Recent Employment Law News

Archive for the ‘Recent Employment Law News’ Category

What do you get when you ask employees to work overtime, refuse to pay them beyond 40 hours and require them to make deliveries in their own personal vehicles? The answer: a lawsuit.

A bakery in Baltimore has been ordered to pay employees overtime for deliveries they made in their own cars beyond 40 hours per week. While the vehicles and overtime may not seem connected at first, the combination is what cinched the win for the workers.

Professional motor carriers that deliver goods, like Schmidt Baking Company, are generally exempt from laws requiring overtime payment for employees who work more than 40 hours per week. However, because the employees making deliveries drove their own small, passenger vehicles, the motor carrier exemption is waived. While the company does own and use larger tractor trailers for some deliveries, the employees in question say 70 to 90 percent of their deliveries were made in their own cars.

While no indication was given as to exactly how much affected employees would receive for the overtime they are owed, this is indeed a huge win for workers at Schmidt. We congratulate the workers for standing up for their rights and not backing down from a fight even when initial litigation did not go their way.

Overtime law can be confusing, especially for workers who believe their employers are looking out for their best interests. The reality is that they are most likely looking after their own bottom lines. If you or someone you love believe they are being taken advantage of by their employer, talk to a Virginia employment lawyer as soon as possible.

Unpaid Wage & Overtime Lawyers

If you believe that your employer has violated the law or failed to properly pay you your wages, our unpaid wage & overtime attorneys are here to help. Contact us to setup a free consultation to discuss your situation 877-544-5323.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission say they have received 50 percent more tips this year when compare to fiscal year 2012. That’s more than 4,400 tips from concerned whistleblowers hoping to gain protection and award money from the SEC. 62 percent of awarded whistleblowers were current or former industry insiders, using their unique perspective to alert authorities to corporate wrongdoing.

This number is seen as a raving success for the SEC. In previous eras, it was difficult to convince insiders to come forward with concerns because they feared retaliation. With protection from the SEC and tempting award money amounts, more and more people are coming forward with information.

The SEC estimates they will likely award future whistleblowers with more than $220 million in payments. They issued $50 million in awards last year alone. 

This amount of money makes waves in both private and public sectors. Managers have received the message not to silence tipsters. This creates a climate that allows for less fraud and greater accountability in virtually all industries. Of course, the financial sector is among the largest targets for the SEC.

Of course, some companies say that these awards discourage employees from bringing their concerns to human resource offices to deal with misbehavior internally. While this is indeed a problematic side effect of the issue, the larger impact is inherently positive for our society. We applaud the SEC for awarding brave whistleblowers. It is a sign of a productive, ethical society that employees no longer fear doing the right thing.

Have You Witnessed Illegal Practices?

If you have been brave enough to reveal unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, you should not be punished.  If you are aware of unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, but have not come forward, you need guidance.  In both instances, you deserve the protection that the law affords you. Do not stand by and be bullied into silence by your company.

Discriminatory hiring practices and the use of racial epithets are just some of the reasons former Norfolk shipyard employees say they have filed a lawsuit. Seventeen former employees say that Lyon Shipyard, Inc. discriminated against them based on their race. Court documents reveal that supervisors referred to African American employees using racial slurs and paid them and Hispanic workers less than their white counterparts.

The plaintiffs say that was far from the end of the mistreatment. Racist graffiti at work sites included swastikas, KKK insignia and the “N” word. One employee says their co-worker tied a noose and waved it on board the deck of a Navy ship. When supervisors were told of such problems, none of the concerns were addressed.

Unfortunately, the plaintiffs say the mistreatment extended into the kind of work they were assigned, too. Jobs thought of as dirty, difficult and dangerous were assigned to minority employees more frequently than white ones. Even when taking on such duties, Hispanic and African American employees were paid less than their white counterparts, they say.

It is hard to believe that in 2017, this kind of abhorrent treatment is still occurring. One would hope that the merits of a worker would be judged based upon their work ethic and skills, not the color of their skin. These employees have every right to pursue a lawsuit against such unfair employers. Discrimination like the aforementioned behavior isn’t just unethical, it’s illegal. We can only hope that the people who acted in this way are held responsible for their actions.

Have you been a Victim of Race/Color Discrimination?

Where you denied a  job opportunity because of your race? Are you being discriminated against because of the color of your skin? These are serious situations that should be dealt with accordingly.

With a Virginia employment attorney on your side, you know your rights will be protected at all times.

Restaurant owners in Roanoke have been ordered to pay $3 million to workers they allegedly cheated out of overtime pay and tips. The three owners oversaw six Mexican restaurants and 149 past and present employees. Workers say during the period between 2012 and 2015, servers were paid only in tips and not compensated for overtime work. Cooks and dishwashers who worked overtime were also not paid the one and a half times their hourly wage owed to them for working more than 40 hours in a week.

While it is not clear how much each worker will get from the suit, the owners of the company did agree to work out a payment plan. They also agreed to comply with laws surround tips, minimum wage and overtime.

We congratulate the workers on their success in court. There are likely countless other employees in similar circumstances who feel they have no recourse for their company’s mistreatment. A Virginia employment lawyer can help workers who are taken advantage of by their employers and ensure they are compensated for their hard work.

The laws surrounding overtime, minimum wage and tips can be confusing for some people, but that is never an excuse to pay employees less than what they deserve. Putting in a hard day of work and coming home to provide for your family is the epitome of the American dream. Greedy business owners make it hard for employees to succeed when they cheat the system.

If you feel you have been taken advantage of by your employer, call our office today.

Unpaid Wage & Overtime Lawyers

If you believe that your employer has violated the law or failed to properly pay you your wages, our unpaid wage & overtime attorneys are here to help. Contact us to setup a free consultation to discuss your situation 877-544-5323.

A Food Safety Modernization Act clause will allow food and agricultural workers protection should they raise the flag on unsafe practices. Section 402 protects privately employed food and agriculture workers who take action reporting food safety concerns. Under the clause, such workers cannot be discharged or punished for their whistleblowing.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency responsible for enforcing these new provisions. They oversee 20 such whistleblower rules, all of which protect workers from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unsafe practices in the workplace.

Many of the FSMA provisions have taken years to enact, but the whistleblowing clause went into effect the moment President Obama signed the law in 2011. Since that time, OSHA has been collecting complaints from food and agriculture workers about food safety.

Before this clause was put into place, people who complained about food safety in the workplace could be fired and retaliated against for speaking up. A Texas peanut plant employee tried to raise the flag about products contaminated with salmonella. Unfortunately, his concerns went unheard and nine people were sickened and killed by the contaminated peanut products. Thousands of others were also made sick by the peanuts.

Unfortunately, the man and his family now live in poverty, in spite of his attempt to do what was right. This is a story that is far too common among whistleblowers of all industries. Thankfully, this clause should help put a stop to retaliation and punishment of people like the peanut whistleblower.

Have You Witnessed Illegal Practices?

If you have been brave enough to reveal unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, you should not be punished.  If you are aware of unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, but have not come forward, you need guidance.  In both instances, you deserve the protection that the law affords you. Do not stand by and be bullied into silence by your company.

When the Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993, it aimed to prevent the termination of employees who needed to take time off to recover from injuries. The act protected workers from being fired for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. It was seen as a victory for workers throughout the country. Unfortunately, violations of the act still occur all the time. Locally, a woman is being compensated after being fired too quickly when returning from FMLA leave.

The county of Isle of Wight must pay the equivalent of two years salary to a woman a judge says they fired too quickly after an injury. The employee injured her shoulder in a boating accident but continued to work as the economic development director of Isle of Wight for two months. When the pain in her shoulder became too much to bear, the woman used Family and Medical Leave Act to take off the month of July 2014 to recover.

Though due back August 1, the employee was advised by her doctor to take another three days of rest. When she attempted to return the following Monday, she was shocked to learn that her employer had taken her failure to appear on that Friday as a voluntary resignation. They dropped a letter informing her she was no longer employed the very day she was absent.

A judge has found that Isle of Wight moved too quickly in firing the woman and violated the Family and Medical Leave Act in doing so. The county has been ordered to pay more than $275,000 in back salary and $275,000 in damages.

We applaud the judge’s decision to award the former Isle of Wight employee this very just compensation. It is a win for anyone who has ever felt wrongly terminated after suffering an injury and missing work.

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Cindra Dowd handles employment law and personal injury cases at the Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC. Ms. Dowd was one of the lead attorneys in the Isle of Wight FMLA case that was recently settled. If you need assistance in a personal injury or employment law matter, contact our office to discuss your legal rights.

The city of Chesapeake is facing allegations of discrimination from an African-American detective employed with the police department there. The detective has filed a lawsuit against the city of Chesapeake, the chief of police and three other officers.

The allegations stem from a 2015 incident, when the detective learned an internal investigation had been launched on his behalf. His undercover detective tactics were under scrutiny after police learned he had been sending angry text messages to an underage suspect.

The detective was reprimanded for his actions and was accused of failing to properly collect evidence. He also allegedly failed to document his hours properly and changed his schedule without authorization. The detective was transferred to a different department.

He argues he was treated unfairly, especially when compared to other white detectives who acted in a similar fashion. The captain, sergeant and lieutenant being sued are all white.

The detective says he has faced losses and emotional distress and is suing for compensatory and punitive damages. He has requested a trial by jury.

The city of Chesapeake insists no discrimination has occurred and argues that comparing his own actions to those of other white police officers is like comparing apples and oranges.

While it’s not clear whether this discrimination suit will be an open and shut case, we applaud the detective for standing up for himself legally. He remains employed by the city of Chesapeake. Many wait until after they’ve left a position to file a lawsuit.

If you’re treated unfairly in your place of work, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to a Virginia employment lawyer today to begin exploring your legal options.

Have you been a Victim of Race/Color Discrimination?

Where you denied a  job opportunity because of your race? Are you being discriminated against because of the color of your skin? These are serious situations that should be dealt with accordingly.

With a Virginia employment attorney on your side, you know your rights will be protected at all times.

For years, we’ve heard about the pollution of our planet’s oceans, but rarely have the people responsible for such pollution been held responsible for their negligence. That’s changing, thanks to the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, also known as APPS. APPS allows pollution whistleblowers to alert authorities to corporate misbehavior and receive up to half of the fine charged against the company.

In recent years, APPS has held several major companies responsible for their pollution. In 2016, Princess Cruise lines had to pay $40 million for dumping oily substances into the ocean. A former engineer on one of the cruise ships was the one responsible for blowing the whistle and stood to receive close to $1 million for his courage.

Last month, the Department of Justice secured a settlement from two companies, the Egyptian Tanker Company and Thome Ship Management after a ship dispensed of oily waste in the Gulf of Mexico. Bags of garbage were also tossed into the water. During a Coast Guard inspection, a crew member brought the misdeeds to light. He provided a written statement along with photos and video of the pollution. Thanks to his reports, the companies were fined. The whistle blower stands to receive more than $950,000 for his honesty.

Pollution won’t stop on its own. Without whistle blowers like the ones mentioned above, companies would likely continue to pollute without a second thought. Now, Princess Cruises, the Egyptian Tanker Company and Thome Ship Management will be more thoughtful about how they do away with waste.

Have You Witnessed Illegal Practices?

If you have been brave enough to reveal unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, you should not be punished.  If you are aware of unsafe, fraudulent, or deceitful practices within your company, but have not come forward, you need guidance.  In both instances, you deserve the protection that the law affords you. Do not stand by and be bullied into silence by your company.

Summer jobs are an important part of adolescence, an opportunity not only to earn spending money, but a chance to learn and grow as a person. Many times, though, teens taking their first jobs are ripe for manipulating. While we’d love to believe employers have their workers’ best interest at hearts, the reality is that that isn’t always true.

A recent report from the Huffington Post highlighted the wage theft struggles fast casual employees face. Workers are Ruby Tuesday were required to complete checklists of duties before and after clocking in for their shift. Similarly, Outback Steakhouse required employees to do pre-shift work known as “Outback time.” A Papa John’s franchise in New York was found to be shaving employees’ hours by rounding down to the nearest whole number.

All of these restaurants employ teens and young adults not accustomed to advocating for themselves. Many teens are simply too timid to confront their employers about pay discrepancies. Others may not understand the complicated math that goes into determining post-tax wages. No matter the explanation, companies are routinely taking advantage of employees in fast casual restaurants.

If your son or daughter takes on a job this summer, educate them on worker’s rights. Make sure they clarify their exact pay rate before accepting a position, and help them monitor their hours. When payday comes, have them compare hours worked with the number of hours they were paid for. These are lessons that all workers should be doing, but many don’t have an adult helping them navigate unchartered waters!

Unpaid Wage & Overtime Lawyers

If you believe that your employer has violated the law or failed to properly pay you your wages, our unpaid wage & overtime attorneys are here to help. Contact us to setup a free consultation to discuss your situation 877-544-5323.

Popular ride sharing service Uber is under fire this week after a former employee blogged about the sexual harassment she experienced at the company. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has joined an independent investigation into the matter – an investigation ordered by none other than Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

The blog post that went viral this week details one female engineer’s experience while working at Uber. The nearly 3,000 word post discusses sexual harassment she faced starting from day one on her team. Her manager sought her out via instant message asking for sex. Though she took screenshots and reported the manager to human resources, the manager was not formally punished for his actions. The man was a high performer, the HR department claimed, and would only receive a warning. This was his first offense, they argued.

The female engineer was given two choices: she could leave the team and her area of expertise or face a poor performance review from the manager. She chose to transfer teams, but later left the company after experiencing more gender discrimination and retaliation. Before she left, she learned that she was far from the first woman harassed by the alleged “first offense” manager. He later left the company.

Tech companies like Uber pride themselves on being socially aware and ultra-modern, but this kind of treatment of women employees anything but.  It just goes to show that even the most contemporary of businesses can have very old school – and illegal – points of view on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Virginia Employment Lawyer

If you feel you have been a victim of sexual harassment discrimination, the first thing to do is report this to your supervisor and/or human resource department. From there, you will have a better understanding of how to move forward.

Remember, you also have the right to contact a Virginia employment attorney who can help protect your rights and decide if you are in position to take action.