YLG Files 2nd Employee Class Action Against Best Buy

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New York Employees Subjected to Off-the-Clock Security Searches & Missed Breaks

NEW YORK – Jan. 24, 2008 – Eric L. Young, Esq. has filed a 2nd Class Action Complaint against Best Buy in the Supreme Court of New York on behalf of a class of current and former Best Buy employees alleging violations of New York state labor laws. The lawsuit contends that employees at 33 New York Best Buy stores are subjected to off-the-clock security checks at the end of each shift which can take up to 15 minutes. It also accuses the Richfield, Minnesota-based company of forcing employees to work through meal and rest breaks without compensation.

The suit alleges that after clocking out, employees are required to wait in line at a security checkpoint along with customers and submit to a search. Employees who work the closing shift are subjected to the longest waits since store policy dictates that all employees gather at the front of the store before beginning security checks.

“Workers are not being paid for mandatory searches which frequently add up to a half hour or more a week per employee,” said Eric L. Young, Esquire.

The suit also maintains that employees are routinely required to work during paid meal and/or rest breaks.

Independent Contractors Pursue Tech Startups For Wage Theft

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Popular startups that rely on freelancers to perform on-demand services in a two-sided marketplace are having to re-examine whether their workers are in fact employees amid lawsuits across the country challenging their practices. The contractors, on the other hand, are simply standing up for the wages that they should have been paid all along under the Fair Labor Standards Act and have to this point been denied at the hands of those exploiting their need for a job.

Many startups have paid these workers via 1099s, the IRS form that companies report taxable income on their independent contractors. If a worker is a contractor, then businesses do not have to pay minimum wage, overtime or benefits to them. The company also does not have to pay employment taxes to the IRS based on their income.

The Department of Labor recently issued an interpretive memorandum that expressed the opinion that most workers are actually employees under the FLSA. The Wall Street Journal article published today essentially suggested that every startup paying workers on 1099s should expect to get sued. According to the article, many are already planning to make their freelancers into employees following the lawsuits and DOL guidance.

Venture Capitalists quoted in the WSJ article suggested that it might be tough for many of these startups to continue operating if they have to absorb increased labor costs. Housecleaning service Homejoy shut down after they were unable to raise additional funds from investors under the cloud of threatened wage and hour lawsuits. Transportation app Uber has some 200,000 contract drivers and has already been the subject of both protests and lawsuits.

These aren’t the only startups that have run afoul of the nation’s employment laws. LinkedIn paid $6 million in back overtime and damages last year following a Labor Department investigation into. According to news reports, the company’s sales force, who are non-exempt workers under the law, were working off-the-clock and the company was not paying them for that time.

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Amazon Working Conditions Just As Bad for Delivery Drivers

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Recent news headlines have focused on the “unsafe” and “grueling” working conditions that employees labor under in Amazon warehouses across the globe. While the media focuses its attention on the warehouses, delivery drivers working for Amazon are now stepping forward to have their stories told as well. 

Amazon is famed for its lightning fast delivery times, with customers often receiving orders within the same day. These tight delivery schedules make for stressful and often hazardous working conditions that endanger drivers. 

 

Amazon Drivers Are Overworked and Underpaid

Amazon delivery drivers are reporting working ten to fourteen hours in a shift. This is in part because drivers are not allowed to return any packages from their routes, meaning drivers can make over 160 stops per shift. 

While the pay rate seems decent enough, with drivers starting at $15 an hour, this rate is actually far less than the average starting wage for other delivery drivers. For example, UPS drivers are represented by the Teamsters Union that starts their wages at $21 an hour, up to $40 an hour or more for more experienced drivers. 

 

The Amazon Mentor App Leads to Invasive Oversight for Drivers

When drivers start their shift, they first log into the Amazon “Mentor” app. The Mentor app provides information on where to leave packages, access codes to apartment buildings, and dictates every step of the drivers day. The app tracks and measures driving behaviors such as speeding, harsh braking, or making phone calls, and gives the drivers a score based on these behaviors. 

Since the Mentor app is constantly monitoring the drivers every move, it also alerts their supervisors if they deviate or stop along the route even briefly. When a van stops for longer than three minutes, a dispatcher will call the driver and ask why. This constant oversight creates a stressful environment for drivers when dropping off packages or simply trying to take a lunch or restroom break.

 

No Bathroom Breaks for Delivery Drivers

With the Mentor app constantly monitoring drivers, every stop has to be accounted for. That leaves most drivers with no time to use the restroom on their ten hour shifts. Drivers need to use public restrooms such as ones inside grocery stores, so if their route does not include an area that has such a location, drivers have to make a long detour that could cost them their job. Because of these strict measures, drivers report using empty water bottles in their vehicles instead of stopping to use the restroom.

 

Amazon Hires Contractors To Prevent Workers From Organizing

Amazon has consistently stated that they are not responsible for these working conditions because the drivers are not actually Amazon employees. That’s because Amazon uses contractors for delivery services, a move that allows them to duck responsibility, while also helping to prevent workers from organizing for better conditions. 

The Teamsters Union has been working with Amazon drivers and the delivery service providers that hire them in an attempt to curtail these exploitative practices, with the director of the Teamsters Amazon project stating, “This sort of model is problematic for the entire (delivery) industry”. 

 

Do Amazon Delivery Drivers Get Overtime?

Although drivers are being asked to work long hours with few breaks, they are still only paid flat day rates for their work with no additional pay for overtime hours. This has led to multiple class-action lawsuits being filed against the company in over ten states. 

Amazon recently agreed to pay out over $8.2 million in a class-action lawsuit alleging that they were engaging in wage-theft by refusing to properly compensate drivers. The lawsuit claims that Amazon failed to pay the minimum wage, and denied compensation for rest breaks or overtime. Amazon has also been fined $6.4 million by California regulators for similar wage-theft violations, though Amazon has stated it is appealing the fine. 

 

Workers Deserve Protections

While Amazon founder Jeff Bezos disputes Elon Musk for the title of world’s richest person, the drivers who keep his company running are struggling to pay rent, while working under increasingly stressful and unsafe conditions. 

The team at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt have decades of experience fighting for workers, and are following these developments closely. If you work as a delivery driver for Amazon and have been subject to unfair working conditions, contact us today at 1-866-333-7715 or online via our form.  

 

 

Workers Demand Living Wage in Philly Protest Today

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Near our office in Center City Philadelphia today, workers met to protest the low wages paid by their employers and urge city and state government officials to adopt a minimum wage of $15 an hour. The demonstration was part of a coordinated, nationwide rally led by fast food workers in 270 cities and supported by many politicians and other workers’ organizations.

Record Year for Wage and Hour Lawsuits

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The number of filings for wage and hour lawsuits in federal court has risen more than 300 percent over the past 15 years to a record of 8,871 filings in Fiscal Year 2015. In 2000, there were less than 2,000 of these lawsuits filed in federal court.

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.

Uber Settles 2 Driver Misclassification Lawsuits for $100 Million

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Uber, the San Francisco startup that offers a popular international ride-hailing app, will continue to use independent contractors as drivers after settling class-action lawsuits arguing that the drivers were actually employees rather than independent contractors. The lawsuits for drivers in California and Massachusetts were highly publicized disputes in the ongoing battle between employers and workers over their labor rights in the new economy.

California to Up Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour

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A deal Saturday between lawmakers and labor unions in California will soon put the state at the forefront of the national debate over a living wage. Several large cities including Seattle and Los Angeles have already agreed to phase in a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour but California would be the first state to require it.

Hot Issue: Independent Contractor Misclassifications

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Independent contractors may wish to have an employment lawyer examine the appropriateness of their company’s claim that they are not an employee in light of two recent events in California.

The California Labor Commission has ruled that a San Francisco driver for the popular on demand taxi-alternative app Uber is an employee and not an independent contractor. The company now owes the individual unpaid expenses during her two months as a driver. A state agency in Florida has previously ruled that Uber drivers are employees as well. There are lawsuits (as well as protests) over on this issue in other states.

FedEx has also settled a longstanding California lawsuit brought by its Ground and Home Delivery drivers about their misclassification as independent contractors for $228 million. The court must still approve the settlement. The settlement only deals with drivers in California, and it is still too early to say whether FedEx will settle or continue to defend that lawsuits in other states on this issue.

By labeling their work force as independent contractors, companies can shift expenses such as Social Security and tax withholding on to their workforce. This has proven especially popular among early technology startups, such as Uber, as they try to create a marketplace of on-demand service fulfillment.

This area could also be one for whistleblowers to report to the federal government as well, since misclassification can result in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

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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.

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