Category: Workers’ Rights

Sophie the Employment and Labor Robot

The poster girl for the future isn’t a high profile model or an Oscar award winning actress. She isn’t an activist or a touring musician. She isn’t even human. Meet Sophie and her crew, robots who are being designed to enter the work force and prevent any unlawful violations of the labor code that a human might accidentally do.

La Trobe Business University Business School in Melbourne Australia and Japan based NEC Corporation first broke this story over a year ago about Sophie. Sophie and her robot friends Charles, Matilda, Betty, and Jack are being trained and created to conduct workplace interviews and will replace common Human Resource employees.

Sophie is designed to perform within the confines of the law and not ask any questions that may be conceived as discriminatory or unlawful. At the same time, she can read an interviewee’s emotional reactions to questions and their own answers by monitoring change  in facial expressions or pulse.

The university assures that Sophie will not replace humans entirely in the interviewing process, as companies are encouraged to maintain human interviews for later stages in the hiring process and for the hiring decision.

The issue in California is that Sophie’s ability to read someone’s physical reaction to emotion responses may be construed as an unlawful lie detector test. Also, in California, there is a two-party consent law for audio/voice recording. How will we get around that with Sophie?

Who knows what the frontier of labor law has in store since robots are now a part of it.

Source: California Lawyer Magazine

Raise the Wage Keeps Pressing On For Sick Leave

ca capitolThough California is already hiking up the minimum wage this summer to $9 and then to $10 in 2016, legislators are moving forward on a new measure that would kick the minimum wage up even higher in 2017. In addition to the hike, the measure includes a mandatory paid sick day policy for employees.

On the wage aspect, the increase to $9 an hour will remain in effect on the projected July 2014 timeline. However, rather than raise the wage to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2016, the measure proposes an increase to $11 on Jan. 1, 2015, then to $12 in 2016, and ultimately to $13 an hour in 2017. After 2017, the wage will increase annually as determined by the consumer price index.

Further, on the sick leave policy, the measure will guarantee all workers three days of paid sick time in one year. All workers will be able to accrue on hours of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked and can be used up to 3 days in one year.

Even though pro-commerce groups labeled the bill as a “job-killer,” it passed in the Assembly and will now move on to the Senate for vote. If passed, it has the potential to severely alter the employment landscape.

Source: LA Times

If You Think You Might Have a Case

Following are a few tips to consider if you are in situation where you worry for your job or think you might have to sue your employer:

(1) Keep all of your documents.

Employee handbooks, paystubs, emails you get from your boss or HR – anything!  You never know what might be helpful later on, so make a practice of saving all of the documents, emails, and other messages you get that mention the company in any way.  Keep any calendars that have dates that matter, for instance if you have doctor’s appointments or meetings you might need to remember.  If you got nasty texts from your boss, make sure to save those so they don’t get deleted.  If you get any letters from the company, keep the letters and the envelopes.

Many employees’ cases suffer because the employee did not keep all of the documents he needed to show what the company did wrong.   Once you file a lawsuit, you are also not allowed to throw away or destroy any documents that might relate to your case, and can get in trouble with the court if you do.

(2) Take notes.

When important things happen, write them down when they are fresh in your mind.  When you file a lawsuit, it can take a long time and you may be asked to remember things that happened a year or more ago.  Instead of relying on your memory, you can look back at your notes to make sure you don’t forget important details or dates.  Thorough notes can also help your attorney understand what happened and when, which can be very important to your case.

(3) Talk to an attorney sooner rather than later.

Some rights expire, and if you wait too long to talk to an attorney about your case you might miss your chance.  Many times, you have to file your suit or make your complaint within a year of when something happened.  If you work for the government or are in a union, the time can be even shorter.  Don’t make the mistake of putting off talking to an attorney.

The United States of America—Home of the Free, Brave, and Overworked

According to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Articles 23 and 24, all members of society has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to join trade unions, and the right to rest and leisure, “including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” Hate to break it to the UN, but if this declaration is upheld, then amongst the most severe violators would be China, Uganda, and…the United States?

Recently, researchers, authors, and government officials alike have found that the United States might be the most overworked, industrialized nation in the world. The US has consistently maintained longer work hours, later retirement, and less vacation time while other nations have passed/are passing legislation that cut hours in order to preserve a life outside of work.

Some indicators that support these researchers’ theories include: rising number of children placed in afterschool programs/day cares while their parents are still at work; road rage before and after work hours; and even workplace shootings.

Other countries are attempting to remedy the overworked work week. In Sweden, the city of Gothenburg is experimenting with 6 hour work days. They argue, it will increase productivity. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”), the countries with the shortest work days are the most productive and vice versa.

The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, and Denmark all clock in the lowest hours but are amongst the top ten of most productive companies in the OECD. The lowest performing countries (Greece, Poland, and Hungary) maintain the longest hours.

How to Remedy Wage Theft

In light of recent wage theft allegations made against various high profile companies (cough, cough, McDonalds) an Assembly Bill introduced by Assemblyman Mark Stone from Scotts Valley, seeks to remedy the lengthy, often arduous process to reclaim wages.

Throughout a three year period, the UCLA Labor Center reported 17% of employees who filed wage claims did not receive the settlement due because the business in questions shut down before the settlements were reached.

AB 2416 would give the employees the ability to place a lien, or collateral on the employer. The lien placed at the start of a case would allow the aggrieved employee to collect the settlement even if the business shuts down. On the other hand, in the interest of equal protection, the bill also includes protections for business. A clause in the bill will allow a judge to evaluate and assess attorney’s fees and court costs if “false information was knowingly” used in bath faith. An employer can also be absolved from the lien if the employee files a claim and then disappears.

While pro-business groups oppose the measure, the bill may help employees who find themselves at a loss when less than credible business owners file for bankruptcy or sell the business to avoid wage claims.

Source: LA Times