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Maxim Healthcare Has Second Unpaid Overtime Class Action Lawsuit

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law, Unpaid Overtime on November 19th, 2013

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., Has Two Unpaid Overtime Class Action Lawsuits

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc, a corporation that provides in-home personal care, management and/or treatment of a variety of conditions by nurses, therapists, medical social workers, and home health aides is facing two separate class action lawsuits.

Both lawsuits allege Maxim failed to pay salaried employees for overtime compensation when those employees worked more than 40 hours a week.

One of the lawsuits, filed by a salaried healthcare recruiter working from an office location claims Maxim illegally did not pay him and “similarly situated” individuals overtime compensation for work that was not exempt from that requirement and that this action was in direct violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This lawsuit seeks to certify a class of similarly situated Maxim employees including all current and former salaried recruiters, including healthcare recruiters, homecare recruiters, staffing recruiters and senior recruiters, who were employed by Maxim Healthcare Services Inc. at any time during the past three years.

Second Unpaid Overtime Class Action Lawsuit Against Maxim Healthcare

The second lawsuit is an employment class action lawsuit filed by Jasmine Lawrence, who was formerly employed as a Home Health Aide for Maxim.

Lawrence alleges that Maxim Healthcare Services Inc, violated, and continues to violate, the Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act, because of its failure to compensate her and the class members at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for work performed in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.

Lawrence claims she regularly worked over 70 hours per week while employed by Maxim and that the majority of her time was spent performing general housekeeping duties as opposed to patient care, the job she was hired to do.

Lawrence also alleges that she and the members of the putative class who are employed by the Defendant in Ohio are “employees.”

Though overtime laws vary among states, they typically require employers to pay overtime-eligible employees an amount above their standard hourly rate for every hour worked above the established threshold in each state. The act of circumventing this requirement is a common cost-cutting method for some businesses as is requiring that employees continue working after clocking out for the day.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Quetico Ordered to Pay $1.3 Million in Wage- and Hour- Law Violations

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on November 4th, 2013

California Labor Regulators Have Ordered Quetico to Pay Overtime, Penalties, and Other Compensation for Wage Violations

California state labor regulators have ordered Quetico, a warehouse and distribution company that receives and distributes shoes, apparel and electronic goods for big-box retailers, to pay $1.3 million in overtime, penalties and other compensation for wage-and hour-law violations.

State Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su’s investigation of two Quetico facilities revealed that the company enforced restrictive procedures that shortened workers of their wages.

Because there were only three available clocks in the facilities totaling half a million square feet in size, employees had to go to work early to stand in long lines to punch time cards.

The commissioner’s office found employees also were denied legally required 30-minute lunch and rest breaks because they had to stand in the same long lines. Allegedly, workers who complained about the punch card situation and the unpaid wages that resulted from the lost time received disciplinary memos and suspensions.

“Wage theft takes many forms,” Su said. “My office will crack down on any employer who is taking hard-earned wages from workers by falsifying time cards and systematically preventing employees from taking a full meal break. We are also intent on eliminating the competitive advantages that labor law violators gain over employers who play by the rules.”

Quetico plans to appeal and disagrees with conclusions reached

Quetico said in a statement that it plans to appeal and that it “strongly disagrees with the conclusions reached” by the labor commissioner. “The notion that Quetico systematically prevented employees from receiving the wages and benefits to which they are entitled under California law is outrageous, misleading and false.”

Warehouse Workers United is a labor union-backed group that has been campaigning to highlight alleged labor abuses at Inland Empire distribution centers used by Walmart Stores Inc., Puma, and Levi Strauss & Co., and other retailers. According to the group Quetico’s warehouses also have been cited by state agencies for safety violations in the last year.

“Many of the problems that we commonly see in Southern California warehouses are concentrated at this warehouse,” said Guadalupe Palma, the group’s director.

Quetico workers first raised concerns last year with an arm of Warehouse Workers United. Subsequently they filed complaints with the labor commissioner’s office.  The office said it has received assurances from Quetico’s management that the company would change its practices on time card, rest break and disciplinary policies.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Back Pay for Unpaid Minimum Wages for Immigrant Workers

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on November 1st, 2013

Collecting Unpaid, Minimum Wages, for California’s Immigrant Workers

According to a report titled “Hollow Victories: The Crisis in Collecting Unpaid Wages for California’s Workers,” thousands of mostly immigrant workers who are employed to perform minimum- and low-wage jobs won monetary judgments against their employers but were never paid.

The report by the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Labor Center concludes from 2008 to 2011, only 17% of court-ordered claims for back pay and labor law penalties were collected. Even after judges signed orders and employers signed settlement agreements only 42% — $165 million out of $390 million — was recovered. Meanwhile, companies representing three-fifths of unpaid-wage judgments legally vanished.

“Businesses are dissolved, licenses canceled, and it’s very hard for workers to get their money,” said Eunice Cho, a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project and coauthor of the report.

Avoiding penalties for court-ordered back wages

Avoiding court-ordered back wages and penalties is the result of an unregulated underground economy that involves cash payments for goods, services, and labor. According to a decade-old study by the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles public policy research organization, more than a quarter of Los Angeles County workers are paid in cash.

For each of the 27,000 legally registered janitorial companies there are two to three underground firms, said the Maintenance Corporation Trust Fund, a nonprofit group that helps victims of wage theft.

“The lowest bidder gets the contract,” said Lilia Garcia, the fund’s executive director. “The way the irresponsible business gives the lowest bid is by breaking state wage and hour laws, not paying taxes and not paying workers’ compensation insurance.”

Advocates for low-income workers are backing a proposed bill named the Fair Paycheck Act in hopes they’ll be able to collect judgments more speedily before potential scofflaw employers can switch their identities and avoid paying employees. The Act, introduced in the Legislature, AB 1164, by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), would slap a wage lien on an employer’s property in order to ensure assets are available to settle any unpaid wages after a judgment is rendered.

The measure ran into opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which added the proposal to its list of “Job Killer” bills. It has been stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Other business trade groups and chambers of commerce have criticized the proposal, saying it “would cripple California businesses by allowing any employee, employee representative or the Labor commissioner to file super-priority liens on an employer’s real property … for an alleged, yet unproven wage claim.”

Lowenthal intends to revive her bill next year.

“AB 1164 is about fairness,” she said. “Every Californian deserves to be paid the wages they are due.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit Filed Against McDonald’s

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on October 24th, 2013

McDonald’s shaved hours off of employees’ time cards

In the latest of unpaid overtime lawsuits popping up nationwide, one of the most recent is recently filed class action lawsuit alleging that McDonald’s is tampering with shift records in an effort to cut costs. Allegedly more than 12 McDonald’s restaurants in New York — all owned by the same person — have shaved hours off of employees’ time cards.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Schuyler is at the forefront of these unpaid overtime lawsuits that target Ralph Crawford, a successful McDonald’s franchise owner. The alarms went off when Crawford began requesting alarmingly high time punch changes. Suddenly, hundreds of employees’ overtime hours were changed to eight-hour shifts. But Crawford might not be the only one to blame.

While Crawford was the person actually physically changing the time cards, the class action lawsuit claims that the McDonald’s corporation encouraged it.
Allegedly, a manager is alerted with a warning message on the time card management screen when an employee works overtime, scaring the managers into changing the records since being paid time and a half isn’t conducive to making money.

“Time Shaving” a regular practice at McDonald’s

Schuyler was told by his supervisor that “time shaving” was a regular practice at McDonald’s. When he checked other employees’ time records he was shocked to find managers were regularly erasing one full hour from employees’ shifts. According to the lawsuit, when he realized what was happening, he complained and as a result was demoted and then fired.

Schuyler was given $1,000 to make up for his lost hours. When the time shaving continued, he complained again — this time to Crawford directly.

Following a meeting between Crawford and Schuyler, Schuyler consulted a wage and hour attorney and filed a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s along with the support of hundreds of employees. The case alleges that McDonald’s tampers with time sheets and forces employees to work through breaks.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.peterlawfirm.com

Home Care Aides Now Covered Under Wage and Overtime Law

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on October 22nd, 2013

Wage protections for nearly two million home care workers

The Obama administration recently announced that home care aides would be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, thus extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers who care for the elderly and disabled.

According to industry experts most of these aides are already paid at least the minimum wage, but many do not receive a time-and-a-half overtime premium when they work more than 40 hours a week. Currently, about 20 states exclude home care workers from their wage and hour laws.

Some industry officials are claiming the changes would cause increases in Medicaid and Medicare spending, and raise costs for families that use these services, thus resulting in fewer jobs for home care workers.

Andrea L. Devoti, chairman of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, said the higher costs resulting from the new rule would lead many people to hire home care aides part time rather than full time. “Caregivers will in the end receive less pay,” she said.

15 states now provide overtime and minimum wage protection

Ms. Fortman of the administration’s wage and hour division said 15 states now provided overtime and minimum wage protection to home care aides. “We have not seen any evidence that it has resulted in job loss or any serious negative impact for the workers or for the people using the services,” she said.

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement, “Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home.”

The administration announced the change 21 months after first proposing the rule and after having received 26,000 public comments. Many labor advocates criticized the administration for the time it took to issue its final rule. Labor Department officials responded that reviewing the comments and holding related public meetings took time.

Even though regulations usually take effect 60 days after being issued, the administration said the new regulation would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, in order to give families that use these attendants, as well as state Medicaid programs, preparation time.

Peter K. Levine

A Professional Law Corporation

www.employmentforall.org

The Increasing Number of Wage and Hour Lawsuits

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on October 13th, 2013

“Wage and Hour” Lawsuits

According to a recent analysis of data by the Federal Judicial Center, “wage and hour” lawsuits in which workers are taking their employers to court over unfair pay have skyrocketed 432 percent in the past twenty years.

The research (conducted by the law firm Sayfarth and Shaw on behalf of the Federal Judicial Center) shows that it jumped 10 percent in just the last year.

An Increase in Lawsuits, But why?

The law firm concludes this increase might be a result of the economy picking up steam as well as “social media,” and the public’s inclination to post their grievances to Facebook, Twitter, etc… An increased number of lawyers are now looking to bring awareness and sensitivity to these issues.

But advocates of workers are more apt to claim a different reason: the inability of the Department of Labor (DOL) to properly ensure employers are in compliance with the law. As a result of the DOL’s lack of resources, workers have had to turn to courts to ensure they are paid fairly.

According to Cathy Ruckelshaus, the legal co-director for the National Employment Law Project, “The employers were emboldened because there wasn’t enforcement, so the violations increased. There was a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of violations.”

According to ThinkProgress, while all wage and hour lawsuits involve a dispute over how much money a company owes to an employee, the suits typically fall into three sub-categories:

1. Hourly employees claiming they weren’t paid for all of the hours worked,

2. Salaried workers claiming they’re owed overtime,

3. Employees working for the tipped minimum wage claiming they didn’t make enough in tips to bring their pay up to the minimum wage rate.

But the economic downturn might also be to blame as employers were able to squeeze more out of workers concerned with keeping their jobs in an environment of high unemployment.

According to an April 2012 report from the Wall Street Journal S&P 500 companies made an average of $420,000 per employee in 2011, a full ninth more than in 2007.

“When the recession first hit, employers felt even more emboldened to violate the law because there was high unemployment and we rely on workers to complain,” Ruckelshaus said.

Bank of America and Taco Bell were hit with lawsuits

Companies such as Bank of America and Taco Bell were hit with lawsuits alleging they owed employees money during the recession and recovery. Patricia Sloan, a shift manager at Taco Bell is one such employee that has filed a lawsuit against her employer for overtime pay violations.

In her case, Sloan is claiming that managers were sometimes denied pay for their employee attendance, and that they were also forced to adjust time cards in order for the company to avoid paying overtime. If Taco Bell is found to be in violation they could be ordered to pay overtime back wages as well as penalties for their noncompliance to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

According to Ruckelshaus, the boost in lawsuits could be good news for employees because it sends a message to employers that they have to comply with laws, or face the consequences.

“The idea is that employers make decisions that don’t violate the law because they figure ‘we better not do this because we’re going to get caught,'” she said.

http://www.peterlawfirm.com

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Pizza chain Manny & Olga’s accused of wage theft

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on October 2nd, 2013

Claims of illegally low pay

Jose Luis Ormeno, a former kitchen worker at pizza chain Manny & Olga’s has filed a lawsuit that accuses his employer of wage theft. Ormeno is claiming long hours and illegally low pay while working at the late-night takeout chain.

The suit, filed in federal court, alleges Ormeno was cheated out of more than $12,000 in pay. According to Ormeno, for the first six months of his employment, he worked an average of 81 hours per week for a mere $5.32 per hour, nearly $3 below the D.C. minimum wage of $8.25.

Ormeno claims that regardless of how many hours he worked he was paid a flat rate of $420 and later $360 per week. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most hourly workers are entitled by law to minimum wage as well as time-and-a-half for overtime worked over 40 hours per week. Ormeno says in the lawsuit that later on in his employment at the chain he earned the legal D.C. wage of $8.25 per hour, but that rate was paid only for “straight time.”

Unpaid overtime exceeds $5,000

According to the lawsuit his overtime claims for a six-month period alone amount to more than $5,000.

The lawsuit states, “Plaintiff complained to Defendants about his excessive work hours and the manner in which he was paid… “Plaintiff has made
Defendants aware that they are in violation of the FLSA; however, Defendants refused to respond.”

In addition to the $12,286.79 he’s seeking in back pay, Ormeno is also asking for $24,573.58 in damages.

Domestic Worker Bill of Rights Approved by State Legislature

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on September 19th, 2013

Could mark a huge step forward for domestic worker rights

The California State Legislature has approved a bill, “AB-241,” also dubbed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, that could mark a huge step forward for domestic worker rights in the state and could make California the second state in the nation after New York to pass such a bill.

Introduced by Democratic Assembly member Tom Ammiano, the bill guarantees overtime pay for domestic workers who work more than nine hours per day or 45 hours per week.

“Growing up, I saw first-hand how hard domestic workers labor without basic worker protections that most of us take for granted,” said coauthor Senator Kevin de León in a press release about the passing. “My mother worked her fingers to the bone cleaning other people’s homes. I’m proud to be a coauthor for this long-overdue measure which will end the historic exclusion of this industry from overtime pay.”

The Senate has approved the bill with amendments 22-12, with the Assembly approving the changes shortly after. Governor Brown now has until October 13 to sign the bill.

Should Brown sign it, he will then convene a committee to review the success of the bill. Lawmakers will have three years to make it permanent.
Brown killed a similar bill last year, arguing that it would place an extra burden on employers, particularly with low-income, elderly or disabled individuals who need constant care.

Senate version focuses on overtime pay for workers

Initially AB-241 included other worker rights, such as meal breaks, sick days and workers’ compensation. The amended version created by the Senate focuses strictly on overtime pay.

“We obviously believe these workers should have all of these rights, but the overtime is by far the most important element we were looking for,” explained Ammiano Communications Director Carlos Alcalá. “We’re happy to go forward with the bill as it is.”

The bill has seen support across the state. In March, hundreds of housekeepers, child-care providers, as well as other domestic workers marched in protest of worker’s rights.

Ammiano’s office said that the bill “rights a historic wrong.”

“Senate passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is one more step in a movement to make sure these workers get the kind of labor protections they deserve,” wrote Ammiano. “This movement is taking place all over the country and won’t be over until domestic workers rights are spelled out in every state. When this bill gets final approval and signature, California will be a leader in that movement.”

Overtime Wages: Personal Assistant To A Pop Star

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on September 13th, 2013

Available throughout each hour of the day

A onetime roommate and friend of Lady Gaga (listed in the litigation under her birth name – Stefani Germanotta) is claiming that she was cheated out of her overtime wages after serving as the pop star’s personal assistant for more than a year.

The judge, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe said both sides agree she was expected to be available as needed throughout each hour of each day. Gardephe ruled that Jennifer O’Neill’s “on-call” time potentially qualifies for overtime compensation.

Gardephe noted that lawyers said Lady Gaga and O’Neill frequently slept in the same bed while on tour because O’Neill was required to address Lady Gaga’s needs throughout the night, and thus never had her own hotel room.

“Every day is a work day for her, so every day is a work day for the rest of us,” she said. “There is no, ‘We’re going to stay in, we’re going to sleep.’ There is no, ‘Let’s put on sweatpants and go out to the movies and be girlfriends.’ It doesn’t work like that,” O’Neill said.

“You don’t get a schedule”

In her deposition testimony, Lady Gaga had testified: “You don’t get a schedule. You don’t get a schedule that is like you punch in and you can play … at your desk for four hours and then you punch out at the end of the day. This is when I need you, you’re available.”

O’Neill testified she was responsible for sometimes monitoring the singer’s email and telephone communications and for handling all her luggage – generally 20 bags – including clothing, accessories, makeup and toiletries. She was also responsible for making sure that “special food” was available at every location and for Gaga’s schedule.

She said she assisted with costume changes during performances and was responsible afterwards for arranging ice packs, tea and a shower, along with dinner and an exit from the venue.

The judge noted that the women met after Lady Gaga moved into O’Neill’s apartment building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan before 2008, when they became roommates and friends. O’Neill was offered a position as her personal assistant because they were friends and she had experience in the music industry, court papers said.

As with all cases, it will be up to a jury to decide whether Gaga’s demands left Jennifer O’Neill any personal time or whether she was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as she is claiming.

San Francisco Giants Pay Thousands in Back Wages

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on September 10th, 2013

Violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act

Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants have paid nearly $545,000 in back wages and damages to 74 clubhouse and administrative employees for violations of minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping laws after the Department of Labor investigated the team’s practices regarding pay for their clubhouse and administrative workers.

The investigation from the Wage and Hour Division found that, over three-year time period, the team violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping laws.

The employment agreement for clubhouse workers stipulated that they would make $55 for working 5.5 hours a day. According to the investigation they were actually working 12 to 15 hours.

It was found that the club also improperly classified some employees in a way that enabled them to avoid paying overtime. And they failed to pay overtime, or paid too little overtime to some administrative staffer.

“I am encouraged that the Giants acted to resolve this issue, but it was disappointing to learn that clubhouse workers providing services to high-paid sports stars weren’t making enough to meet the basic requirements of minimum-wage law,” Susana Blanco, the director of the San Francisco District Office of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, said in a statement.

“The San Francisco Giants worked cooperatively with the Department of Labor in conducting a comprehensive review of our payroll records to identify and address any possible issues of concern,” said Staci Slaughter, a spokeswoman for the Giants. “The matter was resolved and reported on several months ago.”

The Giants entered into an agreement with the DOL to ensure future compliance with the law. The DOL will also work with Major League Baseball to ensure that all other teams are complying with these laws.

This settlement comes at a prominent time for wage theft issues. Claims of wage theft have increased 400 percent since 2000. More than two-thirds of low-income workers have experienced wage theft violations according to a 2009 report.

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