Articles Posted in Wage and Hour Claims

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.

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.

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.

The New York Times recently ran a provocative story that speaks to what motivates our New York employment lawyers to get up every morning and do what we do.

The story highlighted the differences between the lives and lifestyles of Danish fast food workers and fast food workers here in the United States. Believe it or not, if you work at a Danish Burger King, you can earn $20 an hour. Even though the cost of living in Denmark is higher than it is in the United States, this much higher hourly wage allows fast food workers in Denmark to pay their rents and mortgages, support their families, and live decent lives.

Hampus Elofsson, a 24 year-old Danish Burger King worker, explained: “You can make a decent living here working at fast food…you don’t have to struggle to get by.”

As New York City employment lawyers who are deeply concerned with the rights and fair treatment of workers, we nevertheless obviously respect our country’s capitalistic economic institutions. Our society’s view of what’s “fair” is always evolving. Today, the rallying cry “equal pay for equal work” is accepted as obvious common sense. But not long ago, it was considered a radical notion. In fact, in many countries around the world today, it still is.

Even though we’ve come a long way, however, we have farther to go, as Elianne Ramos discusses eloquently in a guest blog post she recently wrote on the official blog of the U.S. Labor Department: “Latinas and Their Families Can’t Afford Unequal Pay for Equal Work (Para Latinas la Desigualdad Salarial Cuesta Mucho).”

Ramos reports that Latinas have made major strides over the years in terms of participation in U.S. politics, higher education and small business operation. However, she warns that “when it comes to pay equality, we seem to be perennially stuck at the bottom of the barrel.”

Contact Information