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.

Our New York employment attorneys applaud the work of Minnesota lawmakers, who recently raised the state minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $8 per hour. Smaller businesses have more time to prepare for these changes, and they won’t be expected to pay as much as large employers. However, one small restaurant, the Oasis Café in Stillwater, MN, has chosen a public and possibly embarrassing route to show its frustration with the new wage laws.

Customers at the Oasis Café have started to see a new line item on their bills – a flat, 35 cent “minimum wage fee” added to every order. Rather than raising the prices of menu items, the owners of the Oasis decided to make their customers aware of how the wage hike affects them.

“The Oasis management says they estimate the pay increase is costing them more than $10,000 a year,” CBS Minnesota reports. When the restaurant responded to customer complaints on Facebook, they said, “Rather than increase the prices of our menu items, we chose to charge a flat fee.”

The restaurant went on to suggest that if the state of Minnesota passed a tip credit, they wouldn’t have needed the extra revenue. A tip credit reduces the employer’s liability for Medicare and Social Security payments. By not having a tip credit, Minnesota is protecting its tipped workers more than 43 other states.

When Slate.com broke down the costs and analyzed what “$10,000 extra per year” meant for workers, they determined that employees in the restaurant would be earning an extra $2.88 per day. For all that, the owners are still willing to risk public backlash to make their point.

“For what it’s worth,” says Oasis management, “we pay our people very well.”

Are you facing humiliation at work, or do you believe that you’ve been the victim of a wage violation? Call our New York employment attorneys at (866) 348-7394 for a free consultation about your case, or email us at info@jhllp.com.

Our New York employment attorneys aren’t the only ones seeing more cases related to wage theft. As more companies cut corners and more employees report shrinking paychecks, the number of lawsuits grows nationwide.

Current or recent cases involving wage theft include:

• Schneider.
A national trucking company that provide services to Walmart is now paying out $21 million in a settlement with Rangel and other individuals robbed of their rightful overtime pay.

• FedEx.
A federal appeals court in California recently found FedEx culpable of wage theft by classifying its drivers as independent contractors, cheating them of overtime pay.

• McDonald’s.
Seven lawsuits are currently addressing claims that various franchises omitted overtime pay from employees’ paychecks by making them work off the clock or erasing hours from timecards.

Business interests claim such lawsuits represent coordinated efforts with labor unions to push for higher wages for workers. However, increasing violations on the part of employers leave little doubt of the need for accountability in these and other companies.

What to Do if You Suspect You’re a Victim of Wage Theft

Unfortunately, no occupation is immune from dishonest and unfair compensation practices. If hours or overtime pay are missing from your paycheck – or if you believe your employer has incorrectly classified you or forced you to work off the clock – you likely feel cheated and frustrated. Fortunately, the law is on your side.

Ways to fight potential wage theft include:

• Keep meticulous records. Document how many hours you work during each pay period to ensure paychecks are accurate. When your employer engages in questionable practices, write down the date, time, and nature of the incidents for future reference.

• Contact anonymous tip lines. If your employer provides a hotline for reporting dishonest practices, consider calling to tell what you know.

• Call an attorney.
An employment lawyer can discuss your situation and legal options with you.

You work hard, and you are entitled to every dime you earn. Contact the New York employment attorneys at Joseph & Kirschembaum to keep your employer accountable at 1-866-348-7394 or info@jhllp.com to set up a free consultation.

Our New York employment attorneys have been examining recent efforts by the White House to strengthen workers’ overtime protections. The 2014 initiative, which began in March, seeks to reevaluate and adjust existing policies to reflect the changing realities of the workforce and ensure every employee receives fair pay.

According to the White House, current overtime laws fail to take into account the current economy and the circumstances of American workers. For instance, the “white collar exemption” is often used by employers to prevent salaried workers earning more than $561 per week – or working in certain professions – from earning overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours. This negatively affects many low-income workers, who work long hours without adequate compensation.

The Presidential Memorandum seeks to work with the Secretary of Labor to address several concerns, including:

• Fair and proper enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

• Changes in the modern workplace.

• Difficulty understanding and applying overtime regulations.

“My Overtime Rights Are Being Violated. What Should I Do?”

Should you count yourself among those suffering from unfair overtime compensation practices, you are not alone. Confronting a noncompliant employer can be an intimidating prospect, but fortunately, several options exist to help you obtain the wages you deserve. These include:

• Keeping track of hours and pay. Make a note of how many hours you work each day and retain pay stubs for your records. This information will become invaluable if you choose to pursue action against an employer.

• Contact regulatory agencies.
The United States Department of Labor allows individuals to file complaints against their employers when they suspect them of violating wage laws.

• Obtain an attorney.
Individual and class-action lawsuits raise awareness about employer misdeeds and help plaintiffs recover their rightful overtime pay.

With the help of the White House and the Department of Labor, as well as a qualified New York employment attorney, you no longer need to endure overtime violations as a condition of employment. Contact Joseph & Kirschenbaum today to discuss your legal options.

The number of Americans dissatisfied with one or more aspects of their jobs is shocking, as New York employment attorneys are well aware. According to a study reported in the New York Times, half or more of U.S. workers reported fundamental limitations to their ability to think creatively, focus on individual tasks, perform enjoyable work, and find meaning in their professions.

Those employees reporting high satisfaction levels at work attributed their sense of fulfillment to several factors, including:

• Breaks.
Taking a break every 90 minutes can yield up to 30 percent higher focus levels than for those who take one or fewer breaks per day. It can also result in 50 percent higher creativity and 46 percent greater feelings of health or wellbeing. Employers who encourage their employees to take breaks also enjoy higher retention rates.

Work hours. Working more than 40 hours per week can actually achieve the opposite effect of what the worker desires, causing decreased engagement and productivity. Even when employers abide by overtime requirements, the additional compensation may not make up for the lost work/life balance.

• Supportive leadership. When supervisors offer consistent and positive support, engagement and retention levels skyrocket.

• Meaning.
Individuals want to feel the work they perform has an impact on something they care about. Those whose jobs provide this feeling of purpose are three times more likely to stay with their employers for the long haul.

• Flexibility.
Modern workers crave flexible work options such as telecommuting and flex scheduling, but many employers fear losing the oversight that comes from a rigidly scheduled, on-site workforce.

Although some companies are better than others at fostering happy and productive work environments, all workers should familiarize themselves with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to ascertain that their employers do not engage in unlawful practices. Possible employer violations include:

• Pressuring employees to work “off the clock”
• Categorizing hourly staff members as “exempt” to avoid paying overtime
• Sending work home with employees to meet deadlines
• Withholding overtime pay when non-exempt staff work more than 40 hours
If you are experiencing these or other signs of employer abuse, New York employment attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum are here to help. To set up a consultation to discuss your legal options, contact us at (800) 348-7394.

In our last post, we discussed the basic theories and history behind tipping, as presented in the Accounting Degree Review’s comprehensive infographic, “Tipping in the United States.” Today, we will discuss the current state of affairs for tipped employees and how they can ensure they receive fair compensation for their work, including seeking advice from reputable New York employment attorneys.

As the infographic indicates, tipped employees only need to earn $30 per month in tips to “qualify” for the subminimum wage, which is currently frozen at $2.13 per hour. However, for full-time employees, $30 in tips on top of the subminimum wage paid by the employer still amounts to much less than minimum wage.

In addition, most states offer employers a “tip credit,” which reduces the wages they must pay to tipped employees based on the tips they receive. The law also stipulates that when employees don’t make enough between tips and their hourly wages to equal minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. However, many employers do not comply with this law, even when staff or other entities discover the discrepancy.

In the few states that don’t impose a tip credit, servers are guaranteed at least minimum wage, and tips comprise additional wages beyond what their employers pay. On average, servers in tip credit states earn significantly less than those in states that use no tip credits or partial tip credits.

Overall, servers (particularly women) are three times more susceptible to poverty than those in other professions. However, regardless of where you live, you can take several steps to ensure that your employer is engaging in fair and legal compensation practices. These methods include:

• Get educated.
Read the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations for employers of tipped workers, and consider whether your employer is adhering to all of them.

• Ask questions. If your paycheck seems outrageously low or you don’t understand the employer’s pay structure, don’t be afraid to talk with your supervisor. You provide the company a service, and you have a right to discuss proper compensation.

• Get help when needed. If you believe your rights are being violated, contact a qualified attorney.

If you think your employer may be violating compensation regulations, New York employment attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help. Call us today at 866-348-7394 for more information.

New York employment attorneys are keeping a close watch on the changing laws and trends in our country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 2.3 million servers currently work in the United States, many of whom depend on tips for their livelihood. Consumers pay $42 billion in tips to servers every year, but many people know little about where their money goes.
This excellent infographic from Accounting Degree Review provides valuable information for tipped employees (and their customers) about the history and current state of compensation for servers.

Equity Theory and Tipping

People often think of tipping as an “extra” for the server, but in actuality, many employees earn an extremely low hourly wage that requires supplementation. However, the current socio-economic system of tipping is such that it doesn’t always work the way it should. The result is often severely underpaid workers.

This infographic describes the complex social contract that goes into tipping by explaining it in terms of Equity theory. “Inputs” such as effort, skill, flexibility, and determination balance with “outputs” such as salary, benefits, praise, reputation, and growth to create a relationship of reciprocity among the employer, the server, and the customer. However, the current socially-accepted norm of 15-20 percent tips has been imposed arbitrarily and doesn’t reflect Equity theory.

The Evolution of Subminimum Wage

Before 1960, employers didn’t have to pay their tipped employees anything other than the tips they received. The subminimum wage was created specifically for workers who subsisted on tips. The infographic provides a concise timeline of the subminimum wage, condensed thus:

1960: Subminimum wage established at $.50, 50% of minimum wage
1979: Raised to $1.60, 55% of minimum wage
1980: Increased to $1.86, 60% of minimum wage
1990: Raised to $2.09, 55% of minimum wage
1991: $2.13, 50% of minimum wage
1996: National Restaurant Association lobbies to keep subminimum wage at $2.13 in exchange for an increase in the federal minimum wage
2014: Subminimum wage remains $2.13, a paltry 29% of minimum wage
Although subminimum wage began as a “huge leap toward wage equality,” its benefit to tipped employees has decreased over time and can increase workers’ vulnerability to employer abuse. In our next post, we will discuss the infographic’s depiction of the current state of tipped labor and list ways tipped employees can help servers advocate for themselves in possible disputes.

If you think your employer may be violating compensation regulations, New York employment attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help. Call us today at 866-348-7394 for more information.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reports that up to 94 percent of women in Egypt have experienced sexual harassment in many forms, from catcalls to assaults.

A decree released last week by Adly Mansour, the outgoing president of Egypt, outlaws sexual harassment. This law, an amendment to the previous penal code that imposed no punishments on offenders, imposes jail sentences of 6 months to five years and fines up to $700 for one offense.

More severe sentences apply when offenders repeat the crime, abuse positions of power, or use weapons to sexually harass others.

So far, Egyptian women have not expressed confidence in the efficacy of the new law. One student, Nora Tarek, pointed out that sexual harassment has become such a “normal” part of Egyptian culture that a simple law may not eradicate it.

Preceding the new law, there are several organizations and initiatives that confront sexual harassment head-on. These include:

• HarassMap, an organization devoted to rendering sexual harassment socially unacceptable
• Tahrir Bodyguard, who describe themselves as a “collective effort to promote the safety of women protesters”
• Egypt’s Girls are a Red Line, a 2012 awareness-raising campaign against harassment
Although the new law represents a step in the right direction towards the safety and dignity of Egyptian women, security forces have their work cut out for them in enforcing it. Additional training and awareness-raising will be required before Egypt can fully implement the decree.

In the United States, women benefit from much more comprehensive and more consistently enforced legislation that helps protect them from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, such incidents do still occur, often in the workplace.

Sexual harassment spans a wide range of offensive behaviors, such as:

• Unwelcome sexual advances
• Vulgar jokes or anecdotes
• Inappropriate and unwanted touching
These and other actions constitute harassment only when they continue after you have expressed your discomfort.

If you believe a coworker or supervisor has subjected you to sexual harassment, recourse is available to you under New York law. Experienced New York sexual harassment attorneys at Joseph & Kirshchenbaum can talk with you to determine the validity of your case and help you get the justice you deserve.

To set up your initial consultation, contact us today at (866) 348-7394.

Employment attorneys in New York and beyond are paying keen attention to the “Restoring Overtime Pay for Working Americans Act” currently under consideration in Congress.

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, along with eight co-sponsors, introduced this bill in mid-June. It addresses what the senators believe is an unnecessarily low threshold for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) “white collar exemption,” or the weekly income level at which employees become exempt from overtime requirements.

Currently, the minimum salary level to become exempt from overtime is $455 per week; the bill would increase this to $1,090 per week. Additional proposals include adjusting the “highly-compensated employee” designation from $100,000 per year to $125,000 per year and limiting the amount of work an exempt employee can spend every week on non-exempt job duties.

Currently, the Department of Labor is taking such matters under consideration, with a proposal expected by November. Because the policies the bill sets forth fall under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Labor, some individuals question its appropriateness and timing. One reason could be that Harkin and his fellow legislators wish to establish their recommendations regarding salary and other aspects of the Secretary’s future proposal.

Regardless of their true intentions, the Restoring Overtime Pay for Working Americans Act represents a demonstrated need among white collar workers for protection under the FLSA. Although these individuals may earn higher incomes than others, they may still experience unfair pay practices and exploitation at the hands of their employers. When lawmakers advocate for working people at diverse income levels, all American workers benefit.
Under state and national employment laws, employees have the right to work for fair wages and receive overtime when applicable. Should you suspect your employer of illegal practices under the FLSA, an experienced New York employment attorney at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help. Contact us today at (866) 348-7394 or info@jhllp.com to discuss your potential case.

On June 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a recent lawsuit which sought to block New York City’s prevailing-wage law. He is now working with the state court to implement the law.

City Council passed the bill, which would have raised the salaries of building workers in developments receiving $1 million or more from city subsidies. However, former mayor Michael Bloomberg, after unsuccessfully attempting to veto the law, sued to block its implementation. At the time, Mayor Bloomberg argued such a bill would force businesses to go elsewhere.

Although opponents of the prevailing-wage law argue lenders and retail tenants will shy away from city-subsidized projects, many positive outcomes are also likely to result. Possible benefits of de Blasio’s decision include:

• Better standards of living for low-income workers such as janitors, building workers, and security guards.

• An improved economy in the city due to these individuals’ increased spending power.

• More attractive jobs for building workers, resulting in a more competitive employment pool.

• Setting a precedent for businesses in other industries to follow.

Regardless of their profession or income, everyone has the right to fair and lawful wages and employment practices. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers possess a myriad of rights, and employers have certain responsibilities towards their employees.

When employers engage in unlawful tactics, such as employee misclassification, assigning “off the clock” work, or paying staff less than minimum wage, employees can turn to a New York employment attorney to help them assert their rights. The team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum possesses an intimate knowledge of FLSA requirements, and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients.

Experiencing illegal employment practices, such as discrimination, harassment or wage violations, can be frustrating for workers, but you are not alone. Contact our office today at (866) 348-7394 to learn how we can put our experience to work to hold your employer accountable..