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.

Our New York sexual harassment attorneys have been thinking a lot about the United Nations lately, in light of potent allegations made against a high ranking UN science official. Rajendra Pauchari recently resigned as the Chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) after serving in the position since 2002. The surprising move — his full term would have expired in October of this year — comes on the coattails of allegations that Pauchari had sexually harassed colleagues.

The first allegation came from a 29-year-old employee at Pauchari’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The woman alleges that he sent inappropriate messages to her through a number of mediums. Pauchari stepped down from his post at TERI following the allegations. A second, more recent allegation led to his resignation from the IPCC at the end of February. The second woman’s lawyer describes Pauchari’s harassment against many women.

Pauchari has faced calls for his resignation in the past, due to inaccuracies in climate reports; and in 2010, reporters from The Telegraph questioned Pauchari’s financial relationship with the UN.

The former IPCC chair is 74, and he has three children. The IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for climate change work while Pauchari chaired the panel.

The beleaguered official claims that a hacker attempting to ruin his reputation committed the alleged harassment. An investigation into the alleged communication channels should shed light on what really happened. Currently, Pauchari is officially on a leave of absence.

As the story develops, investigators may find that other women come forward now that two alleged victims have spoken up. Sexual harassment victims often find it difficult to accuse their aggressors publicly, particularly if the aggressors hold positions of authority. This case could have profound ramifications for the workplace culture at the UN and other large governmental organizations and non-profits throughout the world.

The allegations may also spur additional investigations into other aspects of Pauchari’s work. His legacy with the UN and work in the climate change space could face scrutiny as a result of the sexual harassment accusations.

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).

On Friday, Jan. 30, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, New York heard arguments addressing the legality of unpaid internship programs. The city expects to hear the court’s decision later this year. It seems inevitable that the pending decision will set a precedent for future internship organization that could reverberate across the state and possible the nation.

The suit has to do with two prior cases brought against companies by former interns. One case involved allegations against Fox Searchlight Pictures; the other involved allegations against the publishing behemoth Hearst Corporation, owner of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. The Fox interns won their case; the Hearst interns lost theirs.

Both cases concern a critical 1947 Supreme Court ruling that once dictated criteria for unpaid railroad training. The judge in the Fox case used the criteria as a strict standard, while the judge in the Hearst case saw the criteria as a broad set of best-practice guidelines. The appeals court will determine which ruling is lawful.

These spotlight cases have encouraged other interns to bring similar lawsuits against diverse companies. Allegedly, many of these companies have required interns to maintain duties similar to employees without the benefit of fair compensation. Companies around the country have been reevaluating their internship programs — or removing them altogether — as a response to this intense legal action.

Internships can serve a purpose in terms of offering young people and newcomers to a field an opportunity to engage in apprenticeship. A Fortune.com article on the controversy argues for a “balance between both sides,” so youth can gain experience without worrying about being exploited. Many students and young graduates, for instance, are not in a position to take unpaid internships while struggling to pay bills.

If you feel like you’ve been doing the work of an employee without receiving fair compensation, you are not alone. At best, current laws regarding unpaid internships currently constitute a gray area. The federal appeals court decision will clarify how companies need to compensate their interns. Contact a New York discrimination attorney to learn more about the ongoing court battles and how they might affect you.

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

Alexandra Marchuk recently sued her former law firm, Faruqi & Faruqi, and one of its partners, Juan Monteverde, for sexual harassment, alleging that she had been assaulted and subjected to a hostile workplace environment. Her case went to trial on January 12, and the jury reached a verdict on Thursday, February 5, after just a 24-hour deliberation.

The jury did not grant Marchuk’s request for $2 million in damages. Instead, jurors awarded her $90,000 in compensation and lost pay and $50,000 in punitive damages for employment discrimination. Notably, the jury did not award damages for emotional distress or discrimination under federal law.

Win, Lose or Draw?

Lawyers for each side quickly took to the media to declare victory. Defense attorneys claimed that the jury’s relatively small award reflected a lack of conviction in the plaintiff’s position. The plaintiff’s side, however, emphasized that the jury still dinged Faruqi & Faruqi for $140,000, all told, and found that discrimination did, indeed, occur at the law firm. Case observers also note that, although Faruqi & Faruqi escaped having to pay out millions of dollars in damages, the high profile harassment case has likely damaged the firm’s reputation and will likely negatively impact recruitment efforts, marketing, and client relations.

Marchuk and her legal advisor have said that they will consider appealing the verdict. They claim that several key pieces of evidence had been excluded from consideration and that other victims of harassment and discrimination at the firm have not been heard. Marchuk’s attorney seems determined to take the case through the appeals process to ensure that the court hears all relevant evidence.

Discrimination and harassment leave thousands of workers throughout New York City and beyond feeling voiceless and alone. Managers and other authority figures do not have the right to treat you unfairly.

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.

For several years, our New York wage and hour lawyers have been on the vanguard of a movement agitating for better treatment and fairer pay for restaurant workers. New reports about recent claims against McDonald’s suggest that discrimination, harassment, and wage and hour violations may be even more widespread in the industry than critics have suspected.

The fast food industry is an enormous job engine, currently responsible for 9% of private sector jobs in the U.S., employing 5.5 million women and 5.1 million men. A recent Mother Jones piece investigating the restaurant industry, based in part on information from the Economic Policy Institute, revealed some shocking statistics:

  • Median wage for all forms of payment (tip, tipshare, and flat rate) has stalled at $10/hour for the last 15 years. Non-restaurant U.S. workers, meanwhile, earn a median wage of $18.
  • The median wages for managers at fast food restaurants stands at $15.42/hour; and many of these managers complain about limited opportunities for advancement and upward mobility.
  • Gender and cultural divisions persist. Men, for instance, hold higher-paying positions in restaurants than do women. Hispanic and black workers, meanwhile, have a disproportionate share of the lowest paying positions (e.g., cashiers, dishwashers, and cooks).
  • Undocumented workers account for an astonishing 15.7% of the industry.
  • Restaurants provide only 14.4% of workers with health insurance, and even fewer workers (8.4%) have pensions.
  • Unions in the restaurant industry cover just 1.8% of workers; some workers’ rights advocates suggest that wide-scale unionization could lead to a meaningful increase in overall wages and cut way down on the practices that lead to discrimination, harassment and wage and hour issues.
  • The poverty rate for those who work in the restaurant industry is almost three times higher than the total poverty rate in the nation.
  • Needless to say, many workers in the restaurant industry have to work excessive hours; and these employees often still do not make enough money to rise above the poverty line.

So what can be done about these issues?

The Mother Jones report offered several potential solutions, many of which involve legislative action to enforce fair working standards for restaurant workers. Some solutions proposed include increasing overtime rates, providing for sick days for workers, and updating labor laws.

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.

Our New York employment attorneys have been fascinated by the implications of a political appointment in neighboring Pennsylvania. The state’s new governor, Tom Wolf, a self-identified progressive, has nominated a transgender woman, Dr. Rachel Levine, to be the state’s Physician General. Dr. Levine has identified herself as a woman for 5 years.

Dr. Levine recently spoke with reporters at the Washington Blade about her career. Administrators at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center have been supportive of her transition; and the hospital has established clear and effective policies to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression.

As Physician General for Pennsylvania, Dr. Levine will oversee critical health initiatives and policy work for the state as well as continue her work as a private physician. She’ll serve in an advisory capacity for the Secretary of the Department of Health and for the governor. At Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Levine serves as the chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders and the vice chairwoman for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Levine’s appointment is welcome news both for the LGBT community and for civil society as a whole. Social psychology studies that have probed the root causes of discriminatory attitudes suggest that “lack of familiarity” with certain groups of people can lead to negative attitudes about those people, hostility and stereotyping. Over the past fifteen years, our country has made enormous strides when it comes to accepting and understanding LGBT Americans – although we have an enormous way to go – in part because we’ve collectively become more culturally familiar with LGBT.

Dr. Levine’s ascension to a position of prominence in the medical community will hopefully catalyze more productive conversations and ultimately help to reshape our culture and curtail gender based discrimination at the workplace. Fortunately, NYC and New York State have among the strongest legal protections for transgender individuals in the country.

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.

The Obama administration’s recent push for stronger labor laws has sparked an intense national conversation over what constitutes fair treatment and fair pay for workers.

Federal agencies, supported by the administration, recently brought a major case against McDonald’s, which we discussed in detail in a previous blog post. The fast-food giant has been charged with labor-law violations and coercive tactics to silence employees. Critics claim executives exploited and extended labor elections to deny union formation among McDonald’s employees. Some dubious company practices, like monitoring employees’ email accounts for hints of union organizations in off-hours, have now stopped. The case has the potential to influence labor regulations concerning pay, overtime, and healthcare.

The suit against McDonald’s is just one piece of important news, though. Promising new technological advances may soon streamline the processes by which workers can enforce and collect back pay. Additionally, legislation proposed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) may improve the way employees who work over 40 hours a week are compensated. If such legislation passes, more workers will qualify for time-and-a-half pay for overtime.

Advocates at the NLRB have set their sites on the following major targets for change:

  • Benefits. Employers currently classify 10–30% of the middle class as “independent contractors” to avoid obligations to provide healthcare and other protective benefits. A push for worker’s rights could lead to coverage for more of these individuals.
  • A decrease in government subsidies. NLRB studies suggest that improvements to worker payment systems and structures could ultimately decrease the number of people who must resort to filing for government assistance.
  • Higher worker satisfaction. Poor job satisfaction leads to a diminished bottom line for companies. By improving labor environments and ensuring fair payment for a fair day’s work, we could see an increase in employee satisfaction… which in turn (somewhat ironically) could encourage employees to work harder for their companies.

Whether any substantial labor legislation (or executive orders affecting labor concerns) will pass any time soon is anyone’s guess. However, if you’re worried about your own work environment — and you suspect that your employer has committed discrimination, retaliation or a tip pool violation – seek the advice of the New York labor employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP. Please call us at (866) 348-7394 for a free appraisal, or email info@jhllp.com.

Wal-Mart recently made headlines by instituting a wave of minimum wage increases in several states. In 2014 alone, retail workers in 13 states saw a bump in base wages. As the nation’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart’s wage increases will impact more than 1,400 stores and likely lead to cascading effects through local economies.

On one hand, Wal-Mart’s moves are clearly in the right direction. On the other hand, critics suggest that the company has not done enough to increase wages. When private employers pay workers less than a living wage, workers often must turn to government assistance. Taxpayers then pick up this bill, essentially subsidizing low-paying private employers.

Wal-Mart says it hopes to simplify its payment systems. It plans to change its pay structure by lumping cashiers, cart pushers, and maintenance workers into one payment class. However, the retailer will also narrow the gap between low-paying and high-paying positions. One Wal-Mart manager explained the company’s reasoning: “Essentially… wage compression at the upper level of the hourly associate is going to help absorb that cost of the wage increase at the lower level.”

As an employee, you want to ensure your employer is treating you fairly. Here are three potential red flags that might warrant the counsel of an experienced New York wage and hour law firm:

  • You’re paid with debit cards. Some employers distribute debit cards instead of offering direct deposit or paychecks. Employees should have a choice. There are fees associated with debit cards that can reduce your paycheck.
  • You believe your employer is violating tip rules. If you work in a restaurant, pay attention to how the tip money is distributed among your co-workers. Are managers or or kitchen staff included in the tip pool? Have other workers complained to you in private about dubious practices?
  • After coming under pressure for underpaying its workers, your employer has suddenly reinvented its payment categories. Pay attention to your workload, job description, and pay scale during times of upheaval. When a company makes a decision to merge pay grades, it could freeze wages or engage in unfair or even illegal tactics.

Call the Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP team today at (866) 348-7394 to discuss your retaliation, harassment, discrimination or wage and hour case.