Sunoco Inc. Agrees To Pay $675,000.00 To Settle FLSA Action

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Egan Young, Attorneys-at-Law, is pleased to announce final approval of a $675,000.00 dollar settlement with Sunoco, Inc. to resolve a collective action lawsuit brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) on behalf of 488 current and/or former unionized operations and laboratory workers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Ripley, et. al. v. Sunoco, Inc, 2:10-cv-01194, E.D.Pa.).

In February 2010, Plaintiffs, members of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 10-1, asserted that Sunoco, Inc. violated the FLSA and analogous Pennsylvania state laws by failing to pay operations and laboratory workers for pre and post shift work time, including required “shift relief” — a process unique to refinery workers who routinely work 12-hour shifts.

The agreement resolves all wage claims asserted in the lawsuit.  In addition, Sunoco agreed to change certain operational policies such that class members will also receive additional future compensation for engaging in the required “shift relief”.

Eric L. Young, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, commented, “Sunoco refinery workers labor tirelessly in a difficult and dangerous work environment.  They deserve to be paid for all of the time spent at work.  We are honored to have been successful in obtaining additional wages for these dedicated workers.”   Mr. Young was assisted by EY attorneys Gerard P. Egan and Brandon J. Lauria.

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For more information about this settlement, please contact Eric L. Young, Esquire at 1-800-590-4116 or eyoung@eganyoung.com.  Egan Young, a Philadelphia-based law firm, is dedicated to representing employees throughout the United States in wage and hour collective and class action litigation.

More than 400,000 Experience Wage Theft in Pennsylvania Each Week

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A report published by Temple Law School this week detailed the pervasive problem of wage theft here in Pennsylvania and, specifically, Philadelphia. The executive summary details the grim facts for workers in the state in any given workweek:

  • Almost 400,000 Pennsylvanians experience a minimum wage violation.
  • Over 300,000 Pennsylvanians experience an overtime violation.
  • Pennsylvania workers lose a total of $19 million to $32 million in wages.

In the Philadelphia metropolitan region alone, more than 100,000 workers can be expected to have a minimum wage or overtime violation each week with 75,000 employees working off-the-clock without pay from area businesses.

The statistics are extrapolated from a 2009 investigation of thousands of workers in low-wage industries in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago and then applied to Pennsylvania using Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data.

Here in Philadelphia, the occupations most likely to experience these problems are in the restaurant industry: waiters, bartenders, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers and food preparers. Other jobs seeing a significant problem were office clerks, retail salespersons, home health aides and cashiers. In the metropolitan region, the list of occupations where wage theft is experienced also includes individuals working in factory and packaging; general construction; building services and grounds workers; and drivers, parking lot attendants and car wash workers.

The report recommends Pennsylvania impose criminal penalties against employers, increase monetary penalties, create a wage lien law and impose other non-monetary penalties. It also suggests additional outreach and education, a confidential or anonymous process for complaints and internal adjudication of claims within the Department of Labor and Industry.

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Workers Fight Wage Theft Despite Fall in Class Actions

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Wage theft has been huge a topic in employee rights over the past year. But class action lawsuits addressing employment issues are falling and more employees must give up their right to file a lawsuit in court, according to a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday.

The number of employers requiring workers to sign arbitration agreements has more than doubled since the Supreme Court ruling in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion approved them on a 5-4 decision. Only 16% of companies used arbitration clauses in 2012. That number has now grown to 43% last year according to the survey.

The validity of class action waivers is still in dispute as the Supreme Court has so far declined to address the issue. The National Labor Relations Board has twice ruled that class action waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act. Companies, on the other hand, feel increasingly confident that the Supreme Court will uphold their point of view.

The survey found that the increasing use of arbitration clauses and waivers of the right to bring a class action are decreasing the amount of lawsuits that are filed in court. Only 23 percent of class-action suits in 2014 addressed an employment law issue, down from 28% in 2011.

The publication of the survey comes at an interesting time. Employees actually seem to have been making inroads against employers with their push for higher minimum wages and opposition to wage theft outside of the courtroom. McDonald’s has just said it plans to increase wages on its company-owned stores (not including franchisees) to more than $1 above minimum wage. Walmart made a similar promise in February – it plans to raise its minimum pay to $10 an hour next year.

Seattle will start raising the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour starting this month. Small employers must follow a seven year schedule of mandatory pay raises. Large employers have three to four years, depending on whether they pay toward an employee’s medical benefits plan, to reach the new higher minimum.  Los Angeles is also considering an increase in its minimum wage to $13.25 or $15.25 an hour.

The Secretary of Labor also promised additional efforts against employers committing wage theft, citing a UCLA study that $1 billion is lost by low-wage workers each year due to wage theft. Wage theft occurs when an employer withholds earnings or benefits required by state or federal law. This can include skipping mandated meal breaks, failing to pay overtime wages or otherwise failing to pay employees for money that is due to them.

In March, a Papa John’s pizza franchise in New York was ordered by a judge to pay more than $2 million as a result of their failure to pay delivery workers what they were owed. The lawsuit was filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

The push by employers for these clauses in employment agreements stands in stark contrast to yesterday’s enforcement fine levied by the SEC against KBR for inhibiting the right of its workers to report potential violations of the law to the securities regulator.

Congress and the Department of Defense have also taken a stand against employment agreements prohibiting government contractors from reporting fraud, waste and abuse to the U.S. Government. The Cromnibus spending bill contains a requirement that no money from government spending in FY2015 go to companies with agreements that prohibit reporting of fraud, wast and abuse. The DoD now requires a certification by its contractors that they do not require employees or subcontractors to sign or comply with such agreements.

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Wage Theft in Oil, Agriculture, Interns and Freelance Jobs Highlighted

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There’s been a lot of news about wage theft in the media recently. An article published in Inside Energy discussed the surge in claims by workers involved in the oil industry as the price of oil has dropped. According to their report, the number of lawsuits in Colorado for wage violations in 2015 was nine times the number in 2010. The number in Texas, known for oil and gas, increased nearly ten times.

McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt Settles Wage Theft Case Against Vantage Foods

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Last week, Chief Judge Conner in the Middle District of Pennsylvania approved a settlement in a wage theft case we brought against Vantage Foods on behalf of our client and the other workers at the Camp Hill, PA facility.

EY files Class Action Complaint

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PHILADELPHIA – Feb. 26, 2010 – EGAN YOUNG filed a class action lawsuit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of current and former Sunoco employees alleging violations of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968.The case alleges that Sunoco, Inc., a Philadelphia-based company, has failed to pay all wages and overtime owed for approximately 600 of its hourly operations and maintenance employees at the company’s Philadelphia refinery.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Sunoco fails to compensate hourly refinery employees for work-related activities performed prior to clocking in, and after clocking out.In order to perform the essential duties of their jobs, Plaintiffs are required to; don and doff personal protection equipment; obtain and/or store tools; travel to and from assigned work sites; prepare and clean work equipment; and, engage in required shift change briefings between co-workers.

Plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric L. Young, stated that, “After a thorough investigation, it was evident that Sunoco’s workers were not and presently are not paid for all required pre-operations and post-operations activities that are necessary and integral to their overall employment responsibilities.Through this suit, we intend to make right Sunoco’s wrong.”

For more information about the lawsuit contact Eric L. Young or Brandon J. Lauria at (215) 367-5151.

YLG Beefs Up Its Wage and Hour Practice

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With the down turn in the economy over the last several years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of employers who are violating federal and state overtime and other wage protections. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that due to the increase in these violations, that it was successful in obtaining additional funding for enforcement purposes. While additional government investigations and enforcement are welcome it is not enough.

In an effort to provide additional support and expertise to our clients who have been deprived of payment of all wages for hours worked, YLG recently added former DOL Wage and Hour enforcement specialist, Timothy Dronson, Esquire, to the team. While with the DOL, Mr. Dronson fought for employees through the United States and enforced a number of federal laws including, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and the Service Contract Act.

Mr. Dronson investigated and prosecuted a number of actions while with the DOL involving both large and small companies alike. He is intimately familiar with the methods employers use to avoid paying wages and overtime for all time worked and looks forward to working with YLG attorneys to provide quality representation to those in need.

New Overtime Pay Rules to Start in December

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The Department of Labor has finalized regulations to require overtime pay to approximately 4.2 million salaried workers. In order for a business to claim that an employee is eligible for the overtime exemption as an executive, administrative or professional worker under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) past November, the individual will need to make a salary of over $47,476 a year.

Wage Proposals Could Benefit Philly Workers

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There are a few different wage proposals at various levels of the government which we thought we would call attention to at the conclusion of a work week of beautiful weather here in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Federal Governments are considering wage proposals to increase the minimum wage, stop wage theft and help unemployed workers get back to a job.

New York Investigates Short Notice Work Shifts at Retailers

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating on-call staffing at 13 major retailers including Gap, Sears, Target and Abercrombie & Fitch. Last week, the NY AG asked the retailers to provide information on their use of on-call shifts by May 4th.

Apparently, some retailers are using scheduling software to provide just in time schedules, notifying workers less than a week in advance of their hours at the store. Others are requiring individuals to call-in prior to coming to work. The software predicts customer demand based on weather patterns and recent sales and alters schedules. If there isn’t enough demand on a particular day, it may tell managers to send workers home unexpectedly.

The practice appears to be widespread. A survey in 2011 found that 70 percent of workers didn’t know their schedules more than a week in advance. A significant number, around twenty percent, were expected to call in during the 24 hours prior to see if they would indeed be needed at work.

Legislators in both New York and California are considering further measures to rein in the practice of telling an employee that they are not needed to work less than 24 hours in advance. The New York bill would have to pay workers for a minimum of four hours if they were not given more than 24 hours of notice that they did not need to work.

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