Monday, November 25, 2013

U.S. Labor Board may issue complaint against Wal-Mart on strikes

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Labor Relations Board on Monday said it has authorized legal action against Wal-Mart Stores Inc for allegedly retaliating against workers who participated in strikes against the company over low pay.
Groups of Walmart workers went on strike nationwide on Nov. 22, 2012, to protest the retailer's wages and worker benefits. The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is typically the busiest shopping day of the year. The workers also went on strike in May and June before the company's annual shareholder meeting.
The company retaliated against employees who joined those strikes by firing them, threatening to fire them or disciplining them, the NLRB said in a statement on Monday. The labor board also said that a Walmart spokesman made comments on television threatening workers who planned to join the November protests.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company disagrees with the board's action.
"We believe this is just a procedural step and we will pursue our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified," she said. "The fact is we provide good jobs and unparalleled opportunities for our associates."
The NLRB is the U.S. agency that enforces the nation's labor laws. It oversees union elections, polices unfair labor practice claims and is charged with enforcing the U.S. National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to work together to improve their workplace conditions.
The NLRB's general counsel's office would bring any complaint against the retailer if one results. Last month a divided Senate confirmed a former union lawyer to the general counsel's position, essentially the agency's top prosecutor.
The protests were orchestrated by a coalition of union and workers' rights groups, including the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and OUR Walmart, which have pushed for better wages and benefits at the company.
Walmart has no unionized labor in the United States.
"The board's decision confirms what Walmart workers have long known: the company is illegally trying to silence employees who speak out for better jobs," Sarita Gupta of the pro-worker group Jobs for Justice said in a statement.
The NLRB said on Monday that it will issue a complaint against the retailing giant if it cannot reach a settlement with the workers.
"We anticipate the charges will be filed within a week or two if a settlement can't be arranged," an NLRB spokesman told Reuters.
If no settlement is reached and a complaint is filed, Walmart and the board would likely go before an administrative law judge for a trial proceeding.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

OSHA focuses on temporary worker safety

OSHA is getting tough on staffing agencies that provide employers with temporary workers if they do not provide those workers with legally required safety and health training.  But, the buck doesn’t stop there: employers that use the temporary workers are feeling the heat, too.
After investigating the death of two temporary employees from excessive heat this summer in Texas and Virginia, OSHA took action that could increase the risk of civil liability claims against the involved companies. OSHA issued citations and fines both to the temp agencies and to the employers that used the workers.
While the $13,000 to $20,000 fines issued to the companies were moderate in comparison to other OSHA penalties, the government’s actions could provide evidence that plaintiffs’ lawyers can use to help sue the employers and make an end-run around workers’ compensation shields.
In an Op-Ed piece in the Houston Chronicle last month, OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels said his agency has seen too many instances over the past year of fatalities involving workers during their first few days on the job.
“Most of these have been temporary workers,” he wrote. “We have known for a century that new workers are at increased risk for occupational injury and fatality, and that higher risk is due to a lack of safety training and experience at that work site.” 
OSHA defines temporary workers as those supplied to a host employer and paid by a staffing agency. It has used its authority under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to enforce its rules against staffing agencies. Some OSHA officials believe that temporary workers often lack benefits, have no access to paid sick leave, and are often afraid to raise concerns for fear of reprisal.
Since April, OSHA has undertaken a national initiative to protect temporary workers in order to halt what Michaels described as a “rising toll of fatal injuries.” Agency inspectors must determine, in every inspection, if every temporary worker on the site has received the safety training and protections required by law for the job. “If they haven't, we will hold their employers accountable,” Michaels warned.
In August, Michaels announced OSHA was partnering with the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division to create new strategies to protect temporary workers. The agency is also trying to clarify the obligations staffing agencies have for their workers when they are on-site at host employers.
In the Chronicle article, Michaels said OSHA is also reaching out to labor staffing agencies, explaining how they must insist their employees are not put at risk of injury or death while working. And OSHA is making every worker, including temporary workers, aware that they have the right to contact OSHA if they face workplace hazards.
At least one state has also taken steps to protect temps. In Massachusetts, a new law effective in January requires temporary agencies to provide certain workers with written job orders that have information about the job, necessary training and which party is responsible for payment of personal protective equipment.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Furniture Distributor Compensates Workers for California Labor Law Violations

Calexico, CA: While it didn’t get to the point of becoming a California labor lawsuit, a California furniture distributor nonetheless agreed to pay more than $120,000 in owed overtime wages to current and former employees following an investigation by the Office of the California Labor Commissioner.

According to a PR Newswire release (10/28/13), Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su launched the investigation following a complaint by an employee of Coppel Corporation, a distributor and warehouse in the state. The employee, according to the report, contacted the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) within the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) with regard to potential violations of California labor employment law.

Following the filing of a formal California labor code complaint with the DLSE’s Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE), it was determined by investigators following a review of payroll documents that employees had worked about two or three hours of overtime each week but were paid at their regular hourly rate - a violation of California and labor law.

Labor Commissioner Su was quick to point out that Coppel Corporation co-operated fully once the allegations came to light, undertaking a self-audit that eventually revealed the overtime wages discrepancy.

California prevailing wage law mirrors federal statues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires a rate of pay calculated at one and one-half times the regular hourly rate of pay for any hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour week, or any hours worked beyond the 5th consecutive day.

As a result of the California employee labor law investigation, Coppel will be paying $88,109 to 60 current employees, in addition to $33,613 destined for 83 former employees of the firm.

“This is an example of how effective labor law enforcement benefits everyone,” said Labor Commissioner Su, in a statement. “We encourage employers to cooperate during investigations, come into compliance, and make workers whole.”

A favorite ploy amongst employers attempting to cut expenses and improve their bottom line is to force employees to perform job-related tasks off the clock or incorrectly classify employees as exempt from qualifying for overtime - all tactics that flaunt California state labor laws.

This doesn’t appear to be the case here.

“We appreciate the employer for responsibly working with our investigators to bring a speedy resolution for these workers,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations.

Under the leadership of Su, the Office of the California Labor Commissioner has been aggressively pursuing alleged violations to California labor law, with numerous investigations culminating in a California labor lawsuit and ultimate compensation for workers.

In the end, however, it starts with an employee or group of employees keeping aware of the goings-on at their place of employ, and having the courage to speak up or lay a formal complaint in the face of an alleged violation to the California labor code.  

Source from: 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Preserving the Rights of Disabled Employees

One of the questions that employees worry about the most is: What will happen to me if I get disabled? Will I get any compensation for it? The answer to this is: most probably yes. Workers who get injured during the course of their duty are eligible for compensation under the Workers Compensation Act. However, if you have been injured outside the line of duty, you can still avail some benefits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The guidelines of this act have been properly explained in the labor law posters 2013.

Injuries occurring on the Job

Employers are responsible for providing their employees the necessary workers’ compensation insurance. Employers can only be sued for workplace injuries if they have not provided their employees with the necessary insurance.

Any injuries occurred on the job will entitle the employee for the compensation benefits regardless of the nature or the reason for the injury. The nature of the injury can range anywhere from a piece of machinery to an accident occurring while traveling for business. Under this sort of compensation plan, an employee can avail significant medical benefits and reasonable disability payments, both on a long or short term basis.

However, if the injury was caused by your own incompetence or willful misconduct, then the amount of compensation that you qualify for can be seriously reduced. On the other hand, if it is proven that the injury was caused by your employer deliberately sending you into an unsafe condition, then the amount of compensation can significantly increase as well. The disability payments are based on the company policy and the information present on the labor law posters 2013.

You may even consider hiring an attorney to represent you so that the situation is handled in the best way. If the company you work for refuses to pay any compensation, then a complaint can be filed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

Injuries occurring while not on the job

According to the labor law posters 2013, workers who are injured due to any non-work related incident can also claim payments under the disability insurance or under the state or federal Social Security program. A large range of disabilities which even include pregnancies, communicable diseases, and acute alcoholism are covered under the Social Security program.

To be eligible for these benefits and payments, an individual must fulfill all of the following criteria:

  • Must be disabled and unemployed 
  • Must have been working at the time of becoming disabled 
  • Cannot perform the usual duties because of any illness or injury 
  • The previous employment was covered by this program 
  • Must have a valid physician’s certificate supporting the claim for disability 

If these criteria are fulfilled by an individual, then he/she is eligible for receiving the compensation.

However, to get a complete grasp of the benefits that you can receive, it is important to check the company policy. Even the labor law posters 2013 that are mandatory to be posted in all workspaces contain all the necessary information.