July 23, 2014

NYC Mayor de Blasio defiende del proyecto de ley de salarios predominantes

El 6 de junio, el Alcalde Bill de Blasio dejó caer una reciente demanda que buscaba bloquear la ley del salario prevaleciente de la ciudad de Nueva York. Él ahora está trabajando con la corte del estado para aplicar la ley.

El concejo municipal aprobó el proyecto de ley, que habría aumentado los salarios de los trabajadores de la construcción en los desarrollos que recibieron $ 1 millón o más de los subsidios de la ciudad. Sin embargo, el ex alcalde Michael Bloomberg, después de intentar infructuosamente de vetar la ley, presentó una demanda para bloquear su implementación. En ese momento, el alcalde Bloomberg argumentó ese proyecto de ley que obligaría a las empresas a ir a otro lugar.

Aunque los opositores de la ley del salario prevaleciente argumentan prestamistas y arrendatarios minoristas va a evitar que los proyectos subsidiados por la ciudad, muchos resultados positivos también sean propensos a resultar. Los posibles beneficios de la decisión de de Blasio incluyen:

1. Mejores condiciones de vida para los trabajadores de bajos ingresos, como conserjes, trabajadores de la construcción, y guardias de seguridad.
2. Una mejor economía en la ciudad debido a la mayor capacidad de gasto de estos individuos.
3. Puestos de trabajo más atractivo para los trabajadores de la construcción, lo que resulta en una bolsa de trabajo más competitivo.
4. Establecer un precedente para las empresas en otras industrias a seguir.

Independientemente de su profesión o de los ingresos, todo el mundo tiene derecho a los salarios y condiciones de empleo justas y legales. En virtud de la Ley de Normas Justas de Trabajo (FLSA), los trabajadores poseen una gran variedad de derechos, y los empleadores tienen ciertas responsabilidades para con sus empleados.

Cuando los empresarios se involucran en tácticas ilegales, como la clasificación errónea de empleados, la asignación de "fuera de hora" de trabajo, o el pago de personal menos del salario mínimo, los trabajadores pueden recurrir a un abogado de empleo de Nueva York para ayudarles a hacer valer sus derechos. El equipo de Joseph & Kirschenbaum posee un profundo conocimiento de los requisitos de la FLSA, y trabajamos sin descanso para abogar por nuestros clientes.

Experimentar las prácticas de empleo ilegales, como la discriminación, el acoso o violaciones de salarios, puede ser frustrante para los trabajadores, pero usted no está solo. Póngase en contacto con nuestra oficina hoy al (866) 348-7394 para saber cómo podemos poner nuestra experiencia a trabajar para mantener a su empleador responsable.

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 16, 2014

Balance entre trabajo y su vida: CEO de PepsiCo dice que es un mito

Es el "balance entre su trabajo y su vida" meramente una fantasía para los trabajadores estadounidenses? Un número creciente de profesionales piensan que sí.

Indra Nooyi, CEO de PepsiCo, habló recientemente en el Festival de Ideas de Aspen en relación con las dificultades de ser un alto ejecutivo y un padre. Como profesional que habitualmente trabaja hasta la medianoche, Nooyi emplea la ayuda de los abuelos de sus hijos para ayudar a criar los.

Contrariamente al ideal que muchas madres que trabajan se esfuerzan hacia todos los días, Nooyi no cree que "las mujeres pueden tenerlo todo." Ella cita a el hecho que los años que las mujeres pasan crianza de los hijos son los mismos años en los que se debe trabajar hacia puestos de dirección.

Las mujeres no son los únicos afectados por el equilibrio mito de la vida laboral. Padres como Elon Musk de Tesla lucha con la forma de distribuir su tiempo entre la familia y la carrera, a veces depender de niñeras o canguros para dar la mayor parte de la crianza de sus hijos.

Además de las limitaciones que enfrentan los padres trabajadores en el hogar, sino que también tienden a experimentar inconvenientes en el trabajo. Tener hijos significa inherentemente mayores gastos de vida de las familias, sino de tomar tiempo libre para dar a luz o cuidar de ellos puede resultar en la pérdida de salarios. Los empleadores también pueden mostrar preferencia sutil hacia los empleados que ponen mayor prioridad en sus puestos de trabajo que en sus familias.

Aunque un número creciente de empleadores están ofreciendo acuerdos de trabajo más flexibles para ayudar a los padres que trabajan instituir un mejor equilibrio entre la vida y el trabajo, la discriminación basada en la situación familiar de un empleado como el embarazo todavía sucede. Para entender sus derechos y protegerse contra las prácticas ilegales, familiarizarse con la Ley de Normas Razonables de Trabajo (FLSA), y la Ley de Licencia Familiar y Médica (FMLA), y las leyes estatales y federales, la ciudad de Nueva York en relación con el embarazo y la discriminación estado civil.

Si tiene preguntas sobre sus derechos o responsabilidades de su empleador en virtud de la ley estatal y nacional, en contacto con un bufete de abogados de empleo abogado con experiencia en Nueva York, como Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP al (866) 348-7394 o al info@jhllp.com. Nuestros abogados altamente calificados tienen una riqueza de conocimientos sobre la legislación laboral, y pueden ayudar a determinar si un juicio es necesario o factible.

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 9, 2014

¿Qué es lo que la Cruz Roja no quiere que sepamos acerca del socorro para el huracán Sandy?

Huracán Sandy, la tormenta que azotó la costa este durante un año y medio atrás, sigue afectando a las familias y los individuos, algunos de los cuales todavía necesitan ayuda urgentemente. Sorprendentemente, una de las agencias de ayuda más ilustres del país no puede ser la asignación efectiva de recursos de socorro.

De acuerdo con un informe reciente, la Cruz Roja ha sido menos de próxima con respecto a cómo se gastó más de $ 311 millones a la agencia planteado a raíz del huracán de 2012. Cuando la fuente de noticias sin afán de lucro ProPublica ha presentado una solicitud de Libertad de Información (FOIA) para aprender sobre el uso de la organización de ayuda de los fondos de ayuda de Sandy, la Cruz Roja contrató rápidamente a un bufete de abogados para ayudar a bloquear la petición.

La Cruz Roja afirma que ciertos aspectos de sus registros financieros califican como "secretos comerciales", que pudiera suponer un daño potencial a la organización si se hace público. La Cruz Roja afirma haber invertido - o se han comprometido a pasar - $98 millones en trabajo de casos y asistencia individual y $33 millones de dólares en productos de alivio y $50 millones en vivienda, $ 94 millones en alimentos y refugio, y $25 millones en vehículos de emergencia y de atención médica. Si esas asignaciones sucedieron, entonces ¿por qué esta la organización de ayuda frenando? ¿Qué, exactamente, en sus registros, están preocupados acerca de la gente que las ve?
Un detalle de la organización puede estar tratando de ocultar es la disparidad salarial muchos trabajadores de socorro experimentaron durante y después del desastre. Aunque muchos de los proyectos de la Cruz Roja ha completado en el momento calificaron proyectos financiados con fondos públicos, muchos trabajadores se quejaron de que no recibieron el "salario prevaleciente" de alrededor de $40 por hora o la tasa de horas extra (en su caso) de alrededor de $ 60 por hora. También ha habido denuncias de los empleados no recibieron apropiadas vacaciones o pago de domingo.

¿Esas discrepancias salariales comprenden parte de la información de la Cruz Roja quiere ocultar?

Si usted sospecha que su empleador de incurrir en prácticas ilegales de los salarios, o si tiene alguna pregunta sobre un salario de Huracanes de arena relacionados y estuche horas, póngase en contacto con los abogados de empleo de Nueva York en Joseph & Kirschenbaum hoy al (866) 348-7394 o al info@jhllp.com para discutir sus opciones legales.

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.

May 26, 2014

Music Interns at Time Warner Allowed to File Class Action

Up to 3,000 interns who worked for the company Warner Music have banded together to demand compensation, per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The lead plaintiff in this case is a young man named Kyle Grant, who interned for Warner Brothers' Records (a subsidiary of Warner Music Group) in 2012 and 2011. Grant interned 10.5 hour days and allegedly did work that a company would normally pay employees to do. He and his fellow plaintiffs argue that WMG's internship program violated the FLSA.

Were Grant and his fellow interns misclassified? Should they have been considered employees? Or should they have been considered "trainees," for the purposes of the FSLA? If the latter, they might not deserve compensation.

Over the past few years, two different intern cases have turned out very differently.

As we reported a few months ago, Fox Entertainment Group recently lost its intern class action suit -- an action very similar to the one that Grant et al are bringing. However, Marie Claire, Harpers and Cosmopolitan all successfully defended a similar FLSA class action by demonstrating that their interns were "trainees."

The 2nd Circuit is considering appeals in both cases, the results of which will undoubtedly have a big influence on what will happen in the WMG suit.

District Judge Paul Gardephe recently ruled that notice should, indeed, be sent out about the WMG class action. The judge ruled narrowly, meaning that he didn't considering the merits of Grant's arguments. Rather, he just said that the collective action should go to the next phase.

The battle over the future of American internships is heating up, so expect more headlines in the weeks and months to come. For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities recently filed an amicus brief in the Fox Entertainment Group case. Some companies have already capitulated to intern demands, rather than risk getting dragged into costly litigation.

The Elite modeling company, for instance, agreed to pay out nearly half a million dollars to interns in a recent settlement.

For help understanding your rights under the FLSA or New York Labor Laws - or for assistance with your harassment, discrimination, whistleblower or retaliation case - call the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team today at 866-348-7394, or email us at info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.

May 19, 2014

How Much Is Too Much to Settle a Sexual Harassment or Wage and Hour Case?

What's the definition of an "excessive" verdict in a sexual harassment or wage & hour case?

$10 million? $10 quadrillion? How about... $2 undecillion?

The Joseph & Kirschenbaum New York wage and hour and sexual harassment blog has covered pretty egregious cases over the years. And our team has fought and won on behalf of many thousands of employees subjected to awful workplace conditions ranging from barbaric harassment to slow, chafing "nickel and diming." However, like all sensible people, we believe that damages should fit the bill. Damages should be appropriate -- not wildly excessive, and certainly not impossible excessively. Our goal is the maximum possible recovery for each and every client, but outrageous demands result in lost credibilty and a lower or at best delayed recovery.

Not everyone feels that way, however.

A man named Anton Purisima has filed a suit again Au Ban Pain, claiming "civil rights violations, personal injury, discrimination on natural origin, retaliation, harassment, fraud, attempted murder, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy to defraud."

Those are some pretty serious charges. So how much does Mr. Purisima want? He wants $2 undecillion dollars.

In other words, he wants $2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Let's put that amount in perspective. First off, it dwarfs all the money on Earth - and then some - by a lot.

Mr. Pursima is not the first person to ask for impossibly excessive damages. In 2008, a Katrina victim sued for $3 quadrillion (an amount equal to 200 times the U.S. GDP). In 2010, one miffed customer sued Bank of America for $2,000 quadrillion million dollars.

But the Au Ban Paid lawsuit is truly in a different league.

The www.xkcd.com blog recently humorously put that number in perspective. (Hat tip also goes to blogger, Kevin Underhill, who first reported about the suit.)

According to the XKCD analysis, the "estimated economic value of all goods and services produced by humanity since we first evolved" is only equal to $2.4 quadrillion - far short of the 2 undecillion goal. In fact, says XKCD "an entire earth of solid gold wouldn't be enough... the sun's weight in platinum wouldn't be, either."

XKDC noted the hourly rate of Solicitor General, Ted Olson is $1,800 an hour. So what would happen if everyone on Earth turned into Ted Olson? And what if the approximately 40 billion habitable planets in our galaxy also were replete with 7 billion Ted Olsons? And what if all those Ted Olsons across the galaxy worked 80 hour weeks, 52 weeks a year, for a thousand generations? Per XKCD, their total legal bill would STILL be 40,000 times less than the damages requested by the plaintiff.

Of course, humor aside, if you or someone you love has questions about a sexual harassment or wage and hour case, the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum would be happy to provide a free consultation. If we accept your case and you choose to retain us, expect credible and agressive represention. Call us now at 866-348-7394.

May 12, 2014

What if 99.3 Percent of American Women Suffered Sexual Harassment (Like Women Do in Egypt)?

Many Americans don't think "that much" about sexual harassment these days. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, even the term "sexual harassment" may sound hoary -- recalling the culture war days of the early 1990s and bringing to mind nostalgic images of Nirvana concerts, the falling Berlin Wall and the Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential election.

However, sexual harassment is alive and well in many American workplaces, and it still exacts a tremendous psychological toll on the women and men who experience it. Statistics suggest that this behavior is still way-unreported. Many female and male employees who suffer through it also fall victims to employment problems like overtime violations, tip pool violations, discrimination and retaliation. They fall silent because they don't understand their rights or know how to protect them in the judicial system.

Nevertheless, American workers definitely have it better than workers in other parts of the world -- parts of the world like Egypt. Consider a shocking 2013 United Nations report, "Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women," which found that the vast, vast majority of the female population in Egypt - 99.3 percent! - claim to have suffered sexual harassment.

On April 10, CNN reported on this systematic set of outrages in an editorial "Is Egypt in the midst of a sexual harassment epidemic?" The article gave the account of a woman named Habiba (not her real name), who "recalls the day a group of men chased her down the street. 'Come on! You know you want to,' they shouted at her, while making lewd gestures... finally she ducked into a pharmacy but found no refuge inside. No one in the pharmacy did anything to help me despite my pleas, they just want me to leave," Habiba said. Habiba says the men wouldn't leave, but after two hours like this, she got tired of waiting. So she ran. Fast. 'I was so afraid that one of them would touch me... you just don't forget something like that,' she said."

Incredibly, Habiba says this kind of thing happens to her daily.

So what's going on in Egypt? According to Colonel Manal Atef, a high level minister working on violence against women issues, the problem isn't so much protective laws (or lack thereof) but rather it's the fact that women who suffer abuses don't report them.

Egypt's National Council for Women (NCW) researcher, Naglaa Al-Adly, echoed that sentiment and told CNN reporters "the problem is very difficult, because the women and girls themselves don't take action for these assaults. They feel ashamed." Although Atef's unit has made some progress -- training four female officers to manage "crimes of sexual harassment" -- Al-Adly says this is but a drop in the bucket. Four officers obviously cannot patrol 86 million Egyptians.

It's well outside the scope of this blog to surface and understand the complex dynamics going on in Egypt, but the CNN story does show that systematic sexual harassment and abuse can happen anywhere. Women in Egypt (and here in the United States) often suffer because they don't know how to access or utilize help.

If you or someone you know needs assistance with a sexual harassment case, please call the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum at 866-348-7394 immediately for a free consultation, or email us at info@jhllp.com.

May 5, 2014

Obama's Proposed Changes to Overtime Rules - Two Perspectives (Part 2)

In last week's post, we discussed the USA Today Editorial Board's support for President Obama's push to raise the overtime salary threshold. The USA Board's perspective on the proposal was by and large positive, but Obama's political opponents have not been pleased. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, overtime threshold push opponent, Andy Puzder, raised some impassioned points in his piece, "Obama's Overtime-Pay Boomerang: The New Rule Hurts the Very Managers Climbing the Ranks It Claims to Help."

If you read last week's post, contrast Puzder's language and ideas with what the USA Today Editorial Board wrote. Here is how Puzder framed the problem: "President Obama on March 13th signed an order directing the Labor Department to expand the class of employees entitled to overtime pay. Currently, if a salaried employee makes more than $24,000 a year, and he is part of the management -- if he manages the business, directs the work of other employees, and has the authority to hire and fire -- that employee isn't exempt from overtime coverage. The President wants to raise the salary threshold, perhaps as high as $50,000, demoting entry level managers to glorified crew members by replacing their incentive to get results with an incentive to log more hours."

Puzder's rebuttal to the idea of raising the threshold back to 1975 levels can be boiled down to the opening sentence of his third paragraph: "rewarding time spent rather than time well spent won't help address [the problem of inequality in United Sates]."

Puzder writes that the loss of overtime is actually not a bad thing -- in fact, it can be a good thing. "What [workers] lose in overtime pay, they gain in stature and a sense of accomplishment that comes from being a salaried manager... so many crew members aspire to be managers."

It's certainly an intellectually interesting argument. But appreciate the source! Mr. Puzder is no objective observer -- he is an active stakeholder in the debate, since he serves as the Chief Executive Officer of CKE Restaurants, a megalithic company that owns major fast-food chains, like Hardee's and Carl's Jr. This fact alone does not mean that he shouldn't have the right to talk about the overtime issue or that he lacks insight into it. However, it does highlight how it's important to think critically not just about editorial arguments on their face value but also the source and possible biases of the editorialists.

While we all certainly want to workers to be rewarded for spend time well - and to create systems and structures in the economy to encourage hard work and reward merit - this doesn't change the basic fact raised by the USA Today Editorial Board that "the salary level has been hiked only once in last 39 years... and that move recovered only a fraction of what had been lost to inflation since last time it was raised."

Moreover, Puzder's position also fails to acknowledge and deal the fact that "the current overtime threshold - $23,660 a year - is below the poverty line for a family of four."

The moral, if there is one, is that it's always important to read and carefully consider both sides of debates like the one over the White House's overtime threshold push. Doing so will make you a smarter thinker; it will expose you to new ideas; and it will help you come up with more nuanced positions and avoid dogmatism.

For help with your New York wage and hour case or other employment issue (e.g. harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblower, etc.) call 866-348-7394 to set up your free consultation with the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team, or email us now at info@jhllp.com.