Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, American workers have suffered a steady erosion of rights guaranteed to “employees” under federal labor laws.
But Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh took a step this week to reverse the trend.
Walsh said he wants to make it easier to classify gig workers as employees so they are entitled to a “safety net” of basic protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In other words, he wants to stop employers from classifying workers as independent contractors simply to avoid paying minimum wage, holiday and overtime pay, etc.
Walsh said he will not enforce a rule adopted by the Trump administration that would have made it harder for employees who are wrongly classified as independent contractors to demand their right to be treated like employees.
1 in 6
Gig workers represent a rapidly growing segment of the American workforce due to the explosive rise of app-based services like Uber, Airbnb, Fiverr and Task Rabbit.
The ADP Research Institute estimates that one in six “enterprise” workers are gig workers.
Continue reading “A Labor Secretary Who Cares About Labor”
What happens when an individual or group asserts a human right that interferes with another individual or group’s rights and freedoms?
If the disadvantaged group is older Americans, their rights silently slip away.
Earlier this month, a coalition of 55 top U.S. companies called The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative issued a press release touting a “long-term effort” in the Atlanta area to bring jobs to “youth” aged 16 to 24 who are not in school or unemployed. Coalition members made thousands of on-the-spot job offers at a job fair on May 3. Coalition members have held similar hiring events in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle since the coalition’s formation six years ago.
The coalition now says it “aims to hire at least 1 million youth nationally by 2021.”
The problem is that it is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) to refuse to hire workers aged 40 and above because of their age or, alternatively, because they aren’t between the ages of 16 and 24. It also is illegal for a company to adopt a policy or practice that has a disparate impact upon older workers. Clearly, the rights of older workers to be free from invidious age discrimination in hiring have given way … but to what exactly? Continue reading “A Million Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?”
The restaurant industry is taking its cue from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce , which has been a remarkably successful behind-the-scenes lobbyist in the federal court system for years.
The National Restaurant Association has launched a Restaurant Law Center to “protect and advance” the restaurant industry.
In its first action, the Restaurant Law Center has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 2016 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Oregon Restaurant and Lodging et al v. Perez, et al that prohibits employers from forcing tipped employees to share gratuities with non-tipped staff. The Restaurant Law Center wants to void a 2011 rule by the U.S. Department of Labor that was upheld by the 9th Circuit.
The Oregon decision conflicts with an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and creates a split in the federal circuits that can only be resolved by the nation’s high court.
The Restaurant Law Center says it is now “managing” the Oregon restaurant case.
Continue reading “New Federal Court Lobbyist – Restaurant Law Center”
Who is standing up for the rights of American workers?
GOP President Donald Trump and the GOP-led U.S. Congress seem to be determined to eliminate worker rights rather than to expand them. Trump has reversed a bevy of pro-labor measures that former Democratic President Barack Obama enacted on his own without Congressional backing. Meanwhile, workers continue to seethe about mostly Democratic trade policies that sent American jobs to other countries.
Labor unions are barely hanging on, despite the fact that unions pioneered many of the employment benefits that workers take for granted today. In 2016, the union rate for private sector workers was 6.4 percent – down from 20.1 percent in 1983. Organized labor is currently battling a potentially crippling effort by Trump and the GOP to prevent unions from requiring nonmembers to pay representation fees.
It may be an understatement to say that advocacy of worker rights does not appear to be high on the agendas of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and US. Department of Labor.
Under the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama, the EEOC shifted its focus away from filing lawsuits and prosecuting employers who engaged in illegal discrimination. Instead, the EEOC is focused on providing free dispute resolution services to these very same employers. Mediation is often a lousy deal for discrimination victims, who walk away with a pittance to compensate for the loss of a decent job, but it’s always a great deal for employers, who avoid potentially catastrophic fees and damages stemming from a lawsuit. Also, mediation is completely secret so other potential litigants are kept in the dark. Meanwhile, the EEOC has for years ignored one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our day – blatant and epidemic age discrimination in hiring that is particularly devastating to older women, who suffer twice the poverty rate of men in their old age. The EEOC received more than 20,000 age discrimination complaints in 2016; it filed only TWO lawsuits with “age discrimination claims.” Continue reading “Support for American Workers is Hard to Find”
Among the casualties in the Wells Fargo Bank scandal are many employees who were allegedly bullied and fired for refusing to engage in unethical practices.
What has happened to them since the news faded from the headlines points up a new scandal – the lack of any real protection for workers who refuse to engage in illegal acts or who participate in whistle-blowing.
Many of the Wells Fargo ex-workers’ complaints have been pending with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for years without action.
Earlier this year, Wells Fargo paid $190 million in fines to federal and state authorities after acknowledging that its employees covertly opened as many as two million checking and credit card accounts without the customers’ authorization. The bank, which fired 5,300 employees for improper sales tactics over a five-year period, finally changed its practice of requiring workers to meet unrealistic sales goals o Jan. 1.
Many of the fired workers claim they were terminated because they refused to engage in or complained about Wells Fargo’s unethical practices. At least a dozen current and former Wells Fargo workers filed complaints with OSHA; some date back more than a decade.
OSHA finally took some action last month when it ordered Wells Fargo to rehire one whistle-blower, a wealth manager who was not named but who was fired in 2010 after he reported suspected fraud via Wells Fargo’s ethics hotline. OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to pay the ex-manager $5.4 million in back pay, damages and attorneys’ fees. Wells Fargo has announced it will fight the ruling. Meanwhile, the whistle-blower. who filed his OSHA complaint in 2011, said he has been unable to find a new job since he was fired. Continue reading “Wells Fargo Whistle-Blowers Wait for Justice”