Tag Archives: pay

Donning and Doffing: paying for changing “work clothes”?

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide the Donning and Doffing issue as, how does Section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) define “changing clothes.”

In Sandifer v. U.S. Steel, a class of 800 members filed a collective action against U.S. Steel Corp.  The issue on the 7th Circuit Court was whether workers deserved overtime pay for the time spent changing into work clothes and walking from locker rooms to their work site.

The FLSA ordinarily requires that workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked, and time and a half for hours worked over 40 hours in a week.  However, Section 203(o) provides that any time spent changing “clothes” at the beginning or end of each workday may be excluded from working time by the express terms of, or custom or practice under, a bona fide collective bargaining agreement.  In Sandifer, the collective bargaining agreement did not require compensation for changing time.

In this collective action, the class argued that Section 203(o) exclusion was inapplicable because their work attire did not constitute “clothes,” but rather “safety equipment.”  The alleged work clothes in this case included: flame-retardant pants and jacket, work gloves, metatarsal boots, hard hats, safety glasses, ear plugs, and a “snood” (a hood that covers the top of the head, the chin, and the neck).

The district court held that the FLSA did not require compensation for clothes-changing time.  The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  The 7th Circuit explained that the articles seems to be clothing.  The 7th Circuit stated that the articles of clothing were both, clothing and personal protective equipment,

Protection – against sun, cold, wind, blisters, stains, insect bites, and being spotted by animals that one is hunting – is a common function of clothing, and an especially common function of work clothes worn by factory workers.  It would be absurd to exclude all work clothes that have a protective function… and thus limit the exclusion largely to actors’ costumes and waiters’ and doormen’s uniforms.  Remember that the section covers not only clothes-changing time but also washing-up time, and workers who wear work clothes for self-protection in a dangerous or noxious work environment are far more likely to require significant time for washing up after work than a waiter.”

(emphasis added).

In addition, the 7th Circuit relied heavily on the fact that the collective bargaining agreement did not imply that workers were to be compensated for the time spent changing into work clothes, and washing up and changing back.

via Courthouse News Service.

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Filed under Appellate, civil rights, courts, employment, labor, legal decision, Supreme Court, union, wage

Misclassification of workers and the DOL’s take on it

Labor Employment Perspectives reports on a possible change that the Department of Labor (“DOL”) regarding classification of workers.

DOL suggests that it may push forward changes to the record keeping requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) regulations.  These changes will bring to the forefront issues relating to the misclassification of workers as independent workers when they are, in fact, employees.

On January 11, 2013, the DOL requested comments on a public survey designed to look at worker classification and determine the workers’ knowledge and understanding of employment laws and rules regarding basic laws and misclassification.

The DOL states,

The purpose of this study is to design and administer a new survey to collect information about employment experiences and workers’ knowledge of basic employment laws and rules so as to better understand employees’ experience with worker misclassification…..

The data collection effort with this group will gather information about workers’ employment and pay arrangements and will measure workers’ knowledge about their current job classification, and their knowledge about the rights and benefits associated with their job status.

As a backdrop, in 2010, DOL commissioned a study, which found that 10% to 30% of audited firms for state unemployment insurance had one or more of its employees misclassified as independent contractors.  In the fall of 2010, the DOL proposed a change to the regulations regarding record keeping designed to “enhance the transparency and disclosure to workers of their status as the employer’s employee or some other status, such as an independent contractor…”

In other words, the regulations, if passed as suggested in 2010, would require employers to inform workers of whether they are (1) employees, (2) independent contractors, or (3) other status.  Currently, the law does not require this.

Given their renewed interest, as evidenced by the public survey focused on worker classification, FMLA regulations may change.

 

via Right-to-Know Regulations May Move Back to the Forefront; Time to Check If You Have Misclassified Your Workers! | Labor & Employment Law Perspectives.

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Lower pay for related care givers struck down

Minnesota Lawyer (Dec. 24, 2012, subscription required) has an interested article regarding Minn. Stat. 256B.0659 (2011).  In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a bill stating that non relative personal care attendants were to receive a pay rate of 80% of the non relative pay.  In other words, relative personal care attendants would receive a 30% pay cut.  In Healthstar v. Home Health, Inc. v. Jesson, the Court of Appeals reversed the Ramsey District Court decision.  The court struck down the statute.

The court held that the statute did not meet the prong of showing that the bill was not manifestly arbitrary of fanciful, but that it must be genuine and substantial.  The court stated that the commissioner’s argument was “based on an assumption that relative PCAs will continue to provide care even if affected by a pay cut.”

The court further stated that “the rationale for the distinction advanced by respondent is based purely on assumptions rather than facts, including the apparently unchallenged assumption that a moral obligation to provide care for a relative necessarily equates to a moral obligation to personally provide such care at a lower rate of pay than a nonrelative PCA would receive for the same work.”

The Court of Appeals also held that the statute did not meet the prong that the classification must be genuine or relevant to the purpose of the law.  The court stated that the commissioner did not show any facts in support of its assumption.

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Wal-Mart Class Action: class not narrowed

I bring to you this legal decision in a sex discrimination class action against Wal-Mart because it provides an example of a class that was not narrowed by the Court.  This is the Dukes case that went up to the Supreme Court to discuss the issue of commonality.  This decision can be found here.

In a 2001 federal complaint led by Betty Dukes, a putative class claimed that Wal-Mart Stores received paid women less and offered them fewer promotions than it offered men in comparable positions.

Though a San Francisco federal judge initially certified a class that would cover estimated 1.5 million women, making it the largest civil rights case in U.S. history, the Supreme Court disbanded that class in 2011 on the basis of lacking commonality. On remand, the plaintiffs filed a fourth amended complaint that seeks to certify a narrower class than that rejected by the high court.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based company responded with a motion to strike the class allegations. It claims that the statute of limitations bars the claims, and that the newly proposed class still fails to meet the commonality requirement.

Denying that motion, the Northern District of California set a deadline of Jan. 11, 2013, for the class-certification motion.  Undeterred, Wal-Mart sought leave to file an interim appeal with the 9th Circuit.

Wal-Mart argued that the Dukes Supreme Court decision should be interpreted as a total rejection of plaintiffs’ theories.  The District Court disagreed.  The District Court held that the Dukes Supreme Court decision rested on plaintiffs’ “inadequacy of their proof.”

The District Court explained:

The Supreme Court’s decision foreclosed claims that delegated discretion -alone- is sufficient to state a common question for purposes of Rule 23.  It does not follow that any time a plaintiff alleges that a company has a policy involving some amount of delegated discretion, the plaintiff is precluded from showing a classwide pattern or practice of discrimination or a common mode of exercising delegate discretion susceptible to classwide relief.  That is why the Supreme Court reached the question whether the plaintiffs had evidence on those points sufficient to establish a common question under Rule 23.

In his conclusion, Judge Breyer denied the interlocutory appeal “on the grounds that (1) immediate appeal would not, at this time, materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation in light of the impending certification motion, and (2) no substantial grounds for difference of opinion exist regarding the commonality issue.”

via Courthouse News Service.

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Median Starting Pay for Associates Is No Longer in the Six Figures; Figure Drops 35% in Two Years

New law grads in private practice are no longer taking home median paychecks in the six figures.

The erosion in BigLaw jobs is depressing the salaries for all class of 2011 law graduates, according to new statistics from NALP–The Association for Legal Career Professionals.

Law grads from the class of 2011 are earning median pay of $60,000, a 5 percent drop from 2010 and a 17 percent drop since 2009. Average pay is $78,653, a 15 percent drop since 2009. The figures are for grads who found full-time employment in jobs lasting at least a year.

The drop in starting pay is even more pronounced when only private practice jobs are considered, according to a press release. Median pay for 2011 law grads in private practice is $85,000, an 18 percent drop from 2010, when the median was $104,000, and a 35 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $130,000. Average pay in private practice is $97,821, a 15 percent drop since 2009.

“This drop in starting salaries, while expected, is surprising in its scope,” NALP executive director James Leipold says in the press release. “Nearly all of the drop can be attributed to the continued erosion of private practice opportunities at the largest law firms.”

Starting pay of $160,000 is still the norm at large law firms, but the share of BigLaw jobs has dropped, putting downward pressure on the median, the press release says. In addition, some large law firms are hiring new grads in staff attorney positions at salaries less than $100,000.

Nearly 60 percent of 2011 law grads who obtained jobs in private practice were working in firms of 50 or fewer lawyers, compared to 53 percent of 2010 grads, and 46 percent of 2009 grads. (The figures don’t include grads in solo practice.) Meanwhile, only 21 percent had jobs in firms of more than 250 lawyers, compared to 33 percent two years ago. The private-firm employment figures include both part-time and full-time jobs, permanent and temporary jobs, and those that do not require bar passage.

Other class of 2011 findings:

• More law grads are going solo. Three percent of all jobs, and 6 percent of law firm jobs, were reported as solo practice. The figures were about half that in 2007 and 2008.

• The number of employed graduates working for a legal temp agency—about 2 percent—is at its highest level since NALP began tracking this kind of job in 2006. In 2009 and 2010, the percentage was about half that.

• Nearly a quarter of employed graduates are seeking a different job. In 2008, the figure was 15.9 percent.

Last month, NALP revealed that only about 65 percent of 2011 law grads were in jobs requiring bar passage, the lowest percentage ever measured by the organization. “Obviously these statistics paint a pretty dismal picture,” Leipold said in the press release. “In many ways the class of 2011 bore the worst brunt of the impact of the recession on the entry-level legal job market, particularly in the large firm market.

via Median Starting Pay for Associates Is No Longer in the Six Figures; Figure Drops 35% in Two Years – News – ABA Journal.

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NLRB launches webpage describing Protected Concerted Activity | NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board today made public a webpage that describes the rights of employees to act together for their mutual aid and protection, even if they are not in a union.

The page, at http://www.nlrb.gov/concerted-activity, tells the stories of more than a dozen recent cases involving protected concerted activity, which can be viewed by clicking points on a map. Among the cases: A construction crew fired after refusing to work in the rain near exposed electrical wires; a customer service representative who lost her job after discussing her wages with a coworker; an engineer at a vegetable packing plant fired after reporting safety concerns affecting other employees; a paramedic fired after posting work-related grievances on Facebook; and poultry workers fired after discussing their grievances with a newspaper reporter.

Some cases were quickly settled after charges were filed, while others progressed to a Board decision or to federal appellate courts. They were selected to show a variety of situations, but they have in common a finding at some point in the NLRB process that the activity that the employees undertook was protected under federal labor law.

The right to engage in certain types of concerted activity was written into the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act’s Section 7, which states that:  “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.”

That right has been upheld in numerous decisions by appellate courts and by the U.S. Supreme Court over the years. Non-union concerted activity accounts for more than 5% of the agency’s recent caseload.

via NLRB launches webpage describing Protected Concerted Activity | NLRB.

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Gender Identity and Paid Sick Leave

 Connecticut also became the fourteenth state (plus DC for a total of fifteen state and state-like jurisdictions) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination 

Connecticut also adopted a bill requiring sick leave to be paid.  Public Act 11-52, An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees 

via AdjuntProf Blog

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