September 8, 2014

Recent Cases Point to Higher Incidences of Wage Theft

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.

September 1, 2014

New White House Program Seeks Fairer Overtime Pay for Workers

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.

August 24, 2014

What Factors Distinguish a Healthy Workplace?

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.

August 18, 2014

Tipping Infographic Part 2: Questionable Payment Practices

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.

August 11, 2014

Tipping Infographic Part 1: The History of Subminimum Wage

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.

August 4, 2014

Egypt's New Sexual Harassment Law: Too Little, Too Late?

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.

July 28, 2014

Senate Bill Seeks to Change FLSA Overtime Compensation Standards

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.

July 21, 2014

NYC Mayor de Blasio Upholds Prevailing-Wage Bill

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..

July 14, 2014

Work-Life Balance: PepsiCo CEO Says It's a Myth

Is "work-life balance" merely a fantasy for American workers? An increasing number of professionals seem to think so.

Indra Nooyi,
CEO of PepsiCo, recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival regarding the difficulties of being a high-powered executive and a parent. As a professional who habitually works until midnight, Nooyi employs the help of her children's grandparents to help raise them.

Contrary to the ideal many working mothers strive toward every day, Nooyi doesn't believe "women can have it all." She cites the conflicting timelines of career and parenthood, noting the years women spend raising children are the same years during which they must work toward management positions.

Women aren't the only ones affected by the work-life balance myth. Fathers like Elon Musk of Tesla struggle with how to allocate their time between family and career, sometimes relying on nannies or babysitters to provide most of their children's upbringing.

In addition to the limitations working parents face at home, they also tend to experience disadvantages at work. Having children inherently means higher living expenses for families, but taking time off to give birth or care for them can result in lost wages. Employers may also show subtle preference towards employees who place higher priorities on their jobs than on their families.

Although increasing numbers of employers are offering more flexible work arrangements to help working parents institute better work-life balance, discrimination based on an employee's family status including pregnancy still happens. To understand your rights and protect yourself against unlawful practices, familiarize yourself with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and federal, New York state and city laws regarding pregnancy and marital status discrimination.

Should you have questions about your rights or your employer's responsibilities under state and national law, contact an experienced New York employment law firm such as Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP at (866) 348-7394 or at info@jhllp.com. Our highly qualified lawyers have a wealth of knowledge regarding employment law, and we can help you determine whether a court case is necessary or feasible.

July 7, 2014

What Doesn't the Red Cross Want Us to Know About Hurricane Sandy Aid Money?

Hurricane Sandy, the storm that hit the East coast over a year and a half ago, continues to impact families and individuals, some of whom still badly need assistance. Shockingly, one of the country's most illustrious aid agencies may not be allocating relief resources effectively.

According to a recent report, the Red Cross has been less than forthcoming regarding how it spent over $311 million the agency raised in the aftermath of the 2012 hurricane. When nonprofit news source ProPublica submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn about the aid organization's use of Sandy relief funds, the Red Cross quickly hired a law firm to help block the request.

The Red Cross claims certain aspects of their financial records qualify as "trade secrets," which would pose potential harm to the organization if made public. The Red Cross claims to have spent - or to have committed to spend - $98 million on casework and individual assistance, $33 million on relief products, $50 million on housing, $94 million on food and shelter, and $25 million on emergency vehicles and healthcare. If those allocations happened, then why is the aid organization holding back? What, exactly, in their records are they worried about people seeing?

One detail the organization may be attempting to hide is the wage disparity many relief workers experienced during and after the disaster. Although many of the projects the Red Cross completed at the time qualified as publicly funded projects, numerous workers complained that they did not receive the "prevailing wage" of about $40 per hour or the overtime rate (when applicable) of about $60 per hour. There have also been allegations employees did not receive appropriate holiday or Sunday pay.

Do those wage discrepancies comprise part of the information the Red Cross wishes to conceal?

If you suspect your employer of engaging in unlawful wage practices, or if you have questions about a Hurricane Sandy related wage and hour case, contact the respected New York employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum today at (866) 348-7394 or info@jhllp.com to discuss your legal options.

June 30, 2014

Woman Gets $1,000 Mother's Day Tip at Waffle House Restaurant, but Company Says She Can't Have It!

Our New York tip pool violation attorneys have spilled a lot of "virtual ink" talking about the trials and tribulations that restaurant workers face.

Sometimes, managers "nickel and dime" tipped employees by illegally pooling and then sharing their hard-won tips. Other times, restaurants unfairly confiscate tips (also illegally) to punish. And sometimes, awkward company policy just organically creates heartbreaking hassles.

In this case, fortunately, the story had a happy ending.

A Raleigh, North Carolina waitress, Shaina Brown, received an amazing tip on Mother's Day from an altruistic customer. Ms. Brown had been working the night shift, when an anonymous man left her a $1,000 tip on his credit card. Great news, right? Except that Waffle House refused to let her have the money! A company spokesperson later told the Raleigh News & Observer that Waffle House automatically refunds big extra charges on credit cards to avoid disputes with customers. Unless the big tip was left via cash or check, the waitress couldn't get it.

In this case, Ms. Brown struggled not because managers stole her tip but because sheer bureaucratic inertia stymied her. She told WDTV, a local Raleigh station, that the rescinding of her tip "humiliated" her. It sure sounds like a painful blow -- spontaneously getting and then suddenly losing $1,000 is no small deal.

Fortunately, the altruistic customer heard about her issues with the tip and contacted her to write her a check directly -- a second generous act from the gentleman!

And therein lies the silver lining in all of this.

Bureaucracies and bad managers can prevent restaurant workers from collecting tips and other compensation, but there are "forces of good" in the world that can fight for justice and fairness.

We like to think that some of the work that we've done here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum has helped level the playing field and make life easier/simpler/fairer for our clients. If you have a question about a potential New York wage and hour case, we'd like to hear from you.

Call us now at 1-866-348-7394, or email at us info@jhllp for a free consultation.

June 23, 2014

$10.10 Minimum Wage Soon a Reality!... [for Certain Employees in Certain Situations]

The mainstream media is awash with stories and editorials about minimum wage laws.

Perhaps we're nearing tipping point -- both common folk and politicians are realizing that our arcane minimum wage loss rules need to be up-leveled. People who labor hard should get fair compensation, and wages should keep up with inflation, at a minimum.

Some very interesting noises on this subject have been coming out of the Department of Labor (DOL). On June 12, the DOL's Wage and Hour Division announced that it will go forward with something called a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" (NPRM), designed to hike up the minimum wage for federally contracted employees to $10.10 per hour to comply with President Obama's Executive Order 13653.

The rules and stipulations of EO 13653 are complicated, but here's the gist of who's covered, when, how, why and under what circumstances.

President Obama's order will apply for expiring and replacement contracts closed as the result of "solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2015." Several agreements will need to comply with this new $10.10 minimum wage:

1. The Davis-Bacon Act (DBA) -- procurement contracts for construction.
2. Service Contract Act (SCA) -- service contracts.
3. Some concessions contracts -- for instance, certain contracts that provide services to federal employees or their families.

Obviously, whenever a complex executive order comes down, a complex soup of exemptions and exclusions will create some chaos and confusion. For instance, contracts that must adhere to the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act will not be covered by Obama's new executive order.

So who WILL be covered?

In general Obama's Executive Order 13653 applies to workers who:

• Are entitled to the minimum wage per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
• Employees who, per the SCA, are allowed prevailing wages
• Mechanics and other workers (and their apprentices) who per the DBA, are allowed to collect prevailing wages.

Do you have questions about your minimum wage rights per EO 13653? If so, or if you need help with wage and hour issues, sexual harassment or discrimination, or retaliation, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum at 1-866-348-7394 or email us at info@jhllp for a free consultation.

June 16, 2014

Wage and Hour Lawsuits Against McDonalds, Too: Fast-Food Workers Are Fighting Back

As we mentioned in our last post, wage and hour cases against fast-food restaurants, like Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonalds, have been on the uptick over the past two years.

However, the fast-food industry is, if nothing else, hardy.

McDonalds, for instance, has withstood withering assaults from heath groups, who claim that the restaurant's sugar-laden food causes obesity and diabetes, as well as from minimum wage advocates, who've agitated for years to raise the minimum hourly wage at various fast-food franchises.

However, the tide may finally be turning.

Behemoths like Subway and McDonalds may finally be compelled to change their labor practices and put an end to systemic Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) violations.

President Obama himself even jumped into the ring recently, asking for a raise in the minimum wage, expansion of overtime pay and better education for workers about FLSA laws and regulations.

In March, multiple groups of McDonalds' workers sued for wage theft. These were not isolated rebels, either. They received help from the formidable Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In a move that's undoubtedly unnerved the brass at McDonalds, these suits want to tether the McDonalds Corporation to its franchise owners with respect to liability. If the court finds McDonalds jointly liable, that result could set off a sea change in how fast-food restaurants (like Dunkin' Donuts, Subway, etc) train their managers and store owners. It could even have a positive ripple effect on the behavior of other restaurants.

Let's just speculate: let's say that McDonalds is found to be jointly liable, and the company must pay substantial amounts to current and former workers. The fast-food giant might change its ways, which could then inspire other fast-food restaurants do the same. In that context, other non-fast-food restaurants will still remain "backwards," as far as FSLA compliance goes. They then might find themselves in an awkward position: workers might want migrate from "fine dining" restaurants to places like McDonalds, just so they can get a fair shake!

Ultimately, what we want is a change to industry norms and more fairness for workers.

Unfortunately, there is long way to go. For help understanding your rights under the FLSA or other labor laws, call 1-866-348-7394 or email info@jhllp.com to set up a free consultation with the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team today about your case.

June 9, 2014

How Common Are Wage and Hour Violations at Subway and Other Fast-Food Restaurants?

In a recent expose on Subway wage and hour cases, this blog discussed a deeply disturbing CNN Money analysis, which revealed that the sandwich maker stands accused of 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations committed over the past decade and a half.

The CNN analysis noted that there are 26,000 Subways across the United States -- the highest number of any fast-food chains in the country, including McDonalds. However, the global mistreatment of Subway "sandwich artists" disturbed regulators enough to provoke the Department of Labor to get involved to boost Subway's compliance with FLSA rules.

One Labor Department spokesperson told CNN: "it's no coincidence that we approach Subway, because we saw a significant number of violations."

The CNN analysis found that "a 2009 study by several think tanks estimates that about 18 percent of restaurant hotel workers faced minimum wage violations, 78 percent faced overtime violations, and 74 percent encountered what are known as "off the clock" violations, where the workers are expected to do tasks without being paid."

Common incidents include:

• Employers forcing workers to deduct lunch breaks, even when they don't take breaks;
• Forcing workers to pay for company uniforms. This can be a violation if, after deducting the expense, the worker's hourly rate falls below the minimum wage.

These figures are truly staggering. They must be put in context and understood at deep level.

Many critics of wage and hour firms, like Joseph & Kirschenbaum, say in effect, "you guys are going after practically every business out there. You must be 'lawsuit happy.' You're making it harder for businesses to run effectively and generate jobs."

We want simple fairness: to see restaurants and other business comply more strictly with the FLSA and other labor law guidelines. If only a handful of restaurants engaged in bad practices -- such as making workers work "off the clock" or forcing them to buy their own uniforms -- then maybe such critics would have a point.

However, this independent CNN analysis shows that wage and hour violations are epidemic.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, companies seem to be stuck in the inertia of their old ways. CNN reports: "labor law violation lawsuits are on the rise." It's a shame that these issues often need to be settled with litigation, but that's apparently how industry wants it.

Legal Aid Society staff attorney, Hollis Pefitsch, told CNN: "it's only now that the fast-food industry is getting attention from the private sector, probably because of all the organizing workers speaking out."

And that is why we do what we do -- not just because we want to help our own clients but also because we want to see systematic improvement in the treatment of workers in the U.S.

For help understanding your rights regarding a workplace wage and hour violation, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation case, call the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team today at 866-348-7394, or email us to set up a consultation at info@jhllp.com.

June 2, 2014

Bombarded By Criticism about Health Claims, Subway Also Dinged for [Way] Underpaying Employees

Decades ago, during the height of the low fat diet craze, the Subway sandwich chain proliferated across the nation in short order. Buoyed by powerful marketing messages -- one customer, "Jared," claimed that he lost hundreds of pounds eating nothing but Subway sandwiches -- the restaurant soon became an American institution, competing with fast food giants such as McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's.

However, the last few years have delivered serious bad news for the sandwich maker.

Earlier this year, evidence emerged that Subway had been using a "yoga mat" chemical in its bread. This revelation grossed out thousands of consumers and forced Subway to fight a tough PR battle. Meanwhile, many new books and studies have emerged, suggesting that refined flour and bread (Subway's main ingredients) may be responsible for diverse ills, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even Alzheimer's.

William Davis, author of the bestselling book, Wheat Belly; Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the bestselling book, Grain Brain; journalist Gary Taubes, author of the book, Good Calories Bad Calories; and journalist Nina Teicholz, author of the bestselling, The Big Fat Surprise, all have built compelling cases that Americans really should be eating less bread and instead be stocking up on healthy fats, protein and other "real food."

Adding to the chaos for the sandwich manufacturer... a CNN Money analysis recently found that: "individual Subway franchises have been found in violation of pay out rules [leading to thousands of FLSA] investigations pending from 2000 to 2013."

Combined, Subway shops stand accused of 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations, and franchises have had to reimburse Subway workers more than $3.8 million over the years. That's a significant sum, considering that "many Subway "sandwich artists" earn at or just above the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The Labor Department obviously wants to regulate what's happening in Subway (and at other fast food joints, including Dunkin' Donuts and McDonalds). However, the franchise model adopted by these stores makes regulation difficult. If Subway were structured like Wal-Mart, regulation would be much easier. However, Subway franchisees are in many ways considered independent business owners. So regulators have a hard time getting Subway operators to clean up their practices, en masse, and adhere to FSLA norms.

If you or someone you love works at a fast-food restaurant -- or any business -- that has underpaid you or subjected you to harassment, discrimination, retaliation, the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum wants to know. Call us now at 866-348-7304, or email us at info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.