Thursday, May 16, 2013

84% of NYC fast food workers report wage theft

Yesterday in Milwaukee.
New York City fast-food workers today said 84 percent of them were robbed of their wages by their employers. They released a report that said employers are forcing them to work off the clock, failing to pay overtime or making them work during their breaks.

ThinkProgress tells us the report, from an Anzalone Liszt Grove research survey of 500 of the city’s fast food workers, found:
More than 8-in-10 employees (84%) report being victims of wage theft over the course of the last year; 66% report at least two abuses, 45% report at least three, and more than thirty percent of employees (31%) report being victims of at least four of these practices.  
  • 36% of workers report being required to work while off the clock
  • 32% of cashiers report being required to pay their employer if their register is short
  • 30% of those who have worked 40+ hours in a week report they have not always received pay of time-and-a-half for overtime hours.
The report comes on the heels of a wave of one-day strikes against fast-food restaurants in past months. Workers walked off the job to demand better wages and union representation in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and, yesterday, Milwaukee.

At the same time, New York State's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is investigating whether fast-food restaurant owners are cheating their workers out of their pay, according to The Nation:
The New York Attorney General's office has confirmed to The Nation that it issued subpoenas to a fast food parent corporation, and is investigating several New York State franchisees (the AG's office declined to name the corporation). Schneiderman's office is exploring potential legal violations including sub-minimum wage pay; unpaid work; false payroll records; overtime without time-and-a-half pay; work expenses that weren't fully reimbursed; and paychecks that bounced.
The fast-food industry mirrors a larger trend in which workers are increasingly exploited. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that a record number of workers filed federal lawsuits over the past year against companies that stole their pay. Reports the Journal:
The number of such lawsuits has been rising sharply over the past decade and hit 7,764 in the year ended March 31, up nearly 10% from the prior year, according to an analysis of government data by law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP. 
The lawsuits allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs rules on the minimum wage and overtime pay. Many cases argue that companies failed to pay employees for activity after hours that qualified as work, such as putting on and taking off work uniforms, or that employers incorrectly said certain groups of workers were exempt from overtime pay. 
Lawyers representing companies attribute last year's increase in part to an improving economy, which they said motivates plaintiff attorneys to seek big judgments against employers. They also say many cases are the result of inadvertent mistakes made by employers trying to comply with ambiguous terms in federal law, such as the word "work" and whether doing certain activities off-the-clock qualifies. Many other cases result when companies misclassify employees as independent contractors... 
Worker advocates, meanwhile, said that the growing number of lawsuits shows that many employers continue to violate wage-and-hour rules, and that workers have had to turn to the courts as a result of weak federal and state enforcement. 
"There's just been an epidemic of wage theft," said Cathy Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for the working poor and unemployed. She said she believed federal and state agencies lacked funding to adequately protect workers.
We're with you, brothers and sisters!