Category: Workers’ Rights

One-Two-Three Strikes You’re Out!

Major League Baseball is not batting a good game. Players in minor league affiliate teams filed a suit for wage and hour allegations. The lawsuit contends that these players were paid less than minimum wage, not paid for overtime, and not paid for all work duties.

Strike One-While salary information for minor league players is not readily available, the suit contends that players typically were compensated approximately $1,100 to $2,150 per month. While their major league counterparts are making millions, minor league players were expected to “pay their dues” getting to the next echelon of play.

The MLB defends their actions by saying the minor league players fall into a seasonal employee exemption, which excludes such employees from minimum wage or overtime. Seasonal exemptions apply to occupations that provide seasonal “amusement or recreational” services. These services operate for less than 7 months in a year.

Strike Two– Minor league players are paid on a salary and not on an hourly basis, which means, no matter how long that game lasts or how many hours are spent in practice, none of it is compensated at a rate of one and a half times or two times the regular rate.

During the season, players were required to attend team work outs, batting practice/drills, and work for 6 or 7 days straight for over 8 hours in a day.

Strike Three When not in season, minor leaguers see no pay, but are expected to attend practices anyway. Spring training and post-season instructional leagues are mandatory but not compensated.

Minor league players sign over an exclusive right to the MLB for 7 years’ worth of management. The player cannot sever this contract nor leave to play for another team, even if it is outside of the league or outside of the States.

The MLB has attempted to get this suit dismissed, but failed to do so. Most recently, earlier this month, a judge ruled that objections from the MLB over the standing of Class Members is stayed until class certification is reached.

Source: Topclassactions.com; Fordhamsportslawforum.com; Department of Labor

3 Cheers…For Fair Wages!

We have been closely following the story of the Oakland Raiderettes in their battle for fair pay since a suit was initially filed last year. Following the Raiderettes’ suit, cheerleaders around the nation filed their own legal actions against their respective teams and the NFL—the Cincinnati BenGals, the New York Jets Flight Crew, the Buffalo Jills, and the Tampa Bay Bucs to name a few.

The Raiderettes settled their lawsuit last fall for over a million dollars. The cheerleaders alleged that the Bay Area team only compensated each cheerleader the equivalent of $5 per hour. Additionally, the cheerleaders paid for all expenses, including travel and appearance, out of pocket and were even docked when an “infraction” occurred (i.e. coming into practice with the wrong poms, dying their hair an unauthorized color, etc.).

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown just added the icing to the cake. He signed a new bill into law that classifies professional cheerleaders as employees of the sports teams they cheer for. They must be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, including practices and promotional appearances.

State Representative Lorena Sanchez, the main sponsor for the bill, regarded the law as “an important step toward ensuring that multi-billion dollar sports teams treat cheerleaders with the same dignity and respect as every other employee who makes the game-day experience special.”

In response to the law, the NFL advised teams to follow applicable labor laws but clarified that the cheerleaders would be employees of their respective teams, and not of the NFL. This may come as a response to one of the earlier labor lawsuits that named the NFL as a co-defendant.

While the three professional football teams in the state need to rethink their cheerleader pay pyramids, the NBA announced that their teams already treated their cheerleaders as employees, therefore, they are compliant with the law.

Source: CNN Money

Washio’s ‘Ninjas’ Fight Back

There’s an app for everything these days. Want to find a good restaurant?—There’s an app for that. Need to know what traffic looks like?—There’s an app for that. Want to know what you look like with a new haircut?—There’s an app for that. One of these novel apps to hit the market includes Washio, an online-app based company that picks up and delivers dry cleaning. The company has a network of drivers, dubbed “Ninjas,” that flit about town, covertly collecting your dirty laundry and completing their cleaning missions. But Washio’s Ninjas have had enough.

In a class action lawsuit filed last month in San Francisco, Ninja Barry Taranto is alleging the company misclassified him and other Ninjas as independent contractors and subsequently owes them business expense reimbursements.

Ninjas are paid on a per delivery basis and not an hourly wage. They sign an exclusivity agreement which disallows Ninjas from working for any other similar company.

They also drive their own vehicles, but, the company has a set of rules and standards by which the Ninjas must transport its clientele’s precious cargo. Ninjas are subject to a code of honor—one must store the clothes in a specific way; one must interact with customers in a specific way; one must abide by a strict schedule of collecting and dropping off cargo. Ninjas are a laundry version of Uber and Lyft drivers, who are alleging similar labor violations.

The lawsuit contends that the entirety of Washio’s business relies on the Ninjas—without them Washio would not exist. They are “fully integrated into Washio’s business.” Washio’s control over the Ninjas can possibly point to an employee/employer relationship, which means, the Ninjas should be getting reimbursed for expenses incurred while driving—gas, maintenance, parking fees, etc.

Will the Ninjas emerge victorious? We’ll monitor the story closely and report back when the mission is complete.

Source: Taranto v. Washio Inc.

Metrolink Employee Blows the Whistle

Last month, a former Metrolink employee sued them transportation provider for whistleblowing, retaliation, and wrongful termination claims. The employee, former chief auditor Barbara Manning, named the Southern California Regional Rail Authority in the suit. The other defendants included several local politicians and a state legislator.

Manning alleges that she and her audit team found several irregularities, including unapproved wire transfers of funds, discrepancies between cash collected and that reported, and unauthorized salary increases for security guards. The former audit lead called all these factors, “high fraud indicators” in her lawsuit.

She further alleges that Metrolink engaged in further unlawful behavior that put the train riders at risk. While the train provider had to cut back on jobs and increased others’ salaries, the lower presence of onboard guards resulted in an increase of assaults on riders.

After she reported her facts and findings to the board members, they accused her of “causing safety problems for the railroad.” Additionally, they falsely accused her of trying to issue fake and inaccurate reports. These accusations resulted in her eventual termination.

Manning alleges the Metrolink board fabricated issues and twisted her words to create pretext for her termination. One of the board members and a politician named in the suit called the claims “completely baseless” and intended to “seek my redress for malicious prosecution.”

Source: LA Times

Breaking Down New FLSA Regulations—What Does it Mean?

Every employee should know what their rights are, especially when it comes to their wages and salary. The federal government just released new proposed regulations that will make more than 5 million employees eligible for overtime pay. So, starting from the beginning, who creates these regulations? Why is overtime a good thing? How will this affect my pay?

The country’s labor and employment laws are governed by the United States Department of Labor, a part of the federal government. Within the US Department of Labor, there are various divisions that focus on particular parts of labor laws. For today’s discussion, we’ll use the WHD as an example. The WHD stands for the Wage and Hour Division, and their governing doctrine or act is the FLSA (Fair Labor and Standards Act).

The WHD and FLSA establishes national minimum wage rates, overtime regulations, etc. States must first abide by the FLSA and then can implement any other state wide regulations on top of the national law. (i.e. state minimum wages can be higher than the national minimum wage).

In California, we have our own state department of labor, aptly named the California Department of Industrial Relations. Within the CA DIR, wage and hour regulations are enforced by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (known commonly as the Labor Commissioner). Their governing doctrine or act is the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders. The Wage Orders outline similar regulations as the FLSA but with California labor law.

Now that the background is out of the way, let’s discuss the regulation changes that the FLSA will enact which that will lead to changes on the state level as well. In the workforce, there are two main classifications for wage earners: hourly, non-exempt or salary, exempt. The former is paid on an hourly basis and is eligible to get paid overtime for any hours worked over eight in a day and/or forty in a week.

An employee’s job description has to meet a duties test, among other things, to determine whether or not they are exempt from overtime (and therefore on a salary). If the employee meets that exemption, then the employee must also be paid a minimum threshold for salaried employees; in California, it’s approximately $37,000 per year and nationally, it was $23,660. Last week, this all changed.

On Monday, June 29, 2015, the WHD released a new proposal to amend the FLSA and increase the base salary requirement for exempt employees. The requirement could jump from $23,660 to as much as $50,440. So what does this mean?

If you a salaried, exempt worker, it could mean a couple of outcomes. First, you might be reclassified into being a non-exempt worker, which means you are eligible for overtime. So for all of you salaried workers out there that were working more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours in a day and not receiving overtime because you were exempt, you may be getting paid your extra hours worked. The other scenario is that you stay exempt, but are given a raise to meet the threshold—in California, that maybe close to a $13,000 raise! Almost five million workers can be affected as a result of this proposal.