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Although the Department of Labor (DOL) is not a governing body, it is a government agency that has been charged with protecting American workers from employers who might try to take advantage of them. Because it is not part of the legislative branch of government, the DOL cannot make laws, but it can make rules. But a question that often arises is whether those rules are enforceable.

The specific rule in question this time is one in which the DOL raised the minimum salary a worker must be paid before they can qualify for the overtime exemption under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA put the salary limit at $23,660 per year, but that was more than ten years ago, and under the Obama administration, the DOL more than doubled it to $47,476 per year.

The new rule faced massive opposition from 21 states and numerous business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which filed a lawsuit against the DOL, claiming the department did not have the authority to either create or enforce such rules. The rule was supposed to go into effect on December 1, 2016, but the week before, a federal judge filed an injunction against the rule.

The injunction was meant to be a temporary measure by which the court could gain more time to consider the dispute. But since the court still has not reached a final decision on the matter, what are employers supposed to do in the meantime? Continue reading

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Considering how much time and resources Google devotes to collecting data from its users, it seems odd for the tech giant to claim a request for data on how they compensate their employees is overly burdensome.

Google had taken on millions of dollars in federal contract work before it was selected in September 2015 for a mandatory equal opportunity compliance evaluation in regards to the company’s government contracts. Because there are federal laws in place that require employers to pay all their workers equally and fairly (regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.), the Department of Labor (DOL) maintains an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which ensures the companies performing contract work for the government are abiding by the federal compensation laws.

Google has refused to provide the relevant data pertaining to how it pays its employees, claiming the vast amount of information requested would require too much time and money for them to compile all the data. Google claims the information the DOL is requesting comprises more than 1.3 million data points and hundreds of thousands of pages of information. It also alleges much of the data the DOL is requesting is not relevant to how Google compensates its employees and to provide it would be to compromise the confidentiality of their workers. Continue reading

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There are several reasons a judge can deny class certification to a group of plaintiffs, but ruling on their claims is not one of them. A California trial court judge recently dismissed a class of plaintiffs, denying their allegations that their employer did not provide them with proper rest breaks or compensate them accordingly for missed breaks.

The proposed class consists of current and former employees who worked as dispatchers and EMTs for the ambulance company, American Medical Response West (AMR). According to the lawsuit, the ambulance company allegedly maintained a rest period policy in which employees were still on call during their rest periods.

The problem with that policy is it violates California Labor law, which states all hourly, non-exempt employees are entitled to one, uninterrupted rest break, lasting at least ten minutes, for every four hours they work. Any time an employee misses one of these breaks or gets interrupted, that worker is entitled to one hour’s worth of wages, in addition to all their normal wages, tips, bonuses, etc. earned that day.

AMR argued that, by allowing their employers to take rest breaks when they were on call, they were essentially granting them the equivalent of an off-duty rest period. The trial court judge agreed and refused to grant the plaintiffs class certification. Continue reading

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Although the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay all their workers no less than the standard, federal minimum wage (currently set at $7.25 per hour) the FLSA does provide exceptions to that rule. One of those exceptions covers employees who receive tips by working directly with customers. This category most commonly includes servers and bartenders, but it can also include barbers, drivers and delivery personnel, depending on their employment situation.

Because tipped employees are expected to receive most of their compensation directly from the customers they work with, the legal minimum wage for tipped employees is just a fraction of the standard minimum wage, although the FLSA does require employers to make up the difference if the combination of wages and tips earned by tipped employees is less than the standard minimum wage.

In order to prevent employers from taking advantage of the lower minimum wage for tipped employees, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) requires employers to make sure their tipped workers are spending no more than 20% of their time on un-tipped labor (cleaning, restocking supplies, etc.) If an employee does spend more than 20% of their work hours performing work in which they are not in direct contact with customers, then the FLSA requires their pay to be raised to the standard minimum wage. Continue reading

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Many children have big dreams of growing up to become a professional athlete and get paid millions of dollars to play their favorite sport. For baseball players, the best way to get into the major leagues is by playing in the minor leagues, which acts as a feeder system on which the major league clubs rely to get their newest star players.

But the minor league players don’t see anywhere near the amount of money the major league players make, despite the fact that they work just as hard as, if not harder than, those playing in the major leagues. According to a recent class action lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB), minor league players allegedly worked more than 50 hours a week on a regular basis during the season, and yet some of them were paid as little as $1,100 per month.

The MLB insists the players don’t have a case – that the number of hours each player spent working varies too much to justify a class action lawsuit, and that baseball players don’t qualify as hourly workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Continue reading

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Misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime requirements is bad enough on its own, but the damage done can be compounded when the inaccurate status prevents employees from bringing their grievances against their employer to a court of law.

That’s what happens when employees are forced to sign arbitration agreements, which have become increasingly common throughout all American industries. Having started out as a way for businesses to resolve disputes between each other, companies have increasingly been expanding their interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act to include relationships between businesses and individuals, such as their employees. Most employment contracts now contain arbitration clauses that require workers to use arbitration to settle all disputes with their employer.

There are several problems with this, with the biggest one probably being the fact that arbitration agreements prevent a lot of cases from ever getting a hearing. Because arbitration is not equipped to handle class actions or collective actions, individuals with small claims against their employer don’t have the opportunity to combine their claims in order to justify the costs of filing the complaint. Without this protection, many small claims go unresolved. Continue reading

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Although the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides legal protection and ensures certain rights to hourly, non-exempt workers throughout America, the laws are not so clear when it comes to outsourcing.

As companies continue to downsize their workforce, the work that needs to be done either needs to be covered by the employees who remain on the payroll or outsourced. But when contractors develop close business relationships with their subcontractors, the line between contractor and employer can get blurry.

In a recent collective action against Commercial Interiors Inc. and J.I. General Contractors, the Fourth Circuit Court wrote its own plan for determining when a contractor bears responsibility for the employees of its subcontractor.

The collective action wage and hour lawsuit was filed by a group of employees who installed drywall for J.I. and Commercial. They were legally considered employees of J.I. because J.I. was the one that signed and distributed their paychecks, but they did a lot of work for Commercial. Continue reading

Published on:

Misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime requirements is bad enough on its own, but the damage done can be compounded when the inaccurate status prevents employees from bringing their grievances against their employer to a court of law.

That’s what happens when employees are forced to sign arbitration agreements, which have become increasingly common throughout all American industries. Having started out as a way for businesses to resolve disputes between each other, companies have increasingly been expanding their interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act to include relationships between businesses and individuals, such as their employees. Most employment contracts now contain arbitration clauses that require workers to use arbitration to settle all disputes with their employer.

There are several problems with this, with the biggest one probably being the fact that arbitration agreements prevent a lot of cases from ever getting a hearing. Because arbitration is not equipped to handle class actions or collective actions, individuals with small claims against their employer don’t have the opportunity to combine their claims in order to justify the costs of filing the complaint. Without this protection, many small claims go unresolved. Continue reading

Published on:

Although the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides legal protection and ensures certain rights to hourly, non-exempt workers throughout America, the laws are not so clear when it comes to outsourcing.

As companies continue to downsize their workforce, the work that needs to be done either needs to be covered by the employees who remain on the payroll or outsourced. But when contractors develop close business relationships with their subcontractors, the line between contractor and employer can get blurry.

In a recent collective action against Commercial Interiors Inc. and J.I. General Contractors, the Fourth Circuit Court wrote its own plan for determining when a contractor bears responsibility for the employees of its subcontractor.

The collective action wage and hour lawsuit was filed by a group of employees who installed drywall for J.I. and Commercial. They were legally considered employees of J.I. because J.I. was the one that signed and distributed their paychecks, but they did a lot of work for Commercial. Continue reading

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As arbitration agreements between employers and their workers become increasingly common, more and more companies are requiring employees to sign the agreements as a condition of employment. This leaves workers in a tough spot because, although they are technically signing the agreement of their own free will, for those who are in desperate need of a job the option to sign an arbitration agreement or continue looking for work isn’t much of a choice at all.

Tania G., a former warehouse worker for Michael Kors, filed a class action wage and hour lawsuit against her former employer for allegedly denying her and other warehouse workers minimum wage, overtime pay, and regular breaks throughout the day, as required by both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California labor law. Michael Kors had the suit moved to federal court and is now trying to get it banned from the courts altogether and moved into arbitration in accordance with an arbitration agreement Terry G. allegedly signed as part of her employment contract. Continue reading