An Oakland Raiders cheerleader just filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of 40 current and former Raiderettes. She claims the Raiderettes’ contract violates both state and federal wage and hour laws -- and cheerleaders’ contracts with other NFL teams probably do, as well. She invites other dancers with similar problems to join. Twenty-six of the NFL’s 32 teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, have cheerleaders.
The question of whether workers are the legal employees of or independent contractors for the companies they work for is important to individuals, because independent contractors are often paid much less and are not entitled to benefits. It's also important to the government because businesses don't pay employment taxes for contractors.
It doesn’t appear that the shutdown of the federal government that began on Tuesday is likely to end quickly, that that could cause some headaches for workers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor has had to put more than 80 percent of its workforce on furlough, leaving only 2,954 Labor Department employees on the job nationwide. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a division of the Labor Department, and its workforce has been cut even more deeply -- to 5 percent of its usual size. That means a total of 107 people are currently on staff at the EEOC.
If you’ve ever worked as a home health aide or nursing assistant, you’re probably aware that these so-called “companionship services,” however vitally important, have not been subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that guarantees the minimum wage and overtime pay. Even when the U.S. Department of Labor revised the definition of companionship services in 2011, home healthcare workers were specifically excluded from FLSA coverage.
Rick's Cabaret International, operator of the gentlemen’s club here in Minneapolis and others nationwide, could be facing substantial liability in a class-action lawsuit brought by more than 1,900 current and former exotic dancers at its Manhattan location. Other Rick’s Cabarets had better evaluate their own policies or they could find themselves facing lawsuits, as well.
Across the arc of American history, our nation’s labor and employment laws have trended toward greater protection for workers from wage and hour abuse, but there have been setbacks. For example, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt 75 years ago, it had been watered down substantially from its original plan, which would have set a maximum workweek of 35 to 40 hours, with a minimum wage of $12 to $15 a week. Instead, the law as passed st the maximum workweek at 44 hours and the minimum wage at $11 a week. Moreover, it only applied to about 20 percent of the labor force.
According to research by a national, employer-side law firm, wage and hour litigation is still on the rise. As we discussed on this blog in August of last year, the number of Fair Labor Standards Act cases brought by workers reached a 20-year high as early as March 2012, and it appears they continue to skyrocket this year despite some indications they had reached their peak.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case called AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 supersedes state laws that had prohibited employment contracts forbidding class-action arbitration. The ruling allowed employers nationwide to force workers to sign contracts in which, not only did all disputes have to be settled through arbitration, but they couldn't bring those disputes forward as a class.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has just announced that it is changing the way it will investigate pay discrimination by federal contractors. The mission of the OFCCP is to ensure federal contractors comply with equal employment policies, and it believes the change will bring federal contract compliance more in line with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The directive changing the enforcement policy went into effect March 1.
The U.S. Department of Labor wants to know just how much the average worker understands about the job classification system and his or her rights under that system. Unfortunately, according to the Labor Department, it is fairly common for employees' rights to be violated through the misclassification of workers as independent contractors versus employees.