Category: Uncategorized

Higher Standards. Discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently concluded an investigation finding that over 1,100 African-American job seekers were deliberately passed up for positions by Bank of America at various times between 1993 and 2005.  Qualified African-American applicants sought to secure entry-level administrative work and teller positions at branch locations in Charlotte and North Carolina, but were routinely turned away.  Judge Linda S. Chapman, an administrative law judge at the DOL, found that the bank applied “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” which resulted in the rejection of qualified African-Americans.  Judge Chapman ordered Bank of America to pay a fine of $2.2 million dollars for its systematic hiring discrimination.

DOL Judgment Serves As Warning To Would Be Car Dealerships

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor secured a consent judgment against Interior Magic of California, LLC and its officers requiring them to pay $292,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to more than 200 employees, plus $34,408 in civil penalties.

Interior Magic is an automotive detailer that provides cosmetic repair services to 17 car dealerships in Southern California.  After an investigation was conducted, it was confirmed that the company had willfully violated minimum wage, overtime and the record-keeping laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  In particular, investigators found the company was paying employees straight time for all hours worked rather than overtime for hours worked over 40 per week.  The company also improperly classified non-exempt employees as exempt from the overtime requirements.  Based on the above violations, the dealership failed to maintain proper records of the hours worked by its employees.

Among the wages and penalties owed to employees, the company was also required to display a notice of the Department’s findings in both English and Spanish in areas highly visible to employees.  Such actions will hopefully deter the detailer from committing similar violations going forward.

Victims of Domestic Violence in the Labor Force

The Jackson Bill-Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence in the Labor Force

Carie Charlesworth, a second grade school teacher from San Diego, CA, was at work one day at Holy Trinity School when her husband visited campus. Normally, this wouldn’t be grounds for alarm, however, Charlesworth’s now ex husband had been estranged from the family after domestic violence disputes which endangered not only Charlesworth, but her four children who were also students at the school.

Charlesworth’s ex showed up outside the school, and, fearing a violent altercation or sensing a threat, the school immediately went into lockdown. As a result of this January 2013 incident, Charlesworth was put on an investigatory leave, and four months later, she was officially terminated from her employment with Holy Trinity. Her children were also asked to leave and never return.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence asserted that terminating someone in Charlesworth’s makes them more susceptible to an attack from an estranged, volatile abuser. It makes the victim more vulnerable and less surrounded, clearing the way for more unwanted visitation.

Rather than enter into an interactive process whereby new safety procedures could be implemented, which would benefit not only the victim but also the rest of the work place, Holy Trinity chose to terminate Charlesworth’s employment and her children’s enrollment in order to eliminate the threat altogether. And while it sounds wrong, at the time, it was not unlawful.

However, Senate Bill 400, known commonly as the Jackson Bill for the senator who drafted the legislation, Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), seeks to amend prior law. SB 400 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate and/or terminate an employee for being a victim of domestic violence. Some employers are throwing their support behind the bill, like large interior decorating company, Williams and Sonoma. Charlesworth, herself, was fervent supporter of the bill.

SB 400 passed through the legislature with minimal opposition (a 35-1 vote) and passed to Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the bill without hesitation. It comes into effect on January 1, 2014.

I Spy With My Little Eye…

As a result of the Government shut down and subsequent closing of the National Labor Board, Boston area school bus drivers have gone on strike. “This morning, we decided enough is enough,” asserted bus driver Macaire Dupuy, 47.

So what are these employees protesting? New payroll procedures and health care plans seem to be ruffling a few feathers, but the most significant accusation the drivers are fronting is more reminiscent of James Bond than buses. “Spy Units” or GPS tracking systems are to be implemented in these school buses, much like New York City’s city wide implementation to take effect in 2014. Drivers argue that having these GPS systems will hinder their ability to work, are unsafe, and seem immoral. But is it unlawful to keep your employees under surveillance?

The answer is a simple: maybe. The national precedent is that “an employee must have an expectation of privacy” in an area that would be deemed inappropriate to film. Namely in California, law prohibits,  any sort of surveillance (like hidden cameras) to be used in areas of reasonably expected privacy (i.e. changing rooms, restrooms, locker areas, etc.). Additionally, California law stipulates one way mirrors in these areas are also deemed as unlawful surveillance.

However, if an employee engages in unlawful behavior or action that violates company policy in an area outside of a reasonable expectation to privacy, then the company can implement security measures. For instance, a janitor in New Hampshire was found guilty of stealing valuables from an employee’s desk via a security camera trained on the office space. Since the office space was a shared, communal area, where one does not have an expectation of or anticipates extended privacy, using surveillance was legal.

The litmus test for legality is whether the environment is reasonable to a normal member of society to expect privacy. The new GPS systems to take place in Boston and New York City may be called “spy units” by employees, but may be difficult to combat.

Governor Signs Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

Starting January 1, 2014, domestic work employees will benefit from new pay and hours regulations.  Nannies, housekeepers, live-in caregivers, and others who care for individuals, children, or their homes, will be entitled to overtime pay for the first time.  Any work over 9 hours in one day will be paid at time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker’s regular rate of pay.  If a domestic worker works more than 45 hours total in a week, all hours after the 45 will also be paid at time-and-a-half.

The new law comes in the wake of another celebrity scandal involving personal attendants: singer Alanis Morissette’s former night nanny has filed a lawsuit claiming that she worked twelve hour days, sometimes seven days in a row, without receiving any overtime.  Worse yet, the nanny was practically a prisoner during her shifts, as she was not allowed to leave the child’s room if he was sleeping even for a meal or rest break.

Under the new law, Ms. Morissette’s former nanny would have racked up quite a bit of overtime pay.

Governor Signs Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

Starting January 1, 2014, domestic work employees will benefit from new pay and hours regulations.  Nannies, housekeepers, live-in caregivers, and others who care for individuals, children, or their homes, will be entitled to overtime pay for the first time.  Any work over 9 hours in one day will be paid at time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker’s regular rate of pay.  If a domestic worker works more than 45 hours total in a week, all hours after the 45 will also be paid at time-and-a-half.

The new law comes in the wake of another celebrity scandal involving personal attendants: singer Alanis Morissette’s former night nanny has filed a lawsuit claiming that she worked twelve hour days, sometimes seven days in a row, without receiving any overtime.  Worse yet, the nanny was practically a prisoner during her shifts, as she was not allowed to leave the child’s room if he was sleeping even for a meal or rest break.

Under the new law, Ms. Morissette’s former nanny would have racked up quite a bit of overtime pay.