Archive for the 'Employment' Category

Kansas Woman Alleges She Was Fired For Not Attending Church

Courtney Canfield was hired part-time to the elections division of Kansas’s Secretary of State Office in January 2013. During that time, she received numerous invitations and guides to religious services held in the Secretary of State’s Office. Canfield is a Methodist, but she doesn’t go to church regularly. Canfield was promoted to full-time in June of 2013. Five months later in November, a co-worker complained Canfield was using the phone for personal reasons.  Cornfield

Assistant Secretary Rucker visited Canfield’s grandmother soon after the complaint was made. Canfield alleges that Rucker demanded Canfield’s grandmother terminate her own granddaughter because Canfield “just doesn’t go to church.” When Canfield’s grandmother refused, Rucker terminated Canfield himself. Canfield filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination and demanded $75,000 as compensation. The Secretary’s Office has denied the allegations and claims that Canfield was terminated for “poor performance.”

Protecting Christians From Each Other

Interestingly, both parties have a history of legal disputes. Canfield was the plaintiff in a 2012 lawsuit against another former employer, a car dealership. Canfield alleged that an employee with a prior rape conviction had groped her. Canfield alleged in 2012 that when she complained to her supervisor, she was terminated while the accused was promoted. On the other hand, Rucker was an attorney in Kansas’s attorney general office. In 2010, Rucker was censured by Kansas’s disciplinary board for failing to disclose evidence regarding an alleged abortion doctor Rucker had been prosecuting.

Kansas’s position appears to be extremely weak. If Canfield and other state employees kept the guides for the prayer services in the Secretary’s Office, that is direct evidence of a breach of the Constitution. Rucker alleges that Canfield was fired for poor performance, but that explanation is likely pretext. Employees who are performing poorly generally do not get promoted. Based solely on these facts, Canfield’s version of the story is more believable.

One interesting aspect of discrimination law is that the law focuses on the effect of alleged discrimination on the victim, not the identity of the perpetrator. In other words, it is fully possible for a person to discriminate against members of the same group that person belongs to. Black people can discriminate against black people, men can discriminate against men, and Christians can discriminate against Christians. This doesn’t mean that only Christians can discriminate against Christians. Certainty non-Christians can discriminate against Christians. However, the worst fights often occurs in-house.

That’s what Canfield is claiming. Christians can discriminate against other Christians for not going to church enough. This is why separation of church and state is essential. The founding fathers were well aware of the interfaith conflicts that Christianity had in Europe shortly before they cut ties with Britain. Separation of church and state does not mean discrimination against Christians. Separation means that all groups, including Christians, will not be forced to pray simply because the government demands it.

Sirius XM Radio Settles Unpaid Internship Lawsuit

Sirius XM Radio has entered into a settlement agreement to pay up to $1.3 million to its interns who claim that the company was in violation of U.S. labor laws by not compensating its interns. The plaintiffs had performed work on a number of Sirius projects, including the Howard Stern Show, and stated that they had worked up to 40 hours a week without pay. They allege that this violates the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as well as the minimum wage law in New York State.

The principal test that courts apply in this type of case is whether internships were created mainly to provide an education to young people in a certain field. This is in contrast to the use of unpaid workers for the same duties carried out by employees. According to federal court papers filed on Monday, August 3rd, Sirius still thinks that it was not in violation of any laws by having an unpaid intern program. However, in an effort to avoid expensive litigation, the company has agreed to make payments to over 1,800 previous interns.

The settlement, which was presented by Sirius, and is pending approval by a judge, was announced one month following rulings made by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Previous cases with similar decisions include those against Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. and The Hearst Corp., in which the appeals court also determined that the legality of unpaid internships is dependent on whether they are relevant to the education of interns.  Paid internsihps

After the Fox case was filed in 2013, many other comparable lawsuits followed, including claims against Warner Music Group Corp., which entered into an agreement in June to pay hundreds of interns over $4.2 million. Prior to that, there were even more substantial settlements by Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal, Condé Nast, and Viacom Inc.

In the complaint against Sirius, an intern for the Howard Stern Show named Melissa Tierney claimed that for a period of four months, she ran errands, placed orders, collected breakfast orders and carried out other menial tasks for Stern’s crew without pay. Her complaint cited the FLSA, which is explained by the Labor Department using a six-point test to decide whether an internship can be legally unpaid. According to the Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division, if the following six factors are present, then there is no employment relationship under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions are inapplicable to interns. The six factors are:

  1. The internship resembles training that would be provided in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is intended to be for the intern’s advantage;
  3. The intern does not take the place of the usual employees, but is closely managed by current staff;
  4. The employer that gives the training does not benefit from the work performed by the intern; in fact, its operations may be hindered;
  5. The intern is not guaranteed a job at the end of the internship; and
  6. There is an understanding that the intern is not to receive compensation for any work performed during the internship.

Given the fact that many of these factors were not present during the plaintiffs’ internship, the court ruled in favor of the interns. It appears that several large media companies are exploiting interns’ desire to work for them by requiring them to work really hard and to work long hours without pay. Some interns have said that they were even promised a job at the conclusion of the internship, but were never offered a position. In light of the recent settlements, hopefully, large media companies will think twice before taking advantage of interns.

New Law Proposes Overtime Pay For Salaried Workers

Approximately five million salaried workers may benefit from new overtime rules that are to take effect in 2016. Those who would become eligible for overtime pay of time-and-a-half include workers earning up to $50,440 per year.

Under current law, which has been in effect since 2004, salaried workers whose earnings exceed $23,660 annually, or $455 weekly, are exempt from overtime pay if they have managerial responsibilities. Thus, current law incentivizes employers to label salaried workers as “managers” so that the employer doesn’t have to pay those workers overtime.  Salary

Under the proposed legislation, the threshold at which several salaried employees would stop receiving overtime pay would more than double. The new law would automatically amend the suggested salary threshold on the basis of inflation or the rate at which wages increase. The legislation is reminiscent of a time when many more salaried workers were eligible for overtime pay. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 1975, approximately 62% of salaried workers could receive overtime pay. By contrast, in 2014, only 8% of salaried workers were eligible.

Many workers in managerial positions are pleased with the proposed overtime rules, which means that they would be compensated for the 80 or 90 hours that they work during any given week. However, business groups are against any change to overtime rules because they claim that such an alteration would cause an increase in companies’ expenses, adversely affect customer service, and make it difficult for workers to move to a higher position.

According to Neil Trautwein, a vice president at the National Retail Federation, managers’ hours may be reduced so that they would not be paid overtime, and they would be unable to work additional hours or help out when the need arises. They would also have fewer chances to stand out from the other employees. In addition, the National Retail Federation believes that in response to the new overtime rules, companies will implement certain measures in an effort to lower their costs. Among these are:   compensation to several lower-paid white collar workers on an hourly basis; reducing their pay; and decreasing their hours or benefits.

Nevertheless, in limiting the hours that managers work in order to reduce overtime pay, more workers may need to be hired. Thus, the proposed rules will likely increase job creation, and give workers the impression that they are being compensated fairly, and no longer left with the feeling of being overworked and underpaid.

Decriminalization of Marijuana in Delaware

The governor of Delaware, Jake Markell, recently signed a bill that decriminalizes possession and private use of miniature quantities of marijuana. The maximum amount of marijuana you can legally possess and use is one ounce. However, police can still seize the drugs.

According to the statute, the penalty for using marijuana publicly will be reduced to a fine of $100. Previously, possession of marijuana was a misdemeanor for which you could face up to six months in jail, and be fined up to $1,150. However, simple possession of marijuana is still a criminal offense for anyone who is under age 18. In addition, if you are caught using marijuana in a moving vehicle, in a public place, or within 10 feet of property that is open to the public, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.

Governor Markell signed the bill into law on Thursday, June 19th, and the law becomes effective six months from then. The bill passed the Senate and the House of Representatives, both of which are controlled by Democrats, and was opposed by Republicans, who claim that the bill sends the wrong message to youth.   Marijuana

A lobbying group called the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has said that 18 states, including Delaware, have enacted laws decriminalizing personal use and possession of marijuana in small quantities. There are 23 states, including Delaware and the District of Columbia, that permit the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Ballot measures legalizing marijuana for recreational adult use were approved by voters in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, and Alaska. Nevertheless, marijuana is still an illegal narcotic under federal law.

The Dark Side of Marijuana Legalization

Despite the growing popularity of marijuana, I am inclined to agree that legalizing the drug sends the wrong message to young people, who are very impressionable, and will be more likely use, and even abuse, the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana can have adverse effects on the brain, such as impaired memory, altered senses,  altered sense of time, mood changes, and impaired body movement. Marijuana can also make it harder to think clearly and solve problems.

Marijuana also has long-term adverse effects on the development of the brain, especially when people start using the drug during their teenage years. Use of the drug can diminish thinking, memory, and learning functions, as well as impact the ways in which the brain forms connections between the areas needed for these functions. The effects of marijuana on these abilities may be lengthy or could even be permanent.

Other health effects of marijuana include lung irritation, which can lead to breathing problems; increased heart rate, which can give rise to heart attacks; and child developmental problems during and after pregnancy. Use of marijuana on a long-term basis can cause mental illness, including temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia, and aggravated symptoms in patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Thus, with the exception of medical marijuana, I think that legalization of the drug can only lead to an increasing lack of awareness concerning its ill effects, and a rise in the use among young people. There may also be an increase in the number of people who suffer from the above-mentioned health problems.

Uber Driver Considered Employee and Not Contractor

In a recent decision by the California Labor Commissioner, a driver for Uber is considered to be an employee, and not a contractor. Uber is a transportation network company with headquarters in San Francisco, CA. It operates a mobile application that permits consumers to make trip requests that are routed to sharing economy drivers. Uber drivers in Florida have already been classified as employees earlier this year and California may be following Florida.

The ruling, which was issued on June 3, 2015, was made in response to a claim filed by an Uber driver named Barbara Ann Berwick, who is based in San Francisco. Berwick was awarded by the commissioner approximately $4,000, which covers the cost of her expenses and unpaid wages. However, Uber has filed an appeal, claiming that the company merely allows drivers and passengers to engage in business transactions through Uber.Uber

This ruling is in stark contrast to the decision made in 2012 by the same commissioner, who ruled that the driver was an independent contractor. In that case, the commissioner considered such evidence as the driver’s ability to set his own hours. Uber also contends that in five other states, officials determined that Uber drivers were independent contractors. However, in this case, the commissioner seems to have considered a wider range of factors.

The rationale for the commissioner’s decision is that Uber is “involved in every aspect of the operation.” According to the commissioner, Uber has control over the tools used by the driver; Uber keeps track of the driver’s ratings; and Uber  ends the driver’s ability to access the system in the event that the driver’s ratings drop below 4.6 stars.

The recent decision may well have far-reaching implications for Uber. If all Uber drivers are eventually classified as employees, then the company could incur higher costs, including Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. As a result, the company, which is valued at over $40 billion, could take a loss in its market value. If the ruling is upheld on appeal, it could set a precedent that is followed by commissioners and courts in other states.