Tuesday, April 29, 2014

You've Been Robbed!

How many of you work past the mandated by law 40 hour work week? How many of you have skipped a break, a lunch or worked over closing time to get stuff done? Ever taken a post it note or pen?

Everyone has and yet you could be violating the law. And yet why you every now and then hear of the employees charged for crimes against the business, you rarely hear of a company being charged with the same offense when it comes to encouraging or expecting one to do so.

When you are not paid for work done you are being robbed. It is called wage theft when one works off the clock and is not compensated for the work done.

The article below by Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post discusses the issue. But there are many many more articles about how businesses often circumvent laws with regards to this issue. Thought it was just for interns, no many full time employees are often placed into independent contract arrangements as ways to avoid taxes, unemployment insurance, OSHA and of course sick leave and vacation time.

With the current economy we are finding that the bulk of the jobs are in fact service jobs and those dominated by the fast food industry. An industry that is under fire for the need of a higher minimum wage, unionizing and of course wage theft. But this includes retail jobs and other service oriented work, such as home health care worker or child care.

A report from the National Employment Law Project found:

New Report: The Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years into the Recovery (April 2014)

This report updates NELP’s previous industry-based analyses of job loss and job growth trends during and after the Great Recession. The report shows that low-wage job creation was not simply a characteristic of the early recovery, but rather a pattern that has persisted for more than four years now.

We find that during the labor market downturn (measured from January 2008 to February 2010), employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries. By contrast, during the recovery (measured from February 2010 to February 2014), employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage industries. Specifically:

•Lower-wage industries constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth.
•Mid-wage industries constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
•Higher-wage industries constituted 41 percent of recession losses, and 30 percent of recovery growth.

Today, there are nearly two million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries.

Service-providing industries such as food services and drinking places, administrative and support services, and retail trade have led private sector job growth during the recovery. These industries, which pay relatively low wages, accounted for 39 percent of the private sector employment increase over the past four years.

So while there is growth it is very linear growth. And despite all the hoopla about STEM jobs and their supposed great growth, much of this is also becoming disconcercting as thier is sudden stagnation with the tech sector and the bloom is beginning to fall from the rose of the valley. This boom and bust will be a small bubble and affect largely the rich. Too bad so sad but as in all trickle down economics the rich love to tout they will spread those faded blooms as compost on an already busting pile of rot or as I call us the "poors."

Annie Lowery in the New York Times Magazine in the article, "If a Bubble Bursts in Palo Alto does it Make a Sound" hypothesizes what appears to be bouncing along the horizon.

So the real people who serve, clean, garden and nanny them will be the ones most hit. And there is nowhere to go but down and out in the Valley. Already out of reach of many average Americans, formerly known as the middle class, the workign poor may find themselves in another bankrupt California city fighting for survival. Maybe that is the plan the real life hunger games.

Catherine Rampell
Opinion Writer Washington Post

Treat wage theft as a criminal offense

Forget raising the minimum wage. How about enforcing the meager minimum already on the books?

Over the past year, low-wage workers and their supporters have protested, struck and polemicized for a raise of some kind, a proposition that has support from the White House and most Americans, if not Republican politicians. But low-wage workers face an even more upsetting affliction that both parties should feel comfortable condemning: Employers are stealing from their employees, often with impunity.

“Wage theft” is an old problem. It can take many forms, including paying less than the minimum hourly wage, working employees off the clock, not paying required overtime rates and shifting hours into the next pay period so that overtime isn’t incurred. Unfortunately, reliable data on the magnitude of the problem are scarce. Workers can be afraid to report the theft for fear of losing their jobs altogether, especially in today’s terrible economy, and many don’t know their rights. Often workers don’t even realize their pay is being skimmed.

Take Ashley Cathey, 25, a six-year McDonald’s employee who participated in a national one-day strike last December. A couple of months later, she got a 25-cent raise, to $8 an hour from $7.75. But something about her next paycheck looked fishy: Her pay seemed short given her raise and new, longer hours. She usually works overnight, and in recent months her shifts have frequently stretched to 12 or 14 hours because her Memphis restaurant has been short-staffed. (Perhaps because its wages are still too low to retain enough employees.)

She asked a friend who is a manager to print out her time sheet and noticed that someone had clocked her out for breaks she never took. Other co-workers spotted hours shaved from their time sheets, too. When employees brought this to the attention of a more senior boss, they were told the wrongly subtracted hours would appear in their next paychecks. Meanwhile, the helpful manager who had printed out the time sheets was reprimanded for sharing official time records with workers and told that he’d be fired if he did it again, Cathey said. Now Cathey keeps a personal record of the hours she clocks in and out.

“I never paid attention before,” she told me in a phone interview. She suspects that someone has been doctoring her hours for years, but she doesn’t want to endanger her manager friend’s job by asking for help obtaining proof. Even without proof she is convinced: “They’re hiding something, obviously,” she said.

This is not a one-off accusation. In the past few weeks, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman extracted settlements from dozens of McDonald’s and Domino’s locations around the state for off-the-clock work. Last month, workers in California, Michigan and New York filed class-action lawsuits against McDonald’s alleging multiple charges of wage theft. These suits have upped the ante by implicating the McDonald’s corporation, not just individual franchisees, in bad behavior. The plaintiffs allege that McDonald’s corporate office exerts so much control over franchisees — including by monitoring their hourly labor costs through a corporate computer system — that it had to have known what was going on.

“It doesn’t take a company dictating the specific method for violating the law in order to obtain those violations,” Michael Rubin, an attorney with Altshuler Berzon LLP who filed the California suits, told me. “If you keep coming with this directive that labor costs must be lowered, there are only a finite number of ways that can be done, most of which are unlawful. The lawful ways get exhausted quickly.” (McDonald’s said in a statement that it is “undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations.”)

These cases aside, wage theft mostly goes unreported. Workers who do report the stolen wages to authorities — lately, at the urging of national labor campaigns such as Good Jobs Nation — can wait months before an investigation is resolved, even though they probably need the missing money to pay their next electricity bill. (This has been the case with fast-food workers employed by government contractors at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, who filed a wage-theft complaint with the Labor Department last summer.) The consequences for wage theft are rare, small and not particularly deterring. Even when government investigators pursue these complaints, for example, criminal charges are rarely filed.

Harsher penalties, including prison time, should be on the table more often when willful wrongdoing is proved. Thieves caught stealing thousands of dollars from someone’s home can go to jail; the same should be true for thieves caught stealing thousands of dollars from someone’s paycheck.

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