Category: Fair Labor Standards Act

Employment Law

Olsen Twins’ The Row, Gearing up for a Legal Row

Child stars turned producers turned fashion gurus won’t be turning into labor attorneys anytime soon. The Olson Twins have been served a class action lawsuit of forty current and previous interns for unpaid wages. The suit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court and names Dualstar Entertainment, the umbrella company for the Olsen fashion labels, the Row and Elizabeth and James.

The interns allege they were unpaid, and while some interns received college or vocational credit, those who were not students did not. They worked over 50 hour week weeks, “running personal errands for paid employees, photocopying, sewing, making spreadsheets.” The head plaintiff, Shahista Lalani, alleges the working conditions were horrendous—she was even hospitalized for dehydration at one point while running errands in 100 degree weather and carrying excessive weight.

According to Lalani, the head technical designer was demanding and hostile. “I was doing the work of three interns. I was talking to her all day, all night. Emails at nighttime for the next day, like 10pm at night.” The class members allege that the interns were doing the same kind of work as paid, entry level employees, but the company used them as interns to skirt minimum wage laws.

Lalani worked for a five month period, “you’re like an employee, except you’re not getting paid.” While the plaintiff concedes that the Olsen Twins themselves were “never mean to anyone,” she alleges that Dualstar owes the interns at least minimum wage, back pay, and penalties.

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.

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.

It’s Rough in the Outback

Two former employees of Bloomin’ Brands (dba Outback Steak House) are representatives in a class action lawsuit against the food company. Based in Nevada, the suit alleges a variety of wage and hour violations.

Outback allegedly had a policy of “Outback Time” where employees were required to report at work 10 to 15 minutes early but could not clock in until the start time of their shift. Additionally, employees were encouraged to work off the clock and were prohibited from being paid for training shifts and company meetings where they weren’t actually serving. Essentially, employees who refused to operate off the clock were threatened with termination.

The lead plaintiffs, Brooke C. and Cody H., further allege denied meal breaks and rest breaks as well as failure to meet minimum wage and pay overtime rates. The complaint states, “Bloomin’ maintains a steadfast, single-minded focus on minimizing its labor costs.” There is always “the need to have as many tasks as possible performed by as few employees as possible.”

The plaintiffs are suing on behalf of others similarly situated as them nationwide.

Source: topclassactions.com