News & Commentary

May 12, 2017

Leora Smith

Leora Smith is a student at Harvard Law School.

The New York Times Editorial Board calls a bill just passed by the House, “an invitation to wage theft.” The bill, called the “Working Families Flexibility Act,” lets employees choose paid time off instead of collecting time-and-a-half wages for overtime.  However, if employees choose paid time off, it is employers who get to choose when the time is taken, with only the caveat that it must be provided within a 13-month window.  The Editorial Board writes that if passed into law, this would “not only make employees vulnerable to wage delays, but to wage theft.” Under current laws, overtime pay must be added on to the paycheque corresponding to the time it was performed.

And on the topic of wage theft, the Economic Policy Institute has a new report out which finds that in the ten states with the biggest populations, 17% of low-wage workers are affected by wage theft, at an average of $3,300 per worker per year.  Overall, the study found 2.4 million workers impacted, and $8 billion stolen each year.  The ten states studied make up half the U.S. population.  Wage theft is having a severe impact on workers’ lives – over 21% of workers who were cheated out of wages were living in poverty, compared to 15% who would still be impoverished even if  paid their full wages.

Bloomberg reports that Republican legislators are drafting a bill that will once again make homecare workers exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act.  A regulation announced under the Obama administration instructed employers that only homecare workers employed directly by clients were exempt from federal labor laws, while workers employed by agencies were covered. Agencies have been lobbying the Department of Labor to revoke that regulation.  If they fail to do so, Republican lawmakers say they will attempt to write the exemption explicitly into the law.

Also from Bloomberg, President Trump’s nominees to the NLRB – Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel – are in the last stages before they will be ready for confirmation hearings.  Both have been submitted for FBI background checks and are on track to be nominated in June.  If confirmed, President Trump will have a Republican majority on the Board. According to Politico Emanuel is a management-side lawyer at the law firm Littler Mendelson and has filed amicus briefs defending class action waivers in employment contracts for his clients.  Kaplan is a lawyer for the Occupation Safety and Health Review Commission who previously worked as Republican counsel for the House Education and Workforce Committee.

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