Category: Workers’ Rights

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

McDonalds Turns Physical

We first blogged about McDonalds’ legal woes when the story broke back in March. You can read the background here. 

Now the civil lawsuit accusing wage theft went from a legal battle to a physical one. Hundreds of people crowded around McDonalds’ Chicago headquarters protesting wage theft, poverty wages, and high benefits to the CEO and other executives. The protest was led by the Reverend Dr. William Barber II, and the loudest demand was for a $15 minimum wage in fast food restaurants.

Coupled with McDonald’s bad press surrounding the wage theft cases filed across the country, protestors targeted the burger chain’s headquarters because it was the location for the company’s annual executive meeting, taking place in the morning of the protest.

The police intervened and arrested 138 protestors for trespassing. The group had gathered people from all walks of life. One prominent group represented were mothers who criticized McDonald’s disposal of Ronald McDonald and his replacement, real-life basketball star LeBron James.

Other protestors included former and current McDonalds employees, including Melinda Topel, a worker for McDonalds for 10 years. She was among those arrested during the protest where she was handcuffed with zip ties. “I would do it again,” Topel says.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Shopkeeper’s Defense Though Lawful, Violates Company Policy

It is a story heard more often than not. Last year, Shannon “Bear” Cochron was robbed at knifepoint while on duty at a New Hampshire gas station. Well, it’s more accurate to say that the robber was attempted to rob Cochron at knifepoint.

When the heavily masked would-be robber approached, Cochrane quickly produced his Ruger pistol and threatened the robber to leave. After slowly backing away from the store clerk, the robber fled the premise.

While the police in the small New Hampshire town commended Cochrane on knowing when it was appropriate to use the weapon, his employers terminated Cochrane for violating company policy. According to said policy, employees are prohibited from carry firearms to work.

Though the circumstances around his termination seem outrageous, the “at-will” presumption in much of the country allows for Cochron to be fired for any reason or no reason at all, as so long as it does not violate public policy (i.e. termination based on discrimination or whistleblowing). While it was within Cochron’s rights as a citizen to bear arms and defend himself, it was outside the gas station company’s policy for an employee.

Don’t be worried for Cochron though. When the incident first broke, Cochron commented, “I would rather find a new job than either be in hospital bed or in a coffin.” Well said Mr. Bear.

Source: Washington Times

Santa Ana City Councilman Charged with Sexual Assault

Criminal charges have been filed against former Santa Ana city councilman, Carlos Bustamante. The victim, who is only identified as “Jane Doe A,” alleged that Bustamante assaulted behind closed doors in the county office when she was his secretary. Bustamante was arrested and charged in July 2012.

Before and after the incident, Bustamante continuously harassed Jane Doe A. His actions included, but was not limited to, asking about her sex life with her partner, asking what bra size she wore, and describing inappropriate sexual dreams about her to her. The city councilman also asked Jane Doe A to have sex with him, but she refused. In reply he added, “we should have fun if we [will be] working together.”

The incident, itself, occurred in Bustamante’s office. He wrapped his arms around her and forcibly kissed her neck though she continually attempted to push him off and adamantly said no to his requests. Bustamante, allegedly, refused to let her go and continued to kiss her neck and tried to kiss her lips, but she moved her face from side to side to avoid contact. Eventually he let her go.

Jane Doe A claimed she was too scared to tell Human Resources as Bustamante was good friends with the county’s chief executive officer. Prosecutors believe that as many as seven female employees might also have been harassed and abused between 2003 and 2011.

Though this is a criminal matter, in any potential civil law suit against an employer for sexual harassment, there are two kinds of harassment that might occur. A hostile work environment is one kind, wherein if an employee refuses a supervisor’s advances, then the supervisor retaliates against the employee or grow vindictive. The other form, entitled quid pro quo, describes a situation wherein an employee feels his or her job or benefits/perks of the job are contingent on acquiescing to the supervisor’s advances. Both can be actionable in a civil lawsuit.

Source: LA Times

Beauty Doesn’t Come Cheap

In order to become a licensed cosmetologist, a student must undergo hours of training and pass a state certified board exam. At the Aveda Institute of Los Angeles, students allegedly were not compensated during their training hours, though the school functioned as a salon for certain hours during the week, and the students as stylists.

Aveda Corporation is owned by make-up, mega moguls Estee Lauder Inc. Plaintiff Jazlyn Jennings alleges that the company used the students at Aveda for free labor during the school’s salon hours. They provided haircuts, makeovers, manicures, and other salon services without compensation.

According to the suit, Aveda’s students operated under the direction that they were paying tuition for training hours that need not be compensated. Rather than being treated like apprentices, however, the students operated as full-fledged employees. They would provide full treatments instead of just assisting. Additionally, only four supervisor were on the floor at once which is a violation of California state regulations.

Jennings seeks to recover back wages for overtime pay, meal and rest break premiums, not providing accurate wage statements, and engaging in unfair business practices.

The lawsuit is filed as: Jazlyn Jennings v. Estee Lauder, et al., Case No. BC543276 in LA Superior Court, Central District.