And so it goes: three former line cooks will get $3,540, their lawyer $15,700 as chef Bryan Voltaggio and business partner Hilda Staples (whose Volt and Family Meal restaurants are among my favorites) settle overtime claims [Frederick News-Post]
Last month we told the story of a Texas business that managed to clobber the U.S. Department of Labor in court over its challenge to the company’s use of independent contractors. The Fifth Circuit granted the company a substantial award in legal fees to punish the department for its bad faith in litigation.
Now, Coyote relates a personal encounter in which he runs into a man at a Houston steakhouse who turned out to be the owner of that company, Gate Guard:
I refused to believe him until he showed me a picture of him with the check. He had had it blown up into one of those huge golf tournament checks. I told him he was my hero and tried to buy him drinks the rest of the night, but when I got up to leave, I found he had actually paid my tab. I drank that evening on the Department of Labor’s dime, I guess.
- Immigration-related rules on the one hand, national-origin discrimination rules on the other: “Employers could get sued for following the law” [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner]
- Should anyone doubt labor relations as an academic field tilts way left, here are numbers [Mitchell Langbert, Econ Journal Watch]
- Connecticut high court opens door to letting kids of dismissed workers sue employers for lost consortium, on top of suits filed by the parents themselves [Daniel Schwartz]
- Obama scheme to yank millions of workers off salaried status is a real economic menace [Trey Kovacs, CEI, earlier]
- Panel discussion marks 80th anniversary of National Labor Relations Act with lawprofs Richard Epstein and John Raudabaugh, Bill Samuel (AFL-CIO) and Mark Schneider (Machinists), moderated by Hon. Joan Larsen of Michigan Supreme Court [Federalist Society video, National Lawyers Conference]
- “Employment-related class action settlements hit high in 2015” [12th annual Seyfarth Shaw Workplace Class Action Litigation Report via Staffing Industry Analysts] EEOC Employee Charge trends, annual report [Hiscox, and note map on p. 4 of employee lawsuit hotspots including Illinois, California, Nevada, and New Mexico]
I’ve got a new post at Cato summarizing four recent cases in which judges have rebuked the Equal Employment Opportunity and Department of Labor, awarding attorneys’ fees against the agencies in two cases (Gate Guard and Freeman Cos.) and rejecting two major EEOC initiatives against wellness programs (Flambeau) and severance package language (CVS). Excerpt:
Why are independent, strong-minded courts so important to a free society? One reason is that they – and often only they – are the ones who can stop government agencies from trampling on the rights of the citizens….
Imagine what these agencies and others would be getting away with were our judiciary someday reduced to a spirit of subservience to the executive branch of government.
“Law firm Morgan & Morgan PLLC has agreed to pay a former employee the wages she alleged are owed because the firm misclassified case managers as exempt from overtime pay, resolving a proposed collective action, according to documents filed Thursday in Georgia federal court.” [Law360; earlier on overtime actions against this firm, which itself files overtime suits]
Amazon is hiring on-demand drivers to implement its Amazon Flex same-day-delivery service. Given the confused state of federal wage-hour FLSA law as inherited from the 1930s, and the ever intensifying legal pressure from class action lawyers and various levels of government, will this arrangement eventually be upheld as legal? Who knows? “By the time courts and Congress take a decade to reshape labor law, the companies will have moved on to the next thing.” [Ira Stoll, Future of Capitalism]
Or is even this too optimistic a view? The premise is that the labor law apparatus would like to catch up with the cool new economy, but is just too klutzy and slow. But the sad truth may be that catching up isn’t the point: the public officials in charge of the system, and the unions that back them, don’t particularly mind whether they choke off innovative forms of work organization.
“Under a new rule proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, all companies with more than 100 employees would be required to submit summary pay data each year. Since 1966, large companies have reported to the EEOC the number of their employees by sex, race, ethnicity and job group. The new proposal would add to that list pay data in 12 salary ranges, [with individual salaries] grouped together to protect privacy.” [USA Today, EEOC press release] “The data will be used to identify employers that may be engaging in pay discrimination so that the agency can target its enforcement resources where problems may be likeliest to exist. The proposal would cover more than 63 million U.S. workers, according to the White House. The plan… won’t require legislative approval.” [WSJ]
Aside from driving a high volume of litigation by the EEOC itself, the scheme will also greatly benefit private lawyers who sue employers, including class action lawyers. An employer might then weather the resulting litigation siege by showing that its numbers were good enough, or not. Would today’s Labor Department and EEOC policies look much different if the Obama administration frankly acknowledged that it was devising them with an eye toward maximum liability and payouts?
- “Outdoor guides to Obama: Take a hike” [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner; Labor Department imposes higher federal-contractor minimum wage on outfitters operating in national parks, though they do not fit conventional definition of contractors]
- Los Angeles: “Gov’t Emails Cast Doubt On Berkeley Minimum Wage Study” [Connor Wolf, Daily Caller]
- Video: David Boaz (Cato) debates Chai Feldblum (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) on identity in the workplace [Atlantic “Ideas”]
- Oyster visas: when even Sen. Barbara Mikulski says labor regulations go too far, maybe they go too far [Rachel Weiner, Washington Post]
- Lawsuit: California shouldn’t be letting private employees work seven days in a row whether they want to or not [Trevor Burrus, Cato; Mendoza v. Nordstrom brief, Supreme Court of California]
- One hopes U.S. Senate will think carefully before ratifying international labor conventions [Richard Trumka and Craig Becker, Pacific Standard]
- “We’re going to overturn every rock in their lives to find out about their lifestyles”: union chief vows to go after lawmakers seeking to break county liquor monopoly in Montgomery County, Maryland [Bethesda Magazine]
The current trend in social justice circles is to disapprove of tipping, and not coincidentally wage and hour law has been ratcheting up the pressure on tip-based compensation arrangements, both by curtailing employers’ leeway to count tip income as a credit toward regular wages, and by more intense litigation pressure on tip pooling and similar arrangements. Such changes alone will probably not suffice to kill the custom, so we can look forward to continuing innovation in other legal weaponry aimed at it, such as — for instance — theories that tipping aids and abets pay discrimination [Workplace Prof]