Helping New Orleans’ Workers Recover Stolen Wages

TakePart’s profile of the workers who came to help rebuild New Orleans 10 years ago and who remain, despite wage theft and discrimination. Their story is very much the heart of the Workplace Justice Project and the Wage Claim Clinic and is still an essential element of the landscape for low-wage workers in New Orleans.

Hector Carnero Mendoza in May 2015, inside a house he was helping to renovate. He says a previous employer owes him $2,000. (Photo Ben Depp)

http://www.takepart.com/feature/2015/08/17/new-orleans-wage-theft-katrina-reconstrutction

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.”

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“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.

Pay Stubs for All

The goal: Paystubs for All Workers.

“Although most workers receive paystubs, as many as 20 million U.S. workers do not receive paystubs that outline how their pay is calculated or what deductions were taken from their wages. 

“There is no federal requirement that employers give workers paystubs. Often, workers who don’t receive paystubs are victims of wage theft, cheated of the pay they legally earned. A Paystubs for All regulation would require employers to provide workers with the information that they are already required to keep and would help deter wage theft. Without paystubs for documentation, workers have difficulty proving wage theft.
 
“Interfaith Worker Justice and many worker advocates around the country are encouraging the U.S. Department of Labor to issue a simple regulation that all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must receive paystubs.” Read more here about what you can do.  

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

Janitorial Services Executive Speaks Out Against Worker Misclassification

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In April, Professional Janitorial Services Executive Don Dyer delivered testimony to the Texas House Business and Industry Committee, which is studying what more lawmakers might need to do to combat the problem of Misclassification and how prevalent this problem is in the janitorial industry.

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What is Employee Misclassification?

Certain corporations have chosen to cut corners and pad their profits by misclassifying their workers as “contractors” when they should have been classified as “employees”.  Employee misclassification is explicitly against the law, yet because of weak enforcement mechanisms there are virtually no tangible consequences for violating the law.  This oversight has opened the doors to a whole host of unethical practices including wage theft, tax evasion, and employee exploitation.

According to Dyer, negative impacts also include an unethical cost advantage of 30-40% by janitorial companies who misclassify their workers, the evasion of federal income taxes, Social Security payments, Medicare payments, and unemployment taxes, and the hiring of undocumented workers since they are the easiest to exploit and intimidate.

Read his full testimony here. 

Low-Wage Workers Are Robbed More Than Banks, Gas Stations And Convenience Stores Combined

“Low-wage workers are robbed far more often than banks, gas stations and convenience stores combined — and the perpetrators are their own employers.

“That’s because many employers don’t abide by minimum wage laws or pay overtime, according to a study, released on Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.”

“And low-wage workers most likely cannot pay a lawyer to sue their employer for the wages that are rightfully theirs, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey said in an interview with The Huffington Post. A fast-food worker shorted, say, $300 isn’t going to find a lawyer who thinks such a small amount of wages is worth his or her time.”

Read the full story at the Huffington Post here. Volunteer with the Wage Claim Clinic to help workers get their wages back!

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Sports Bar Chain Agrees to Pay $6.8 Million for Violating Wage Laws

“A popular chain of sports bars based in Philadelphia has agreed to pay $6.8 million in back wages and damages for improperly taking tips from waiters and bartenders and for violating minimum wage and overtime laws, the Labor Department announced Thursday.

“The department said that Chickie’s & Pete’s, which has nine sports bars in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, illegally underpaid and took a percentage of tips from 1,159 servers.”

Read the full story on the NYTimes website here.

Do you work for tips? Is your employer paying you correctly? If you aren’t sure, visit the Department of Labor website here or call the Workplace Justice Project at 504-861-5571.

Elevations Shoring Workers Recover Overtime Wages Owed

 

On April 19, 2012 the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, issued a press release that it reached an agreement with Elevations Shoring LLC, for the Kenner company to pay $430,956 in overtime back wages that the company failed to pay to workers it misclassified as “independent contractors.”  The WJP referred the claim to the DOL in September 2011, after an Elevations Shoring worker sought legal services at the Wage Claim Clinic.

Read more at the U.S. Department of Labor website here.