Articles Posted in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York employment lawyers, restaurant owners, and employees throughout the country are watching with baited breath as pivotal litigation unfolds against McDonald’s. The civil rights suits filed against the fast food giant stem from employee complaints over workplace bullying, which claimants allege took place after they requested higher pay and better working conditions. The allegations include discrimination, threats, and reduced hours for broaching the subject of better wages and working conditions.

The media has called the suit the “fight for $15,” a reference to a push from labor advocates to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour. Currently, the minimum wage in New York is $8.75. While New York’s rate is technically above the federal standard for minimum wage by 55 cents, critics say this $8.75 figure is woefully inadequate to cover living expenses in New York City, even for those who work 40-hour weeks.

The fast food corporation is attempting to pawn the claim off on franchisee owners, but it appears that intense litigation may be headed for McDonald’s corporate office. That litigation is expected to begin in March, and case watchers believe it will likely lead to a long legal process.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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:

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.

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