The U.S. Department of Labor should investigate alleged wage theft by Chipotle Mexican Grill, says U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. restaurant1

The burrito chain, which last year grappled with a host of food safety problems, is now facing down allegations from 10,000 current and former workers who have joined a federal lawsuit alleging the company failed to properly pay them for the hours worked.

If the allegations are true, DeLauro said, this would be a direct violation of federal law, and would fall under the purview of the DOL. If the agency were to launch an investigation, regulators would have the power to impose federal fines.  Continue reading

Age discrimination is something we’re going to be seeing a lot more of in the coming years, as older generations are working longer and in more highly specialized fields. As of 2016, nearly 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are working. Some do it because they want to continue their contributions. Others do it because they have no other choice. The traditional pension that workers traditionally leaned on to sustain them in their 60s and well into their 70s just isn’t an option for most workers anymore.computer1

And then there are those like JK Scheinberg, who detailed his recent confrontation with age discrimination. He’s a former software engineer at Apple who retired at age 54 after 20 years of working at the firm. In fact, he was credited with leading the effort that moved the Mac to Intel processors.

Scheinberg explained to a New York Times reporter recently how, feeling a bit restless in his retirement, he sought a job at the Apple Genius Bar. For those unfamiliar, this is where customers can take their Apple computers when they are having difficulties or glitches.

Fox News announced it settled with former Anchor Gretchen Carlson – and a “handful” of other women – each of whom had filed lawsuits alleging former CEO Roger Ailes had sexually harassed them. Carlson alone received a $20 million payout.tvstudio

The station’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch and his sons, was the one that paid the settlement. Employment law experts know that the size of Carlson’s compensation is among the largest-known settlements issued for a single plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit. We say “known” because many of these settlement agreements are confidential. In fact, at least two other women who were part of the sexual harassment investigation settled too, wishing to remain anonymous. Still, Ailes himself received a $40 million payout when he exited the company. He will not have to pay any of the $20 million settlement to Carlson or the other women, despite the fact that the lawsuits were originally against him personally.

Also rather unusual: 21st Century Fox issued an apology – a public one at that – to Carlson. She had filed the lawsuit over the summer, alleging Ailes removed her from the popular show and slashed her pay when she refused to have a sexual relationship with him. The apology statement conceded that Carlson was not treated with the respect and dignity she was owed.  Continue reading

A popular Bay Area restaurant chain is facing down accusations of California wage violations for failure to properly pay its kitchen staff, according to media reports. The workers accuse the company, Burma Superstar, of:

  • Failing to pay minimum wage;
  • Denying workers overtime pay;
  • Refusing workers breaks;
  • Wrongly refusing workers sick leave. asianfood

The chain is famous for its tea leaf salad, which has become wildly popular in recent years. The kitchen staffers say they prided themselves on doing a good job and worked hard to make the chain successful. The fact that they were denied fair wages was an affront not just to their finances, but to the loyalty and dedication they had shown to the job.

Workers are now pursuing class action status for the lawsuit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court. Plaintiffs are asking for back wages, attorneys fees and other penalties. Continue reading

A new report on Caregivers in the Workplace, published by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, explores the ways in which family responsibilities have long been a source of workplace discrimination, and how the legal landscape is changing. father1

The report refers to this type of illegal action as “family responsibilities discrimination,” and it stems from an employer’s unwillingness to allow workers to tend to caregiving duties – i.e., pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood care for family members who are sick or have disabilities and caring for aging or ill parents. The report was based on information from 4,400 family responsibilities discrimination cases.

What researchers are finding in many of theses instances is that employers still don’t seem to understand what their obligations are. They don’t get workers’ rights, they don’t understand what family responsibility discrimination is and they aren’t taking the time to learn how they might be liable for it.  Continue reading

A wage theft lawsuit filed by former employees of Wahlburgers, a restaurant chain opened by actor Mark Wahlberg and two of his brothers, alleges the chain illegally withheld wages and tips. restaurant1

The restaurant chain was founded by the actor and his brothers, Donnie and Paul, five years ago and is at the center of an A&E reality television series. Paul, who is a chef, oversees day-to-day operations at the restaurant.

A class action lawsuit asserts that management at the New York Coney Island branch, which opened its doors last fall, was the site of “rampant wage theft and violations of federal and state employment laws.” Specifically, it is alleged the restaurant paid workers for fewer hours than they worked. Also, when they worked overtime, they were not paid time-and-a-half, as required by federal law. Finally, the restaurant is accused of unlawfully forcing servers to pool their tips to share with non-tipped staffers in the kitchen. The “back of the house” staff were paid regular wages, while “front of the house” servers received the minimum wages allowable for tipped workers (considerably less), without meeting the strict criteria that would enable an employer to apply that tip credit. The workers also assert that following a private event held for the cast of Blue Bloods, starring Donnie Wahlberg, the restaurant wrongly withheld the $3,000 tip left by the cast.  Continue reading

A former executive assistant to the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi has filed a gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against her former boss, accusing the married father of having simultaneous affairs with her and the city attorney and others. The gender discrimination lawsuit alleges plaintiff was fired after ending the relationship, and accused the mayor of firing at least two other city employees who refused the mayor’s sexual advances. officewoman

The mayor has vehemently denied the allegations, calling the allegations both “vicious” and “scandalous,” citing this as “egregious character assassination” that was politically motivated.

Although it was no secret the mayor had previously been unfaithful to his wife (he wrote about it in a book and conceded it during a newspaper interview), the issue here is whether alleged relationships with subordinates created a hostile work environment for those employees. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that while the relationship with her supervisor was consensual, she suffered career setbacks after ending it when she reconciled with her husband. First, he began doling out benefits to other workers over here. Then, she alleges, he forced her to continue the relationship by “making it clear” that he intended to terminate her if she refused to further engage in a sexual relationship.  Continue reading

The federal government has filed a lawsuit alleging a major airline company breached a pilot’s employment rights by refusing to provide sick leave when he was called to serve on active duty for the U.S. Air Force. airforce

The Air Force Reservist, a lieutenant colonel, reportedly sought to use some of his sick leave to compensate for the time he had to take off work during his deployment from December 2012 to March 2013. According to the U.S. Justice Department, United Airlines Inc., based in Chicago, refused to credit the pilot for his leave, even as it extended this benefit and leave time to other workers. This was in direct violation of the USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

The measure was passed specifically with the goal of making sure members of the military aren’t returning from active duty to civilian life to find they have been deprived of certain employment benefits.  Continue reading

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has a reputation for leaning pro-employer in work-related disputes. So the recent decision in Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises came as a bit of a surprise – and its effects could be far-reaching. gavel7

The case upends the standard that the circuit has followed the last 20 years for determining discrimination in the workplace. Prior to this case, the court had held an employee plaintiff could prove discrimination in just one of two ways:

  • Direct. That means providing the court with some type of direct evidence of discrimination.
  • Indirect. This is providing the court with circumstantial evidence of discrimination, such as a pattern of actions (or as it sometimes called, a “convincing mosaic”).

Each method requires a series of tests, and the Seventh Circuit noted frustration with the legal wrangling that had to be done just to properly navigate these tests. This “convincing mosaic” as a legal standard was so confusing, the court wrote, that justices vowed any ruling based on that phrase is going to be subject to summary reversal.  Continue reading

A federal judge in California has refused to accept a proposed $100 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against ride-sharing service Uber, which is accused of misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors when they are, in fact, employees. drive7

The U.S. District judge in his order stated that the settlement was just 10 percent of what the drivers’ lawyers estimate the company would have to pay in legal fees. Plus, it only accounted $1 million for state penalties that could easily pile up to more than $1 billion. In light of these facts, the judge wrote, the settlement proposal was not fair to the workers, and neither was it reasonable or adequate.

It’s unclear what this and other cases are going to mean for the future of the company. The company’s fast-paced growth and low prices are contingent on the fact that it doesn’t have to pay its drivers fuel reimbursements or offer health insurance. But the company’s profitability is not the concern of the courts. The issue is whether more than 385,000 workers in California and Massachusetts (the parties to the lawsuit) were cheated out of these employee benefits by being wrongly classified. They argue the company had enough control over their day-to-day activities to be deemed employees – not independent contractors.  Continue reading