training methods.

As the New York Times article points out, most non-competes have symmetry. Yes, the employee agrees to remain loyal to the company for a certain interval of time. But the company ALSO provides something in return, such as job security or other perks, to induce the person to sign the agreement.

Fast food workers generally do not get much security. Their schedules can change on a whim. They can be fired on short notice. They don’t get much for signing the non-compete!

The Times article raises three crucial questions that speak to broader ideas about what workers should expect… and what we should expect from our workers:

“1. What is legally acceptable? The courts are even now hearing litigation on some of these questionable employment practices. 2. What is economically acceptable? Over the last six years, unemployment has been very high, meaning workers have had little leverage to demand higher pay and better conditions. 3. What is morally acceptable? In this depressed job market, employers can get away with some practices that are entirely legal but seem fundamentally unfair.”

Our team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum is dedicated to helping workers like you understand and aggressively protect their rights. Call us now at 1-866-348-7394, or email us info@jhllp.com to learn more about how we can help you obtain justice, peace of mind and clarity about your wages.

The New York Times recently ran a provocative story that speaks to what motivates our New York employment lawyers to get up every morning and do what we do.

The story highlighted the differences between the lives and lifestyles of Danish fast food workers and fast food workers here in the United States. Believe it or not, if you work at a Danish Burger King, you can earn $20 an hour. Even though the cost of living in Denmark is higher than it is in the United States, this much higher hourly wage allows fast food workers in Denmark to pay their rents and mortgages, support their families, and live decent lives.

Hampus Elofsson, a 24 year-old Danish Burger King worker, explained: “You can make a decent living here working at fast food…you don’t have to struggle to get by.”

Even though Denmark has no minimum wage law, it has powerful unions, which set the tenor for the employer-employee relationship. When McDonald’s first tried to break into Denmark several years ago, the restaurant initially refused to abide by union rules…until protests forced McD’s to capitulate.

Meanwhile, a University of California at Berkeley study recently found that, on average, American fast food workers earn just $8.90 an hour. Contrast Elofsson’s contentedness with the anxiety and frustration of Anthony More, a Burger King Shift Manager in Tampa, Florida, who earns $9 an hour, per the New York Times. The 26-year-old Mr. More, who has two young children to feed and clothe as a single dad, describes his situation as “very inadequate… sometimes I ask, ‘do I buy food or do I buy them clothes?… If I made $20 an hour, I could actually live, instead of dreaming about living.”

Mr. More described how he skips visits to the doctor and often goes to work sick because he can’t afford to take time off or to get checkups. Industry officials scoff at the Danish-US comparison, claiming that it’s like “comparing apples-to-autos.” But other analysts disagree and say that the real problem is not economic, but rather cultural. In United States, we just happen to have a culture that doesn’t care about what happens to lower wage workers.

Fortunately, workers have advocates like the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum. If you or someone you love has been struggling with an unfair workplace problem, such as a tip pool violation or harassment or discrimination, we want to hear from you. Call us now at 1-866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com for assistance now.

As New York City employment lawyers who are deeply concerned with the rights and fair treatment of workers, we nevertheless obviously respect our country’s capitalistic economic institutions. Our society’s view of what’s “fair” is always evolving. Today, the rallying cry “equal pay for equal work” is accepted as obvious common sense. But not long ago, it was considered a radical notion. In fact, in many countries around the world today, it still is.

Even though we’ve come a long way, however, we have farther to go, as Elianne Ramos discusses eloquently in a guest blog post she recently wrote on the official blog of the U.S. Labor Department: “Latinas and Their Families Can’t Afford Unequal Pay for Equal Work (Para Latinas la Desigualdad Salarial Cuesta Mucho).”

Ramos reports that Latinas have made major strides over the years in terms of participation in U.S. politics, higher education and small business operation. However, she warns that “when it comes to pay equality, we seem to be perennially stuck at the bottom of the barrel.”

It’s no secret that working women get just $0.77 for every dollar a man makes (with equivalent experience and education), “yet for Latinas, the gap is even wider… according to National Partnership for Women and Families, in 2003 we made a whopping $0.55 for every dollar a white male made that year.” Per Ramos: “2 million Latino families… rely on women as the main breadwinners.” With so many people in Latino households “living pay check to pay check, barely making ends meet,” these wage discrepancies can be profound and can lead to inequalities that can persist for generations.

Per Ramos, if that wage gap can somehow be eliminated, “a Latina working full-time, year round… would have enough money to cover nearly three years’ worth of food, nearly two years of rent, almost five years’ worth of health insurance premiums and 5,743 additional gallons of gas.” Ramos’s editorial highlights the need to fight to end the wage gap and also to protect workers in the Hispanic community (and in the general community) from falling victim to nickel and dime wage and hour traps, such as illegal siphoning of tips and overtime violations as well as problems like discrimination and retaliation.

For help understanding your rights and potential options in a New York wage and hour case, contact the experienced and highly qualified team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum to schedule a free consultation. Call us at 866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com.

You don’t need to consult with a New York wage and hour law firm to learn that making a living and feeding your family in New York City can be tough if you earn minimum wage.

NYC is notoriously expensive. Even well off married couples, who earn combined incomes that would make them wealthy in any other city in the nation, often find themselves living in cramped apartments, barely able to pay rent and feed their families.

For people who survive on minimum wage jobs, the unbearable costs of the city can force folks to live marginal existences. We at Joseph & Kirschenbaum fight vigorously on behalf of restaurant workers and other laborers who suffer when management skims their tips, docks overtime, and engages in other acts of “nickel and diming,” because we know those lost wages can add up and cause ferocious destruction. Fortunately, we’re not the only ones outraged.

Last Tuesday, New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, signed an executive order that will expand who will be covered by NYC’s Living Wage Law to include many more people and to push the wage up to $13.13 per hour. The previous minimum wage was $11.90 per hour.

The New York Times celebrated de Blasio’s push in a September 30th editorial, writing, “this promises to put much needed cash into many deserving pockets and to bolster the principle that someone who works hard in a full time job should at least be able to cover food and rent.”

Per the Mayor’s order, commercial tenants who get over $1 million in subsidies from the city will have to pay the living wage. The current law on the books, per the New York Times, is “riddled with exemptions and reaches only about 1,200 workers.” De Blasio’s order is not comprehensive: employees who work for non-profits and for businesses that bring in under $3 million a year in revenues may still be exempt. However, officials estimate that “around 18,000 workers will now be covered, many of them in fast food and retail jobs.”

We’re glad to see Mayor de Blasio pushing hard for the rights of workers, but a lot more work needs to be done in diverse industries to level the playing field. If you or someone you love has been struggling with a wage and hour issue — or has experienced harassment, discrimination, retaliation or other types of unfair or despicable treatment at work — the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum wants to know. Call us now at 866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com to schedule a free consultation.

Our New York employment attorneys have witnessed the awful impact of wage cuts and lower salaries on working conditions and employee morale. But what happens when wages go up — when hourly rates are raised on a city, state, or federal level? It’s easy to see how wage hikes work out well for employees. But can wage hikes also benefit business owners and employers?

Our answer is an emphatic yes. Here are five ways that wage hikes benefit everyone:

1.    Security and loyalty. Employees who have one well-paying job don’t need to constantly search for better employment. They don’t need to be working second jobs to make ends meet, leaving them exhausted and distracted at work. A well-paid employee has no incentive to go elsewhere and plenty of incentive to keep performance quality high.

2.    Community goodwill. Money can’t buy everything; especially a good reputation. But in this case, a business with a reputation for paying its workers fairly, with high wages, develops a sense of benevolence and goodwill among its clients and customers, creating a place where everyone wants to do business.

3.    History is on the side of workers. When we look back on 2014, some businesses will be noted for the way they embraced workers’ rights and dignity; others may be remembered for the ways they dragged their heels against better wages and working conditions.

4.    Higher wages give business owners the pick of quality workers. If a business wants the highest quality workers – ones with more training, experience, or education – a higher starting wage can make the company more attractive to these great people.

5.    Higher wages increases productivity. As mentioned before, many low-wage workers work two or more jobs. Having one job that pays really well can allow them to perform at their very best and be more productive and focused.

Do you believe that you or someone you love has been the victim of a wage or hour violation? Call our New York employment attorneys for a free consultation about your case at 1-866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com.