Our New York wage and hour attorneys strive to pay attention to trends in the labor market not only to help our clients understand their situations in context but also to measure the fundamental forces driving employers to raise wages or, conversely, to withhold wages and tips from workers.

To that end, we were fascinated by a powerful New York Times editorial from early December: “Employers Will Have To Raise Wages. They Just Don’t Know It Yet.”

The piece includes some seriously head scratching data from the Labor Department. Reports from October 2014 found that employers had been trying to fill nearly 5 million job vacancies. Curiously, though, the unemployment rate has stagnated; it remains relatively high at 5.8%, and that figure doesn’t even take into account the veritable army of freelancers and under-employed laborers who fly under the radar of these types of statistical analyses.

The number of open positions has gone up substantially since the end of the Great Recession of 2008, but we haven’t witnessed a concomitant boom in hiring. Why?

Maybe we’re just witnessing statistical noise that doesn’t mean much?

Possibly, but consider that the number of open positions has jumped by 125 percent since 2009, but the number of hires is only up 33 percent over that period.

Are employers just being super finicky? Or is there a deeper economic explanation for this anomaly? When analyzing The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers, the New York Times editorial proposed the following theory: “during the recession, employers got spoiled. When unemployment was near 10 percent, talented workers were lined up outside their door. The workers they did have were terrified of losing their jobs. If you put out word that you had an opening, you could fill the job almost instantly. That’s why the ratio of job openings to hires fell so low in 2009. As the economy has gotten better the last five years, employers have had more and more job openings, but have been sorely reluctant to accept that it’s not 2009 anymore in terms of what workers they can hire and at what wage.”

It could also be that employers are genuinely struggling to decide whom to hire… or that new technologies have changed efficiencies in a way that’s reduced urgency to hire. For instance, maybe some employers are using outsourcing or software as effective “stop-gap solutions” for certain labor needs. So while they technically might have positions open, they might not need to fill those positions as quickly as they once did.

The team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help you understand and deal with wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by employers. Call us now at 1-866-348-7394 or email us at info@jhllp.com for assistance.

Many citizens seek to file class action lawsuits every year in response to perceived wrongdoings that have racial, religious, or gender related elements. Here are 3 tips every person must keep in mind before he or she sets out to file a class action suit.

1. Know What a Class Action Lawsuit Is

A class action suit is loosely defined as a lawsuit filed by a group of people who believe their rights were violated in some way. During this type of suit, a judge will decide the rights of several people at once. For example, if all the African-American and Hispanic tenants in an apartment building believe a landlord has treated them unfairly by because they are non-white, they might file a class-action suit. The judge’s responsibility would be to decide what the whole group is entitled to from the landlord under existing laws.

Before a group files a class action suit, it must choose what type of suit it seeks to file. For example, a consumer class action can be brought when people collectively believe they’ve sustained injury from a company’s practices. In contrast, an employment suit occurs when a group of employees file based on Labor Code violations, such as workplace discrimination.

2. Determine How Many People are Needed

It takes only one person to start a class action. In New York, where the statute iof limiations for overtime is six years, the rule of thumb is that if 40 people worked in one of the affected positions over that period of six years, there are enough people for class treatment. Thus, if there is high turnover, a company employing 15 people at any given time might easily be a class defendant. This gives the attorney a quick and efficient way to establish that many people have been injured in similar ways or suffered similar damages. Generally, a single person files as plaintiff on behalf of the group. However, a class action case can have more than one plaintiff, if the attorney believes doing so will strengthen the case.

3. Choose the Right Attorney

It is best to  choose an attorney with a great deal of class action experience in the type of suit that will be filed. The plaintiffs should also ask the attorney how many cases similar to theirs have been filed recently. Finally, plaintiffs should ask whether their attorney will be the “lead” attorney or a subordinate. Plaintiffs should always know the lead attorney and feel comfortable contacting him or her with questions or concerns.

If you need insight into a possible wage and hour, discrimination or harassment case, contact a New York employment lawyer with Joseph & Kirschenbaum at (866) 348-7394 or info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.

Actor and comedian Chris Rock and reporter Frank Rich first appeared together in 1996 on Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect. They were recently reunited for two New York lounge conversations during Rock’s promotion of the upcoming movie Top Five, which he wrote and directed.

During the conversation reported on the Vulture website, Rock had several controversial things to say about the 2014 midterm elections that were deemed “a fiasco for Obama.” For example, he said Republicans “have no problem being victims” and that colleges have become “too conservative” for his comedy acts.

Rock also observed how America could improve equality for minority groups. Rock said, “If people knew how rich, rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” Whether or not riots are imminent, there are a few things more fortunate people can do to increase equality.

One of the most unequal places in America is the restaurant industry. People in food service are often maligned for being unskilled or uneducated, and they must also deal with unjust job stressors. For example, some restaurants require waiters and waitresses to participate in unfair “tip pools,” in which non-tipped employees (e.g. managers) illegally share in the tips. Many food service workers and their advocates say this defeats the purpose of “fair wage for fair work.”

Federal, state, and local governments are also currently debating raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour. Although some claim this would affect employment and that younger workers don’t need to be paid minimum wage, the U.S. Department of Labor has found these complaints have no basis in reality. For restaurant servers in particular, “minimum wage” is a relative term; their tips plus regular hourly wages often do not equal the federal minimum.

Finally, citizens can help increase equality and awareness of inequality through the fair and ethical usage of social media. Many people post stories of racially-based injustices on Facebook and Twitter every day but often don’t double-check the stories or delve into the history of alleged incidents of discrimination. If people make educated choices about what and how they post on social media, discrimination incidents could become less sensationalized. Thus, we will be more likely to take them seriously, and we will be closer to achieving equality as a nation.

If you need insight into a possible wage and hour, discrimination or harassment case, contact a New York employment lawyer with Joseph & Kirschenbaum at (866) 348-7394 or info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.

Prominent civil rights attorney, John Doar, died of heart failure in his Manhattan home on November 12, 2014. The impact of his accomplishments will never be forgotten.

Doar played a key role in protecting the rights of black students, both in the voting booths and in academia. Doar’s work often took him to Mississippi – one of the last states to accept integration in the 1960s. When the University of Mississippi finally integrated in 1962, Doar escorted its first black student, James Meredith, onto campus.

Doar was also known for his tireless work defending civil rights activists and other disenfranchised black citizens throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1967, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, three young civil rights workers, were slain. Doar served as the prosecuting attorney in their case, successfully charging seventeen men with violating the civil rights of the three victims.

Paid Ku Klux Klan informers involved in the case were also tried and convicted, sentenced to prison terms of three to ten years apiece. Among those charged were the sheriff of Neshoba County, Mississippi, and the head of the Neshoba County Ku Klux Klan branch. Doar also rode with the Freedom Riders in 1961 and worked to stop voter discrimination against blacks throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. In 2012, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Thanks in part to Doar’s work, we have made huge strides towards racial equality, integrating schools, creating college classes devoted to African-American history and literature, and imposing harsher sentencing for racially-motivated hate crimes. Yet other developments indicate we collectively still have work to do. Recent incidents, such as the police shooting of an African-American man from Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking of an African-American man in New York, have shaken many people’s faith in America’s commitment to racial equality. Even in light of these events, Doar will always be remembered for his work in advancing civil rights.

Have you been victimized by discrimination or retaliation at work? Contact a New York employment lawyer with Joseph & Kirschenbaum at (866) 348-7394 or info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.

Our New York wage and hour attorneys are not ones to shy away from fights over tip pool violations. Critics have called our own Maimon Kirschenbaum the “scourge” of restaurant owners for his relentless advocacy on behalf of waiters, busboys and other tipped employees.

But where do you draw the line when it comes to “standing up” against unfair treatment of tipped employees?

A viral news item out of nearby Philadelphia has provoked an impassioned conversation in the blogosphere about what exactly constitutes a “fair” tip and about how and when “unfair tipping” should be punished.

The drama all started after Tommy Up, the owner of popular Philadelphia restaurant called PYT, posted a receipt from one of his patrons to Facebook. The receipt belonged to none other than Eagle’s famous running back, LeSean McCoy.

Per Up, McCoy left just a 20 cent tip on $61.56 bill.

The restaurant owner took responsibility for posting the receipt on Facebook – it was his decision, not the waiter’s. He told local papers: “I decided to take action after some serious thought. And while I would like to apologize to Mr. McCoy, I cannot on good conscious do so. I stand by my actions 100%.”

The owner said that the football star entered the restaurant with several friends and that McCoy had been rude to the server and had made misogynist comments. Up said that the server had been excited to wait on McCoy and his friends but felt miffed after seeing the $0.20 tip. He put the situation bluntly: “Mr. McCoy had left 0.3% tip for our staff. Our staff was beyond excited to see him walk into our burger joint and was excited to serve him. That’s $0.20 on a tab of over $60. $0.20 that our server had to split with the food vendor and the bartender. Two dimes from an insulting multimillionaire.”

Tipped employees in Philly earn less than $3 an hour; they make the rest of their money on tips.

But is it fair to “out” a bad tipper on Facebook?

Some people have sided with Up, calling McCoy’s decision to leave the miniscule tip “deplorable.” But others had harsh words for Up for making the conversation so public and for “attacking” one of the city’s most visible football icons.

The bottom line is that there are good ways to respond to tip pool violations and there are not so good ways. Fortunately, the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum has the experience, qualifications and track record to assist with your wage and hour case. Please get in touch with us today at 1 866-348-7394 or info@jhllp.com to schedule a free consultation to figure out what you can do to achieve justice and fair compensation in your matter.

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.

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.

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.

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.