Tag: labor law

Japanese Employee Dies from Exhaustion – How ‘Salaryman’ Culture Affects the Workforce

Japanese Employee Dies from Exhaustion – How ‘Salaryman’ Culture Affects the Workforce

The circumstances surrounding the death of 31 year old Miwa Sado have just been made public, though she passed away in 2013. Sado was a political reporter, and an overworked one at that – which it has now been revealed was the cause of her death by heart failure. NHK (Sado’s former employer) reported that she had worked about 159 hours of overtime in the month before her death. This means that she was working in just one week what most full time employees clock in a full (two week) pay period.

Stories such as Sado’s are not unfamiliar to Japanese culture – they even have a special term for it, “karoshi” which translates to “death by overwork”. The term was originally coined in the 1970s as Japan’s economy boomed. Labor lawyers and civil rights groups have been pressing for legislative change since the 1980s, but the trend has continued in spite of this.

In December 2015, a similar tragedy took place. Matsuri Takashi, a 24 year old employee of Dentsu, an advertising agency, jumped to her death from the company dormitory. “Ms. Takashi’s death was caused by serious depression triggered by overwork and harassment,” Hiroshi Kawahito, a lawyer representing her case, told CNN Money. In the month leading to her death, Takashi clocked about 105 hours of overtime, according to investigators. After concluding its investigation, Dentsu announced that they would be capping overtime hours to a maximum of 65 per month.

But how do work hours measure up across different countries? According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work an average of 137 hours more per year than Japanese workers. The United States is arguably the most overworked developed nation in the world – and it comes down to more than just hours worked per week.

  • The United States is the only industrialized country which has no legally required annual leave program – even Japanese workers are required to receive 10 days off per year
  • The United States is not one of the 134 countries which sets a limit on maximum hours worked per week
  • There is no federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States
  • The U.S. is the only country in the Americas without paid parental leave (maternal or paternal) to care for/bond with new children – the average in most other countries is 12 weeks of paid leave and 20 weeks of paid leave throughout Europe.

 

Sources:

https://20somethingfinance.com/american-hours-worked-productivity-vacation/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/10/06/japan-struggles-karoshi-death-overwork-after-deaths-2-young-women/738915001/

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/05/news/japan-work-overwork-woman-dies-karoshi/index.html

UPS: “We’re Here To Help” . . . Unless You’re Pregnant

UPS driver Peggy Young got pregnant, and as her pregnancy advanced her doctor advised she not lift the 70lb packages UPS sometimes required her to deliver.  Although UPS allowed some disabled employees to get help lifting heavy packages or have temporary “light-duty” assignments, UPS refused to do the same for Ms. Young.  UPS’ response was, essentially, “sorry, we’re not required to help pregnant people.”

UPS took the position that while it was required to accommodate disabled workers and workers injured on the job by certain federal and state laws, there was no law specifically requiring it to offer accommodations to pregnant employees, so Ms. Young was out of luck.  As a result, Ms. Young couldn’t work for months and lost thousands of dollars in pay.

Ms. Young disagreed, and sued UPS claiming that its refusal to allow her the same kind of assistance or temporary duty was a kind of discrimination against her because she was pregnant.  After many travails and proceeding through one court after another, Ms. Young’s case finally ended up at the last stop on the line: The United States Supreme Court.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has not lately been known for favoring employees or expanding individuals legal rights, even the conservative Court agreed with Ms. Young in part.  The final decision will make Ms. Young go back through the lower courts to see if she can prove her individual case, but the basic rule set by the Supreme Court is clear: if a company accommodates some temporary disabilities, it has to accommodate pregnancy, too.  In short, the company does not get to pick and choose among those legally protected.

The decision is great news for employees who become pregnant, and in particular those who may worry about the effect of physically difficult jobs and job duties.

FMLA, Retaliation, and Lawsuits

Ronald Rice was excited to share the news of his wife’s pregnancy with his co-workers and employer in January 2012. Within days of his announcement, however, his work relationship turned sour.

Suddenly, Rice was assigned a multitude of extra duties that were outside his job description. He endured the extra workload for six months until his wife’s pregnancy took a difficult turn. In order to take care of his wife who now had more doctor’s appointments to attend and had severe morning sickness, Rice requested to take five days of vacation time. Two of those days were denied, so Rice put in an FMLA request for those days, three days after his vacation request. The employer swiftly terminated Rice.

Rice then sued the company for interfering with his FMLA rights. The district court decided that there was enough evidence to conclude that the employer had terminated Rice due to his association with his pregnant wife and discriminated against him for trying to take an FMLA leave. The employer’s defense hinged on the testimony of managers who claimed the executor of the termination was not aware of Rice’s request. The court, however, found that there was no plan to terminate Rice previous to his FMLA request, and therefore concluded that the sole reason for termination was borne out of retaliation.

Source: Rice v. Kellermeyer Co. (Ohio 2014)

Allegations of Racial Discrimination Against GOP Chairman

John Padgett, head of the Georgia Republican Party, is facing allegations that he engaged in racial discrimination against an employee of one of his privately owned firms. Vanessa Dewberry, a former manager of Southeast Ambulance Inc., run by Padgett’s firm, filed a federal lawsuit against the politician in Atlanta.

Dewberry had a meeting last February with Padgett, who referred to an African American employee as a “black tech that’s supposed to know better.” Dewberry took offense to that statement, and described Padgett’s tone as demeaning.

Padgett is also accused of gender discrimination. He participated in the ridiculing and teasing of a staff member whose gender was questioned. Padgett allegedly referred to the employee as “the one who looks like a boy.” Another employee also called the fellow worker, “it.” This also is captured on the recording from Dewberry. Dewberry claims she immediately voiced her discomfort about the comments and complained to Padgett openly about the inappropriateness of his words.

Not too long after, Dewberry was terminated from her position for “financial reasons.” Dewberry made it clear she was going to take action against Padgett, to which he responded that he had powerful friends.

Dewberry’s complaint names Padgett directly as well as the ambulance company she had been employed with during the racial incidents.

Source: AJC.com

Bed, Bath, & Beyond Paying Correct Wages

The home furnishing chain, Bed, Bath & Beyond has yet another wage and hour lawsuit filed against them, alleging misclassification, failure to pay overtime, and failure to pay double time wages. Joshua, a department manager at the company’s Houston store, became the lead plaintiff in this new lawsuit.

He was classified as a salaried, exempt employee, earning $1,038.46 per week, not matter how many hours he worked in actuality. Through a reconstruction of his hours worked, plaintiff’s counsel alleges that Joshua worked beyond 40 hours a week and even up to 60 hours a week. Joshua’s supervisors were aware of the number of hours that he was working per week but still made no attempt to get him his correct rate of pay.

In a similar suit in California, Bed, Bath & Beyond was found liable for willful misclassification of assistant managers in order to avoid paying overtime. The suit also alleged failure to reimburse business expenses and costs and failure to provide seating.

So what makes a person exempt or non-exempt? Though there are many qualifications for an exempt classification, the best explanation is a measure of independent discretion exercised at the job. If you exercise independent discretion at least half the time (ability to make decisions on behalf of the company, are in a specialized professionals, or can negotiate on behalf of the company) then you may be exempt and can earn a salary no matter how many hours you work. Some examples would be company executives, doctors, and engineers.

Non-exempt employees are those who have a routinized, non-authoritative position that does not allow for major decisions or work to go through without approval. Examples would include retailer service workers, clerical workers, and food servers.

Source: Topclassactions.com