FMLA Marks 16th Anniversary Today

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) marks its 16th anniversary today (Feb. 5, 2009) in a beefed-up version that now allows family of service members to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their relatives in the military. Of course, provisions for 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for oneself or one’s family, or for the birth or adoption of a child, are still on the books.

Some 7 million of the FMLA-eligible 77.1 million workers took leave in 2005, the latest year for which statistics have been released.

As I was reading up on FMLA today, one other statistic stuck out, courtesy of a group called AAUW, to wit:

A 2008 study by the Institute for Health and Social Policy found that only five of the 173 countries surveyed did not guarantee at least some form of paid maternity leave to its workers. These countries are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, and our very own USA. Illustrious company, to say the least.

August company to say the very least when you figure that 98 of these countries offer at least 14 weeks of paid leave.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Hard to Keep These $93K-a-Year Guv Employees Happy

Gotta pity poor Randall Hinton, who says he’s running out of music to listen to on his $93,803-a-year guv job, where he otherwise has nothing to do from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Oh, but he does also idle away his away counting cars passing by on the New York Thruway as he gazes out the window and listens to music.

The guy basically can’t be fired either, so why’s he complaining and demanding new responsibilities at the State Insurance Fund in Albany?

Hinton said he’s treated as a second-class employee with fewer resources than even the lowliest Insurance Fund worker. “I have no Internet access, no printer, no laptop, no car. Every day it’s a struggle for me to bring in something I haven’t read or listened to. I can tell you how many white cars pass on the Thruway . . . I can’t take it anymore.”

How did Hinton get into this mess (or nirvana, depending on one’s perspective)? He had the gall to sue former Governor George Pataki for discrimination on the job. In a settlement, he was transferred into his current position, but his supervisors were ordered not to give him anything to do.

Now, he’s suing again, claiming more discrimination and workplace retaliation and demanding some work to do.

Hang in there, Randall. You’re been on the state dole, er, payroll for 27 years already, and as I calculate it, in three more years, you can retire on 90 percent of your pay, or $84,422.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Gotta Love OSHA Courses That Include Beer Breaks

An undercover reporter for New York’s Daily News recently paid $125 to attend an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 10-hour training class.

The class was over in 2 hours, 17 minutes. Held above a Bronx bar, the course enabled several of the attendees to slip away on breaktime to sip beers downstairs.

Nice gig if you can get it. I suppose all the attendees were awarded OSHA course completion certificates at the conclusion.

(Mind you, these courses are not run by OSHA, but by OSHA-certified trainers.)

When pressed, OSHA said it was looking into the matter. Will that include sampling the available beers at the site? Gotta make sure that the bar has its proper OSHA notifications posted.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Obama Plays the Executive Order Cat-and-Mouse Game

Nothing new here, as both Democrats and Republicans do it. When Dubya came to office, he reversed Clintonian mandates, and now Barack Obama has taken a few swipes at George W. and his executive orders.

First, under the Rahm Emanuel rule, all government agencies have been forced to place on hold any directives that hadn’t taken hold by Jan. 20, inauguration day of the new administration.

This has affected important labor issues such as the E-Verify system and the change in documentation for employment verification. You can read about these in the News Alerts section of Personnel Concepts.

This past Friday, Obama wielded his pen to crack the union code, or rather the Bushian anti-union code, by reversing some Bush decrees.

One reversal told federal contractors they could not (as in DON’T) post notifications of workers’ rights to withhold the portion of their union dues that go to political activity. A second mandated that federal contractors could not use federal payments to support or oppose unionization efforts (the thrust here is obvious since no employer would bother to pay for pro-union activities). The third ukase forces successor government contractors to offer jobs first (only?) to workers employed by the predecessor contractor.

All three edicts reverse Bush, who reversed Clinton, who was either original in these or reversed the elder Bush. Either way, you get the idea–and we all get to pay for their caprice when things backfire or produce unintended consequences.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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A Hundred Years Later, Henry Ford Comes to China

American automobile pioneer Henry Ford is famous for many things, including the introduction of assembly-line production and, to make sure workers could endure the boredom of his assembly lines, the $5-a-day pay rule, which was unheard of in 1914. (At the same time, he reduced the workday from nine to eight hours, but we haven’t progressed much since.)

When Ford revolutionized industry with his two implementations, he not only doubled the average worker’s take-home pay, but he also launched the creation of the middle class.

Now, his innovations have come to China, partially anyway. There is no death of assembly lines and other boredom-inducing work conditions in the People’s Republic, but there is also no $5-a-day pay standard either.

Now, at least one labor consultant in China is urging that the nation adopt a minimum daily wage of $5 to spur consumerism in the face of economic hard times. Call it “trickle up,” as the article reporting it did.

All is not well in the PRC. Some 18,000 (some say 60,000) factories have closed since the start of 2008, and at least 10 million (some say 50 million) migrant workers are now out of work and threatening social instability. Officials are worried.

Actually, officials are more than worried–they scared s’less and wreaking havoc on those who would try to organize workers to protest for their rights.

Take the case of migrant worker legal advocate Xiao Qingshan.

On January 9, Xiao said, 14 security officers from the local labor bureau broke into his office, confiscated 600 legal case files, 160 law books, his computer, his photocopier, his television set and 100,000 yuan in cash.

“That evening I was ambushed near the office by five strangers who forced a black bag over my head and then threw me into a shallow polluted canal,” he said. His landlord has since given him notice to quit his rented home.

And meanwhile, all U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner worries about is the exchange rate of the yuan.

Years of sweatshop wages and income equality are coming home to threaten China’s stability–and its leaders. Protests have swept the nation even as Premier Wen Jiabao gets a shoe, Bush style, hurled at him in London.

The prestigious Far Eastern Economic Review headlined its latest edition, “The coming crack-up of the China Model.”

And you thought we had it rough here.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Group Says Single-Payer Can Be Created for $50 Billion

A group going by the name of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) has solved the Riddle of the (Health Care) Sphinx, or so it proclaims.

The PDA folk claim that, by just extending Medicare to all Americans (thereby jettisoning, one would presume, all other current health care delivery systems), the country could–bugles blaring, drums rolling–create 2,613,495 million new, permanent, good-paying jobs; boost the economy by $317 billion in increased business and public revenues; add $100 billion in employee compensation; and infuse public budgets with $44 billion in new tax revenues.

First, as for these “new, permanent, good-paying jobs,” you don’t just pick up doctors, nurses or skilled technicians off the street, and just about every study out there shows that there is already a complete dearth of these professionals to suddenly cover the estimated 47 million Americans who lack health insurance. In Massachusetts, under its new so-called universal health care plan, most of the newly insured can’t find a doctor–and can’t afford the premiums (which the state has found itself paying or subsidizing).

But what is most disturbing about this proclamation of health heaven just over the horizon is the disingenuous financing figures–just $44 billion (or $63 billion–the distinction between these figures is not entirely clear) more than what is currently being spent on health care in America, and you get this single-payer nirvana.

Sounds like a bargain, huh? Problem is, the PDA people never say how the government will transfer the other $2.1 trillion (yes, with a T) being spent yearly on the current, mostly private system, a sum which includes insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, and so on.

The group’s obvious point is, “How could anyone object to spending about $44 (or $63) billion when we’ve bailed out all those banking, stock market and mortgage sleazeballs for several hundred billion?”

It would be hard to so object if it were the only factor, but it would be harder still to find a way to transfer the current $2.1 trillion being spent on health care. Remember, a lot of that money is money that taxpayers are paying themselves–and which they don’t want to pay under any so-called “health care reform.” The public wants out-of-pocket expenses to disappear, and then to be able to walk into any doctor’s office on whim and get treated–without any inconvenience, waiting time or personal money spent.

The public, in short, wants a pipe dream, and sites like this, which make insuring the whole country seem like it costs less than one day in Iraq, only contribute to the daydreaming American public’s fantasies.

As the PDA site proclaims, this $63 billion–they waffle back and forth with $44 billion–is one-sixth the size of the bailout for CitiGroup and half the bailout size for AIG.

Unless my math (and PC calculator) are faulty, if you divide $2.1 trillion by 300 million people, that comes out at $7,000 per person each year. Hardly free–and certainly a lot more than $66 billion, or $220 per person per year. Hell, I’ll write a check for $220 now if I can get that seamless, faultless health care system everyone dreams of.

Unfortunately, this being the real world, it’ll cost each of us $6,780 more a year–and that’s just to get Medicare.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Minimum Wage Laws Cost Busboys Their Jobs

The Wall Street Journal, which has been chronicling the nation’s economic woes industry by industry, today ran a a piece about the latest cost-cutting strategy being employed at some restaurants–letting the busboys go.

Of course, this means that the wait staff must now clear tables and scrape dishes clean, tasks that most of them frown on and that some have even refused to do, leaving their places of work either voluntarily or involuntarily.

But here’s the rub: Since busboys usually don’t receive tips, they must be paid the full minimum wage, but wait staff generally fall under the “tipped employee” category and can be paid as little as $2 or $3 an hour, depending on the state.

Here we see an excellent example of the minimum wage law’s backfiring, but you won’t hear any politician denouncing such laws. Instead, they’ll blame the heartless restaurateurs and pass a law limiting their profits (to go along with executive pay and bonus laws coming out this week).

The really ironic thing is that, for at least one group of 570 restaurants all called Bob Evans (which seems to be a Midwestern chain), spoons are disappearing and must be replaced at an alarming rate.

Theories abound, all the way from wait staff revenge to a simpler cause–the spoons, being lighter and handier, are used to scrape the plates but they end up getting discarded into the trash can with the leftovers.

Anyway, we can only hope that the cost of the spoon replacements outweighs the cost of the previous bus staff.

Karmic revenge, you know.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Car Washes Targeted by ICE for Immigration Raids

News item from the blogosphere:

Earlier this year, Car Care Inc., a subsidiary of Mace Securities Inc., was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and to forfeit $500,000 to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following a 2006 investigation. (At one time, Mace, a manufacturer of security and personal defense products, was one of the largest carwash chains in the nation.) Car Care Inc., based in the Northeast, had employees on the payroll who were using false identification cards to show legal status to work. $600,000! On top of that, five managers are awaiting criminal actions against them, personally.

Actually, I found this little tidbit while following a Google Alert on the I-9 employment verification form that employers must keep on file for each employee. The quoted tidbit is both newsworthy and instructional in and of itself, but it’s also part of a blog posting by labor law attorney Jacob Monty.

Monty’s whole point is how much safer and easier an employer’s life becomes when he or she uses the E-Verify online database to check the “legal to work in the U.S.” status of each new employee. The system is free, he says, works in about 10 seconds, and produces a document to file with each employee’s I-9 that virtually guarantees you won’t get fined by the government. Using E-Verify, you’ve done your due diligence, in other words.

The blog where Monty posted this was one for the carwashing and detailing industry, and he blithely warns his readers that car washes are “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to ICE illegal worker raids.

For his final advice, Monty warns, “ICE knows which companies are using the system and which are not—and they target those who are not using E-Verify.”

I personally always rely on Personnel Concepts to keep compliant with the various laws and regulations of the nation, and that long-time labor law compliance company has issued an instructive and useful I-9 Compliance Kit. Highly recommended.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Unemployment Benefits for Strikers? Court Says Yes

The New Jersey State Supreme Court, in a 6-1 ruling, has authorized striking nurses to receive unemployment benefits, overturning just about every precedent concerning unemployment insurance.

The lone dissenting justice, Roberto Rivera-Soto, called the decision “perverse,” noting that it “upends the common-sense notion that striking employees have left their employment voluntarily and, hence, should be disqualified from unemployment compensation benefits.”

Unemployment insurance was included in the Social Security Act of 1935, which created the Federal-State Unemployment Compensation Program. The act listed the goal as “to provide temporary and partial wage replacement to involuntarily unemployed workers who were recently employed.”

It seems pretty clear that eligible workers have to be “involuntarily” out of work, which is not the case with the strikers at Lourdres Medical Center of Burlington County.

And catch this, as reported on MyCentralJersey.com, “[T]he decision upheld a backward state law that says strikers can receive unemployment benefits so long as their company remains open.”

Can you imagine the implications of this if other state courts, or politicians, apply the same standards? And what of already-strapped employers who will now have guns held to their heads if they don’t settle quickly.

Fighting the strikers and hiring temporary help, under this scenario, could prove to be prohibitively expensive. Though employers don’t have to pay unemployment benefits directly, their state UI taxes go up proportionately (or dispropotionately, as the case may be) as their unemployed worker total rises.

I can see it now: “I was forced to strike when my employer refused to raise my wages 300 percent.”

Involuntarily on strike and out of work–the new standard for unemployment.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Vicky Crawford: Six Years to Get Her Day in Court

This week the U.S. Supreme Court reversed lower-court rulings in the case of Vicky* Crawford, allowing her suit against Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee to go to trial. (*I’ve also seen her first name spelled Vicki, don’t know which is correct.)

The way I read things, Ms. Crawford got royally screwed both by her employers and by the courts.

In 2001, Gene Hughes was hired as the employee relations manager for the school district, and by 2002 complaints had already begun to surface that Hughes was sexually harassing some of the female employees. An investigation was launched, and Ms Crawford told of her experience. She said Hughes had frequently asked to see her breasts, had grabbed his genitals in front of her, and on one occasion had even pulled her head toward his crotch.

Other female employees lodged similar complaints.

Result?

Nothing ever happened to Hughes*, but Vicky was let go on charges of embezzlement and drug use. Two other female complainants were also dismissed. (*However, Hughes was later forced to resign for resume fraud in claiming he was a lawyer, former professional football player and Navy SEAL.)

Now, for part two in this ironic story. Ms. Crawford sued on grounds of being retaliated against in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Lower courts ruled that she had no case since she had not properly filied a complaint but just answered questions from the human resources department.

When her appeal got to the Supreme Court, the ruling was unanimous–in her favor.

Wrote Justice David Souter:

“Nothing in the statute requires a freakish rule protecting an employee who reports discrimination on her own initiative but not one who reports the same discrimination in the same words when her boss asks a question.”

So, she can finally get her day in court. Let justice prevail.

(Employers, don’t get yourselves into binds like these. Bone up on all applicable harassment and discrimination laws and regulations through the invaluable tools offered by Personnel Concepts.)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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