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

Mike Elk

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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