As Los Angeles city leaders ponder the steps they need to take to increase wages across the city, business owners are pushing hard to have tips counted toward minimum wage requirements for workers in the restaurant industry and other service industries where tipping is more common. Currently, California labor laws prohibit business owners from counting tips toward minimum wage requirements. But area restaurant owners claim increasing minimum wage levels across the city will force them out of business entirely unless they can use tips to offset their obligations.

The California Restaurant Association has been working to rally support. In response, state Assemblyman Tom Daly recently introduced association-sponsored legislation to loosen regulations that prohibit counting tips toward minimum wage, but he indicated the legislation failed to garner enough support to move forward, despite backing from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Studies in other areas, including New York, where tips can be counted toward wage requirements, have found that complex rules can result in workers being significantly underpaid.

As an employee, knowing your rights is critical. Here are six common misconceptions about wages you need to know:

1.    You check can’t be withheld for poor performance.

2.    You must be paid on time.

3.    If you work more than 40 hours in a week, and you’re not considered an exempt employee, you must be paid at least one-and-a-half times the regular hourly wage for your overtime.

4.    Whether or not you’re exempt from overtime is determined by federal regulations, not by your employer.

5.    You must be paid for the hours you work – you cannot be given “comp time” or other options instead of pay.

6.    You cannot be prohibited from discussing your salary with your coworkers.

Are you confused about your rights in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP right now at (866) 348-7394, or email the team at info@jhllp.com, to explore what you can do about an employer who has harassed you or violated other laws, like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or New York Labor Laws (NYLL).

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against the owners of two restaurants in Ames, Iowa, alleging they failed to pay workers the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as additional payments for overtime as required by law.

The suit lists nearly $600,000 in damages for the wages it says are owed to the workers at both Mongolian Buffet and the now-defunct King Buffet. Both restaurants were owned by Li Ying Li and Jian Yum Zheng, a husband and wife who are both named in the lawsuit.

According to the suit, which was filed in late April, both servers and kitchen employees at the two restaurants were expected to work 72 hours per week. Some of the employees received fixed weekly wages of $450, which works out to $6.25 per hour.
The U.S. Department of labor regulators say $597,000 is owed to nearly 40 workers for violations that occurred during a two-year period from March 2012 to March 2014.

Wage violations are some of the most common labor violations in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Labor sets wage standards under its Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In general, employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently established at $7.25 (state and local jurisdictions may set higher minimums); and overtime (more than 40 hours per week) must be paid to all non-exempt employees at a rate of at least one-and-a-half times the normal rate of pay. You can read more about the FLSA at the U.S. Department of Labor website here.

Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP has successfully represented restaurant workers and service workers in diverse industries in many nationally prominent wage and hour cases. Call us today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com, to schedule a free and totally confidential strategic intake evaluation about your situation.

San Francisco has joined its sister city, Oakland, in establishing the highest minimum wage rates in the country, increasing the citywide minimum wage from $11.05 to $12.25. The hike occurred on April 15th following Oakland’s raise in early March, and it marks an important step toward achieving the eventual goal of $15 per hour that’s targeted for 2018, according to the Service Employees International Union 1021.

The union hailed the move in a statement issued just prior to the rate going into effect, calling it a “mass movement on behalf of all the low-wage workers in our society.”

“The Bay Area is moving to develop the first regional standard in the country for wages and working conditions,” said Gary Jimenez, SEIU 1021’s Vice President for the East Bay.

Following the lead of San Francisco and Oakland, Bay Area cities Emeryville and Berkeley hope to join in a minimum wage hike. In Emeryville, the city council will consider a proposal to raise the wage to $14.42 immediately, with plans to raise it to nearly $16 by 2019. Berkeley’s council will consider a proposal in June aimed at raising the minimum wage in that city to $15.99 by 2017.

The hikes in minimum wage reflect a nationwide movement toward better rights for minimum wage workers who often find themselves struggling to make ends meet despite working long hours. Demanding a fair wage may seem intimidating to many workers, but the fact is, workers have many rights of which they may not be aware. Different cities can have very different wage and labor laws, and understanding your rights in terms of your location is critical to ensuring that your employer treats you fairly.

If you need assistance with a harassment, discrimination or wage and hour case from a qualified and experienced New York employment law firm, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com.

A lawsuit recently filed in Manhattan Federal Court alleges that executives at CBS committed sexual harassment. The lawsuit, filed by celebrity reporter Ken Lombardi, describes an ongoing climate of harassment at the CBS office, where the 29 year old reporter worked for several years.

The story serves as a powerful reminder that the victims of sexual harassment need not always be women.

Documents filed in the suit allege that, at a 2013 holiday party, Duane Tollison, a senior producer and Lombardi’s boss at the time, “grabbed Lombardi’s crotch and kissed his neck.” Tollison followed up the following day with a written correspondence saying: “I wanted to apologize if anything I did offended you or crossed a line. I like to get a little crazy. If you weren’t offended, then let’s do it again. LOL How is your day so far? :)”

The lawsuit also alleges that, when Lombardi turned to another boss, “CBS Evening News” director Albert (Chip) Colley, for professional advice and help dealing with Tollison’s unwanted actions, he instead received sexual advances, including text messages with links to porn sites and unwanted physical advances. In addition, Lombardi says he was harassed because of his sexual orientation (Lombardi is bi-sexual) by Colley, who allegedly told Lombardi that he “did not really believe being bi-sexual was real and told plaintiff that he was actually completely gay.”

Lombardi claims that Colley’s harassment was unrelenting and predatory in nature, eventually causing Lombardi to quit his job. Prior to taking that step, however, he reported the harassment to Human Resources at the network. Not only were his complaints to HR ignored, according to the suit, but Lombardi suffered retaliation for reporting the unwanted advances.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on a variety of characteristics, including sex, and it prohibits harassment in the workplace. Lombardi’s lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount in damages for violations of labor laws, emotional distress, and discrimination.

The Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP team can help you understand your rights and options in a potential sexual harassment case. Call us today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com, to schedule a free and totally confidential strategic consultation.

Fast food giant McDonald’s recently announced, after some significant prodding from employees, that it will increase pay for all employees by $1 an hour. While the change represents a step in the right direction, it falls considerably short of the $15 an hour many workers’ rights advocates say that employees need to survive and thrive in today’s economy.

Just a few short years ago, at the height of the most recent economic downturn, unemployed workers counted themselves lucky to find even a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant. With the Great Recession thankfully behind us now, however, these workers are beginning to feel secure enough once again to speak out against repressed wages as well as wage and hour violations and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Organized demonstrations across the country have put pressure on big name employers to raise wages – and companies appear to be feeling the pressure. Within the last few months, McDonald’s, Walmart, TJMaxx, Marshalls, Homegoods, and Target have all agreed to increase wages to at least $9 an hour for all employees, and some of these companies have agreed to further increases to $10 an hour within the next year. These labor victories have followed on the heels of similar wage hike successes during Election Day 2014.

Many McDonald’s employees remain unhappy, though. They say that the $1 an hour pay increase isn’t sufficient to cover basic expenses, and the wage hike fails to address other urgent employee issues. A $1 an hour pay increase won’t get a worker in New York City off of Food Stamps or a worker in Los Angeles out of public housing.

Moreover, only those who work in restaurants that McDonald’s owns and operates will see a pay increase. The other 750,000 employees who work in franchised restaurants — 90 percent of the company’s labor force — will not see a pay increase. McDonald’s argues that it cannot control the practices at its franchise stores; however, the National Labor Relations Board disagrees. The NLRB found that “through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources and technology, [McDonald’s] engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations, beyond protection of the brand, to make it a putative joint employer with its franchisees.”

It appears clear that McDonald’s workers have no plans to simply accept the $1 an hour raise they — or more accurately some of them — have been offered. Rallies scheduled for April 15th in over 200 cities nationwide suggest that the fight for better pay and fairer treatment for restaurant workers is just getting started.

If you need assistance with a harassment, discrimination or wage and hour case from a qualified and experienced New York employment law firm, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com.

Every day, millions of people across America pass through a fast food drive through or stop inside places like McDonald’s or Carl’s Junior for a quick bite to eat. The fast food industry shows no signs of being crippled or even daunted by recent science suggesting that foods like processed carbs and sugar and vegetable oil may be fueling diseases like obesity and diabetes. But whether or not we should be eating all that fast food is a debate for another day. Today, we want to address whether or not fast food workers deserve a pay rate increase.

Research shows that workers at restaurants like McDonald’s typically earn minimum wage… or slightly above in some locations. Supporting yourself, much less a family, on minimum wage would be challenging, even in a city where the cost of living is relatively low. Imagine, however, trying to live on minimum wage in New York City.

According to a recent New York Times article, 20 year old Julia Andino faces that exact challenge. Not surprisingly, Andino’s McDonald’s wages do not stretch far enough to pay her rent, child care, bus pass, and other bills. So Andino, and thousands of others like her, are asking companies like McDonald’s to provide a substantial raise.

Believe it or not, some fast food companies are actually listening.

In February, Walmart announced that it will increase pay for half a million employees to $9 an hour… with a further increase to $10 an hour by next February. Following Walmart’s announcement, the owner of TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Homegoods also agreed to a pay increase to $9 an hour for employees. Retail giant Target followed suit and announced a similar deal.
While these recently announced wage increases are a positive sign, service workers are not content to settle for a nominal increase in pay. A growing movement demands that these workers earn $15 an hour. Rallies aimed at getting McDonald’s to raise pay rates are planned in over 200 cities for April 15th. As low income workers across the country continue to organize and demand to be heard, the pay raise debate may boil over to become one of the most pronounced issues in the upcoming Presidential nomination debate.

Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP has successfully represented restaurant workers and service workers in diverse industries in many nationally prominent wage and hour cases. Call us today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com, to schedule a free and totally confidential intake call about your situation.

Once upon a time in America, the concept of “lifetime employment” was the norm. The average worker counted on staying with an employer until retirement, at which point he or she could also look forward to a decent pension from his or her employer.
Those days are long gone.

Not only is lifetime employment virtually unheard of these days, but older workers also frequently find themselves among the ranks of the long-term unemployed. At first glance, unemployment statistics appear to indicate that older workers are in a better position than their younger counterparts; however, those statistics deceive.

The unemployment rate for workers over the age of 55 is only 4.1 percent compared to 5.7 percent for the population overall, making it appear that older workers have fared better in recent years as the economy has slowly rebounded from the 2007 “Great Recession.” Statistics suggest that older workers have been participating in the labor force in ever-increasing numbers over the past several decades. It’s easy to conclude, based on a shallow interpretation of these facts, that older workers are doing fairly well in the workforce. A closer look at unemployment figures and related data, however, points to a starkly contrasting conclusion.
To accurately assess the unemployment situation for older workers, you need to look not just at how many Baby Boomers and members of even older generations are unemployed, but also at other benchmarks such as how long these folks remain out of work. A recent survey conducted by AARP did just that. According to the AARP survey, 45 percent of older workers who actively sought work in 2014 were long-term unemployed, defined as out of work for 27 weeks or longer. The percentage of younger workers facing long-term unemployment during the same time period hovered just above 35 percent.

Older workers who secured new employment, meanwhile, often accepted jobs at a lower rate of pay and/or with fewer benefits. A shocking 60 percent of respondents in the AARP survey indicated they accepted a job paying less than their previous job. 15 percent accepted the same pay. Only 25 percent were offered a job paying more than their previous position.
According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Economist Heidi Shierholz, workers between the ages 54 and 65 earned, on average, 13.5 percent less in a new job.

The reasons why older workers fare poorly in the job market vary, and economists debate the root cause(s). These experts cite: a) an overall lack of appropriate jobs in the 2015 economy; and b) a documented propensity of employers to hire younger workers.
Here’s one positive statistic – a potential silver lining. Older workers seem to be more likely to find a job if they start looking right away instead of taking time off after losing a job.

Are you confused about your rights as an older American in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP right now at (866) 348-7394, or email the team at info@jhllp.com, to explore what you can do about an employer whom you suspect has violated the Age Discrimination Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), New York Labor Laws (NYLL) or other labor laws.

Minor league baseball players may be getting the short end of the baseball bat when it comes to their wages. Ongoing litigation on behalf of 34 former minor league players against Major League Baseball (MLB), all 30 big-league teams, and others indicates that players may be getting overworked and underpaid.

The antitrust exemption held by MLB is the conflict’s primary point of contention. Regulations provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) do not apply to MLB in the same way as they do to other major organizations, thanks to this unique antitrust exemption. For many players, this fosters pay that averages below hourly minimum wage—a low bar that has already failed to keep up with decades of inflation.

If you are worried that your employer is paying you below minimum wage or is somehow otherwise violating the FLSA, consider the following:

* Consult a qualified employment lawyer immediately; he or she can walk you through the complexities of labor laws and explains your rights and obligations.
* Does your job require you to work hours for which you aren’t paid? If so, you may have a case against the employer.
* Talk to your employer to correct issues and, if that doesn’t work, contact your state’s labor department.

If you need assistance with a harassment, discrimination or wage and hour case from a qualified and experienced New York employment law firm, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com.

Although many people may suggest that Major League Baseball (MLB) players possibly make too much money, the opposite is true for their Minor League counterparts. In the wake of a growing lawsuit against MLB, research has come to light indicating that many minor league players earn below the hourly minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

However, the MLB’s antitrust exemption — which is unique to the MLB and no other major sports organizations — virtually exempts it from standards of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

An MLB spokesperson made a statement in October on the situation:

“MLB believes that the compensation paid by its Clubs to Minor League players is in full compliance with the law. The minimum wage and overtime provisions of federal and state wage and hour laws were not intended to apply to professional athletes such as Minor League baseball players…”

According to plaintiffs in the lawsuit, many minor leaguers only make $1,100 per month for the length of the season, and they are expected to work many unpaid hours per work week. Spring training, for example, is unpaid.

“Even though clocked hours are considered game-time hours, there are still a lot more things that go into work,” explained Mets’ union representative Curtis Granderson to USAToday. “If you are only working between the start of the game and the end of the game, you’re probably going to end up without a job.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against MLB, ex-commissioner Bud Selig, and every big-league team hope to raise paying standards to a more livable wage.

Are you confused about your rights in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP right now at (866) 348-7394, or email the team at info@jhllp.com, to explore what you can do about an employer whom you suspect has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), New York Labor Laws (NYLL) or other labor laws.

Here’s a New York discrimination story that’s sparked thousands of conservations (and no doubt many arguments as well) among residents of the entire Big Apple.

The chain restaurant, TGI Friday’s, recent closed its Manhattan location and opened another restaurant only a block away. Workers from the old location claim that management told them they would have a chance to apply for positions at the new store. They never got the opportunity.

Critics claim that the TGI Friday’s new location opened with new, lighter skinned workers. Just one black employee from the old location successfully transitioned to the new location. According to a New York Daily News article, former employees allege that managers consistently and openly “referred to the old location as ‘the ghetto store.’” They also say that, in response to protesting Hispanic employees, management told them to “work harder.”

The suit against the parent company, National Restaurants Management Inc., seeks $500,000 in reparations for each slighted employee. If the plaintiffs win, the company will need to pay $5 million total to former employees.

A National Restaurants Management Inc. spokesperson highlighted the company’s 75-year history of diversity, in contrast to the narrative being pushed by these former employees.

Discrimination comes in a number of different forms. Look for these signs that your workplace may be discriminating against you or others, and speak out against any unethical behavior:

•    Management consistently gives certain employees tasks or projects that may be perceived as stereotypical.

•    Management regularly excludes certain employees from performing tasks or taking on responsibilities based on factors other than merit.

•    A colleague or boss makes sexual or inappropriate comments that lead to hurt feelings at the office. Once alerted, management fails to take action to end the behavior and/or reprimand those responsible.

•    The company promotes or hires people based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion or rejects or demotes employees based on these factors.

If you have experienced mistreatment at work — or if you have strong reason to believe that non-job related criteria (e.g. gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, etc.) has played a role in hiring or firing decisions — don’t stay silent. Taking action may seem scary, but the law protects you against employer retaliation.

If you need assistance with a harassment, discrimination or wage and hour case from a qualified and experienced New York employment law firm, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com.