The Case Of The Missing Wage Thief

Four years after winning a lawsuit demanding $1.5 million in back wages and damages from the restaurant that employed them, none of the plaintiffs have seen any of the money. “Countless immigrants in the restaurant industry work long hours for illegal wages. And even when they get a court of law to rule in their favor, they very rarely see a penny of the money that was taken from them.” The owner shut down his restaurants and “disappeared like a ghost.”

/buzzfeed news

/buzzfeed news

 

 

 

 

“Cao’s story is both strange and ordinary… At every job, Cao worked 11 or 12 hours a day, six days a week. He was paid flat wages that never added up to more than $1,300 a month, always in cash, and with no such thing as overtime pay… Wage theft is an everyday occurrence in American restaurants, especially for workers like Cao. The Restaurant Opportunity Center’s study of the industry in eight major cities across the country found that 46% of workers reported overtime violations, one of the most common ways of skirting wage laws. As for New York City, the National Employment Law Project estimated in 2008 that there are overtime violations in 75% of the city’s restaurants.”

Read more here.

Tipped subminimum wage leads to more sexual harassment

“Workers who rely on tips to make a living experience twice as much sexual harassment as those earning minimum wage. Laws that allow employers to pay tipped workers below the minimum wage lead to increased sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new report, which shows that female restaurant workers who virtually live off tips are in a ‘uniquely vulnerable position.’

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry 

Glass floor, a term coined by ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Commission), refers to a system that exacerbates the already poor job security of low-wage workers by layering on a sexualized atmosphere. If workers feel expendable at their workplace, they are more likely to ignore sexual harassment, the report said. Researchers found that tipped workers in states where subminimum wage is permissible are three times as likely to be told to wear sexier or more revealing clothing than those where such payment practices are barred. The United States is the only industrialized democracy that has a two-tiered minimum wage.” Read more here.  

Jimmy John’s asks low-wage workers to sign non-compete clauses

Jimmy John’s employment agreement includes a surprisingly strict “non-competition” clause that requires workers not to work at one of the sandwich chain’s competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John’s — But the company’s definition of a “competitor” encompasses any business that’s near a Jimmy John’s location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches. 

If you're considering working at a Jimmy John's sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

If you’re considering working at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

The noncompete agreement is now part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed this summer against Jimmy John’s by workers accusing the company of wage theft by forcing employees to work off the clock. Read more about the case here

N.J. woman with three jobs eulogized as face of low-wage worker

“A New Jersey woman died earlier this week trying to catch a few hours of sleep between jobs, a chilling reminder of the struggle low-wage workers, particularly women, face making ends meet. Fernandes worked at multiple Dunkin’ Donuts locations. Dunkin’ Donuts confirmed that the outlets where she worked were owned by different franchisees and that the different owners didn’t know she was working at multiple restaurants. Fernandes worked as little as 10 hours a week at one franchise and as many as 40 hours a week at another.” With a minimum wage of $8.25/hour in New Jersey, full time work at 40 hours a week would gross an employee $330. 

“It is a very sad story and really tragic, and it shines a light on what is a real problem, particularly for low-wage workers, today,” said Elizabeth Watson, senior counsel and director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center.

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“Fernandes, 32, died while napping in a parking lot in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on Aug. 25. She was apparently overcome by fumes from a gas can she kept in her car to be sure she wouldn’t run out of fuel on her way to her part-time shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts stores in three different New Jersey towns.”

Read more about this story and why American women make up a large percentage of the U.S. low-wage and part-time workforce here or here

NLRB ruling in favor of McDonald’s Workers

“On July 29, 2014 the NLRB ruled that McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food corporation, which in 2012 earned $27.5 billion and banked $5.5 billion in profits, can be held jointly responsible for unfair labor practices and wage violations made by its franchise operators.”

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald’s restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

McDonald’s fast food workers first dared to strike in November 2012, asking for higher wages. “But when the stores retaliated by firing workers, cutting their hours, arranging inconvenient schedules or otherwise punishing them, the workers took their cases to the NLRB.” The NLRB has ruled that McDonald’s the company, not the franchises which account for 90 percent of its 14,000 stores in the U.S., is responsible as the parent corporation and as a joint employer.

“Unions immediately applauded the ruling, seeing an opening to help them organize workers at all fast food and retail franchises and in many job categories — like janitors, warehouse truck drivers, airport workers and those at dry cleaners and car dealerships — that rely on subcontractors and temp agencies. The ruling is a boon to the Service Employees union, which has worked tirelessly for several years to organize the 4 million fast food workers in this country.”

Read more of this story by Workers World here

How feel-good companies are navigating the minimum-wage fray

“Companies that wish to project a progressive image for their brands for being environmentally friendly or supporting organic farming represent an equally important social barometer for pay equity,” says Michael Santoro, professor of business ethics at Rutgers University.

Robert Caplin | Bloomberg | Getty Images Workers fill orders inside a Starbucks in New York, U.S.

Robert Caplin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers fill orders inside a Starbucks in New York, U.S.

 

“Can brands that cater to conscious consumerism extend their value proposition to help workers earn a living wage?” asks Santoro, who wrote about the widening disconnect between Main Street and Wall Street in his book, “Wall Street Values.” He added, “The days of grooving to your iPhone and not caring that a worker manufactured that phone in a substandard factory are over.”

Read more here

More than 100 arrested: Protesters seeking higher pay for McDonald’s workers swarm fast-food chain’s corporate office near Chicago

“Police on Wednesday arrested more than 100 demonstrators seeking better pay for McDonald’s workers as protesters swarmed the fast-food chain’s corporate campus near Chicago to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to unionize. The latest protest against McDonald’s Corp, the world’s biggest restaurant operator by revenue, came a day ahead of a shareholder vote on executive pay, including that of Chief Executive Don Thompson, who earned total compensation of $9.5 million in 2013.

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets near the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill on Wednesday (BEV HORNE/AP)

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets near the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill on Wednesday (BEV HORNE/AP)

“Frequent rallies by low-wage restaurant and retailer workers have helped fuel a national debate on pay inequality at a time when many middle- to low-income Americans are having trouble making ends meet.”

Read more here

The Minimum Wage Loophole for Waiters and Waitresses

“As it stands, only seven states require employers to pay tipped workers the same minimum wage as nontipped workers. The federal minimum wage for the latter is $7.25, but the federal minimum wage for tipped workers has remained stagnate at $2.13 since 1991, with no adjustment for inflation. Employers are supposed to make up the difference if tipped workers aren’t earning the regular minimum wage through their tips, but it doesn’t always happen. The Economic Policy Institute found in 2011 that tipped workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to fall under the federal poverty line.

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“The Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which Obama endorsed, would have gradually raised tipped workers’ minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. But the bill has faced steep opposition from Republicans and the restaurant lobby. According to Open Secrets, the National Restaurant Association, which opposed the minimum-wage hike, spent more than $2.2 million on lobbying last year.”

Read more here

Fast-food worker strike goes global

“Workers from dozens of countries on six continents are joining the push for higher pay and worker rights, it was announced Wednesday at a press conference outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Midtown Manhattan by Fast Food Forward, which represents U.S. fast-food workers.

“The group announced nationwide strike plans for May 15 — a date which mirrors the $15 per hour pay they are demanding. On that same date, workers from dozens of countries on six continents will hold protests at McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC outlets. It is not known how many workers will strike, but thousands of the nation’s estimated 4 million fast-food workers are expected to take part in the one-day strike.”

Read more here. Where will you be eating, or not eating, on May 15?

 

Restaurant Industry Pay: Taxpayers’ Double Burden

“New report shows that while restaurant executives are fighting living wages for their workers, they’re also benefiting from tax subsidies for their own pay. Major restaurant chains have come under increasing criticism for paying workers so little that they need to rely on public assistance. What’s less well known is that taxpayers are also subsidizing these corporations’ executive compensation.”

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Find the full report here.