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Working In These Times

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013, 1:30 pm

Dollar Store Caught Nickel-and-Diming Workers; Uber Sued; NFL Gets Off Cheap on Concussions

BY Mike Elk

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Those bronze plastic gods at the Dollar Store may not come with a clear conscience. (Monado/Flicker/Creative Commons)  

Dave Jamieson has a must-read exposé on how the Dollar Store skims from its employees' wages by classifying them as managers. From The Huffington Post:

In interviews and court documents, former and current store managers claim major dollar store companies classify them as managers merely to evade overtime obligations and to pay them less money. Those managers' employees, in turn, have accused the companies of illegally shorting them on pay and forcing them to work off the clock due to payroll constraints.

Several workers told The Huffington Post that they lost their jobs or their hours once they got hurt or encountered health problems, leading to bitter feelings and long legal battles.

The popular car service app Uber is being sued for misclassfying workers and robbing them of tips. From the SF Weekly:

Passengers actually pay a flexible gratuity for all Uber Taxi rides—the suggested rate is 20 percent, but they can adjust it down to zero, as shown in the screenshot below:

That's separate from the 10 percent cut that Uber cribs from each driver's metered fare, and the $1 booking fee it charges riders. Since tips are by definition optional, Uber's management doesn't believe it's doing anything wrong.

But the problem, according to O'Connor and Colopy, is that Uber misleads customers into thinking a tip is already included. As a result, many do indeed set their gratuity meters to zero. The plaintiffs also allege that because Uber has "misclassified" its drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, the drivers have to cover their own work-related expenses for gas and vehicle maintenance.

A new survey finds that a large proportion of women are sexually harassed by their bosses. From The Huffington Post:

Though a significant share of Americans are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, many don’t report it out of fear of retaliation, worries their co-workers will make them feel ashamed by the experience and other concerns, experts say.

Thirteen percent of respondents to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll reported having been sexually harassed by a boss or another superior, and 19 percent have been harassed by a co-worker other than a boss or superior. Of those who said they’d experienced sexual harassment, a full 70 percent said they never reported it.

New Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is busily issuing rules designed to help workers. This week, the Department of Labor announced a new rule that would force companies to do more to try to hire veterans and workers with disabilities. From Associated Press:

The rules, announced Tuesday by the Labor Department, will require most government contractors to set a goal of having disabled workers make up at least 7 percent of their employees. The benchmark for veterans would be 8 percent, a rate that could change from year to year depending on the overall number of former military members in the workforce.

The new requirements could have a major impact on hiring since federal contractors and subcontractors account for about 16 million workers — more than 20 percent of the nation's workforce. But some business groups have threatened legal action, complaining that the rules conflict with federal laws that discourage employers from asking about a job applicant's disability status.

This week, the NFL settled with retired players over a concussion lawsuit. Dave Zirin at The Nation criticizes the deal:

There is no other way to put it but the NFL is Rollo Tomasi. The NFL always gets away with it. Evidence abounds that the NFL has been running a concussion assembly line for decades. But now that it has settled its high-profile concussion lawsuit with 4,500 ex-player plaintiffs for $765 million, there will be no discovery process. We will never hear what the NFL knew and when it knew it. We will never hear if its top neurologists had information that might actually be worth the public’s knowing as we move forward, so we can make informed decisions about whether we want our own children playing football. We will never hear, because the Teflon dons in the NFL office now have this sealed up tighter than Ft. Knox. And all it cost was $765 million.

Sports Illustrated senior writer and NFL lickspittle Peter King immediately took to Twitter to blast those criticizing the sum, saying, “I love everyone calling $765 million chump change.” The more, however, you look at the figure, the more chumpish it appears. As Sports on Earth’s Patrick Hruby notes in his excellent breakdown of the agreement, this marks less than 10 percent of the NFL’s $9 billion in annual revenue and far below the estimates of $2–10 billion that many were saying it would cost to make the lawsuit go away. In addition, half of the $765 million will be paid in the first three years. The second half of the sum will be paid out over seventeen years. That comes out to just over $700,000 per team, or the annual salary of a decent place kicker. And the coup de grâce, even though some of the money is earmarked for players with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the NFL doesn’t have to admit any liability whatsoever. In other words, the NFL will help players with brain diseases for which it doesn’t need to take any accountability.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.

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