Articles Posted in Wage and Hour

This week the published an interesting article for those applying for or currently using time from the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). You should be aware that some companies are taking measures to combat excessive employee absenteeism and to ensure that employees are not abusing FMLA leave.

The article gave the case of a 20-year manufacturing employee who had had been approved for FMLA leave on 5 occasions from 2004 to 2007 to take care of his mother. But in 2006, the company implemented a new plan for handling medical-leave requests that involved private investigators conduct surveillance on employees with unexcused absences or those who were thought to be exploiting medical leave.

Through their investigation, a sign-out sheet showed the man had not taken his mother out of the nursing home on other occasions of FMLA leave, although he claimed he was the only one who could drive his mother, but that others had signed her out. He was eventually fired for policy violation.

Earlier this summer, Connecticut’s governor signed into law a bill that would allow firefighters with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

The new legislation includes firefigthers who are diagnosed with PTSD after witnessing the death of a fellow firefighter while in the line of duty. This includes bother volunteer firefighters and paid firefighters employed by cities. In order to qualify, the diagnosis must be made by a licensed adn board certified mental health professional. Currently, Connecticut police officers receive the same type of compensation.

Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder can include flashbacks or repeated nightmares of the event, having a lack of interest in normal activities, as well as having an exaggerated response to things that startle you.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in a recent news release its intent to establish a committee to advise, consult with and make recommendations to the secretary of labor and assistant secretary of labor of occupational safety and health on ways to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA’s administration of whistleblower protection.

The committee will advise OSHA on the development and implementation of improved customer service models, enhancements in the investigation and enforcement process, training, and regulations governing OSHA investigations.

Also, the committee will advise OSHA in cooperative activities with other federal agencies that are responsible for whistleblower protection statutes enforced by OSHA.

In a recent interview, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made the following comment that has sparked debate about working hours, “I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids. I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it’s not until the last year, two years that I’m brave enough to talk about it publicly.”

What’s been startling about Sandberg’s admission, especially for those in the technology field, is that it raises the question: is it OK to work standard hours in today’s competitive marketplace and uncertain economy?

An article on delves into this issue and explores other possible biases about working hours, such as balancing home and work life, single workers versus those who have a family, and new technology that allows some workers to continue working even after they come home from the office.

For more information, you can read the full article here.

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As our economy continues to struggle, we’ve all come to value our jobs, no matter what type of work it is. But with jobs at such a premium, some employers see it as an opportunity to take advantage of their employees. A sad example is offered in an article by the Associated Press about a slaughterhouse in Kansas that allegedly has not been paying employees for all time worked.

According to the article, hourly employees receive “gang time” compensation, which means employees are only paid when product is moving. Also, employees are only paid for a total of 10 minutes to put on and remove protective gear. Workers claim they are not being paid for all the time they work.

As a result, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of nearly 700 workers at the slaughterhouse. Today a federal judge granted conditional class-action status that would include all hourly production employees. The judge also ordered that notice of the lawsuit must be posted in English and Spanish at the facility.

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A recent article on reports that some jobs are more likely to cause depression than others. They listed 10 fields out of 21 major job categories in which full-time workers might experience a depressive episode.

But all is not lost for those who might be interested in one of these fields. In the article, Deborah Legge, PhD, a licensed mental health counselor in Buffalo, is quoted as saying, “There are certain aspects of any job that can contribute to or exacerbate depression.” She continued, “Folks with the high-stress jobs have a greater chance of managing it if they take care of themselves and get the help they need.”

So what are those jobs that are more prone to high rates of depression?

All private-sector employers under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board must post an Employee’s Rights notice by Jan. 31, 2012.

According to the NLRB website, the date was moved from the November 2011 deadline to allow small and medium size businesses more time to determine if they fall under the NLRB jurisdiction.

Most of the employers will be required to post an 11-by-7 inch notice, available free from the NLRB website, where other workplace rights notices and company information is posted.

In this economy, many people are working hard to stretch their dollar as far as they can. For hourly workers, every dollar counts. An example of workers fighting for their right to hours worked appeared in a recent article in the Dec. 15 edition of the Allentown Morning Call.

A class action lawsuit was filed in Lehigh County Court on Dec. 9 by food service workers at St. Luke’s Hospital and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital. The complaint alleges that the food service company, Sodexo Inc., forced their food service employees at both hospitals to work when they were off the clock.

The suit was filed by two Sodexo employees on behalf of up to 80 current and former employees. According to the article, the suit says Sodexo demanded or permitted employees to start work early, work after hours and during lunch breaks without pay.

One example in the complaint states that the 2 employees routinely had to start their shifts 45 minutes before their scheduled start time. In an effort to discourage employees from recording their actual time worked, the complaint alleges the timekeeping system was programmed to “accept employee clock-ins no more than three to seven minutes before the start of the scheduled shift and clock-outs no more than three to seven minutes after the end of the scheduled shift.”

In the article, one employee said she makes $15.03 an hour to cook, bake, make desserts, prepare food trays, and clean dishes. She said workers prepares close to 400 meals a day. Although she works extra, she never gets paid overtime. It’s difficult to support her family as a single mother with health care premiums costing her around $350 a month.

The article states that Sodexo employs more than 1,000 workers in the Lehigh Valley, some of whom only earn a dollar over minimum wage. The workers are trying to unionize under the Service Employees International Union. Food service workers at Good Shepherd went on a one-day strike in October, along with food service workers at Sacred Heart and Lehigh Valley Hospital, complaining of low wages, poor benefits, and anti-union tactics.

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We read an interesting article this week on Pittsburgh’s on the misclassification of employees.

According to the article, the state’s Unemployment Compensation fund is being underfunded because about 9 percent of the state’s workforce are misclassified as independent contractors. By categorizing a worker as an independent contractor, a company save money because it does not need to pay for benefits for the employee including workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

But determining whether or not a worker fits the description of company employee can be tricky. In addition, many workers are just happy to have a job and may not want to cause a stir given the current recession and high unemployment rates. It might not become an issue for the worker until he or she is hurt on the job. To read the full article, click on this link.

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For many employees who are making only minimum wage, it is a struggle to keep themselves and their families afloat. Now an article in The New York Times has brought to light a startling revelation: that more than half of the low-wage workers in the city are cheated of some of their pay.

According to a report titled, “Working Without Laws: A Survey of Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City” by the National Employment Law Project, the average worker in a low-wage job in New York City lost $58 a week, more than $3,000 a year, because he or she was not paid minimum wage or overtime, or because of some other violation of labor laws. These types of workers include laundry employees, home health care aides, deliverymen, and grocery baggers, to name a few. The report estimated that more than 315,000 workers were denied some of their deserved pay.

The authors of the report explained, “This report exposes a world of work in which America’s core labor and employment laws are failing to protect significant numbers of workers in the nation’s largest city. These protections – the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, the right to be paid for overtime hours, the right to take meal breaks, access to workers’ compensation when injured and the right to advocate for better working conditions – are being violated at alarming rates in the city’s low-wage labor market.”

The report notes that more than one-fifth of all low-wage workers in the city were paid less than the minimum wage. Failure to pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours a week was even more common.

According to the article, the report also pointed out that the state’s workers’ compensation system was “not functioning as intended.” It noted that only about one-tenth of workers who had been seriously injured and who were surveyed had filed for workers’ compensation. Nearly half of them had been required to keep working despite their injuries.

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