Uber Eats and the Pandemic Economy

Uber Eats and the Pandemic Economy

Armin Samii, a computer programmer who has been working part-time for Uber Eats, claims to have found evidence that the food delivery service has been routinely underpaying its drivers. Uber Eats’ policy is to pay its delivery works on a per-mile basis. This is the standard within the food delivery industry. However, according to a Google Chrome extension, “UberCheats,” built by Samii, Uber has allegedly been regularly shorting its delivery workers on 25-30% of trips, according to Salon.

Samii created this extension after an experience he had with Uber in which the food delivery company admitted to him that, because of a bug on Uber Eats’ end, he was not properly paid for his full delivery. Samii collected data from around 160 Uber Eats drivers through his extension. Through this, he estimates that Uber has underpaid workers on approximately 21% of trips, per Business Insider. To this end, Samii’s data shows that Uber Eats’ delivery drivers are being underpaid by an average of 1.3 miles on those approximately 21% of trips. This finding of routine underpayment by Uber, as well as Uber’s own admission that a bug does, in fact, exist within the delivery tracking method, is potentially disconcerting to Uber eats’ delivery drivers across the country.

What Changed?

Amid a global pandemic, the need for has become apparent to many. The potential that such automation is shorting employee wages on a regular basis is worrisome and harmful as our economy continues to grow and change. In recent months, more people have begun to rely on food delivery services to avoid  exposure to illness, increasing the demand for delivery drivers in the food service industry. Competition has increase as the food delivery industry has become more crowded and ever more necessary. No worker, including the gig workers we have become reliant on during the pandemic, should fear that their employer is intentionally paying them less than they are owed. The increased competition and demand for delivery service is an additional stressor, and improper payment for services is detrimental to the livelihood of this workforce.

 

-Jacob Mikalov for Barkan Meizlish, LLP

FMLA Form Updates 2020: Employee Need to Know

2020 FMLA Form Updates

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently issued several updated forms for implementing the Family and Medical Leave Act. These forms were issued with the stated purpose of assisting employees, employers and other stakeholders with completing implementation of the FMLA in the workplace. The FMLA entitles eligible employees up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave for various specified health or care of family reasons. The ultimate goal of this update is to enhance user and employer ease, comprehension, and completion of the forms.

What Are The Forms?

The updated forms provide additional questions for the user to answer and provide additional information, while retaining the substance of the forms. An overview of the updates to the forms follows:

  • Incorporation of the Notice of Eligibility and the Notice of Employees Rights and Responsibilities under the FMLA into one form, aiding employees’ knowledge of their eligibility status and privileges and duties during FMLA leave.
  • The FMLA Designation Notice, an important form that allows employees to know whether their leave will fall under the reach of an FMLA designated leave.
  • Changes to the Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition form. This form now requires a more detailed description from the health care provider regarding the employee’s limits as a result of a sick family member, making it less likely employees will have to provide supplements to the information provided. Changes to the Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition form. This form requires a more detailed description from the health care provider regarding the employee’s work-limitations. This makes it easier for employers to understand the limitations of the employee where there are limitations, and less likely employees will have to provide supplemental information.

The Department of Labor has deemed these forms to be compliant with the FMLA. However, employees should be aware that the use of these model forms is optional, and employers are free to use their own forms, so long as they too are in compliance with the FMLA. These forms are located on Department of Labor’s website.

Have questions about whether your employer is properly implementing the FMLA? Give us a call for a free consultation.

 

– Jacob Mikalov

Dancer Unions, COVID-19, and Employee Misclassification

The State of Stripping: Employee Misclassification at the Club

Employee misclassification is one of the most commonplace ways employers participate in wage theft. In many industries, this means classifying workers as independent contractors despite holding them to employee-specific standards. The strip club industry is rampant with this type of misclassification, with a recent statistic showing that at least one dancer files against their employer for misclassification every four days. Dancers have been fighting and organizing for better working conditions for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced another layer of hazard to the field. With the misclassification of many dancers as independent contractors came the inability to receive unemployment at the beginning of the pandemic. Many IC’s were left without income before the CARES Act. The Act gave each state the ability to expand benefits to independent contractors.  However, the Act does not undo the decades of work and struggle many in the industry have endured.

Return to Work, Risk, and Reward

When reopening began, strip clubs were on standby until they were able to introduce additional safety protocols for patrons and dancers. Clubs began to impose new rules regarding contact with customers, socially distanced dances, and masks. These rules, while intended to protect both customers and dancers, brought additional hardship into the workplace. Many dancers already struggle with mistreatment from management and patrons alike prior to the pandemic. Multiple lawsuits have been brought against clubs regarding treatment of African-American dancers and sexual abuse, while a plethora of stripper-run blogs report on individual dancer mistreatment. Many dancers have reported that clubs are reporting higher turnout rates than usual. This increase in contact (even with social-distancing measures) increases potential exposure to the virus, on top of other workplace risks dancers are already exposed to.

At the beginning of the pandemic, a video went viral of dancer Genea Sky falling from a pole while working at XTC Cabaret. Genea did not have any accident insurance provided to her as an independent contractor at the club. She did not have insurance or other legal protections. Crowd-sourcing her medical expenses helped Genea during crisis, as has been many American’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her status as an independent contractor, rather than an employee, at the time of her fall prevented her from receiving benefits and protections from the club.

The additional risk of contracting COVID-19 into the club setting without a promise of medical care, FMLA, or other resources many employees have access to shows a dangerous bind that many dancers face. The historic lack of protections for gig workers and independent contractors have sparked unionization efforts for decades, and the strip club industry has remained at the forefront. The ongoing effort to unionize strip clubs throughout America has grown increasingly vital during the pandemic, and the forward momentum for the movement does not seem to be slowing down.

 

Dancer Unionization Efforts: Then and Now

In early August of 2020, a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board determined that a Columbus, Ohio dancer was, in fact, a statutory employee under Ohio  Law.  The dancer, Brandi Campbell, was involved in many lawful union organizing efforts at a variety of strip clubs throughout years. Her termination shortly after her hiring at Centerfold was for an apparent no-touching violation. This ruling came in a crucial moment in the strip club labor organizing movement. As previously mentioned, when states like Ohio began rolling out phase-based reopening plans, many dancers found themselves in an increasingly difficult position: return to work with few protections, or stay home and lose their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits? Along with many other service industry workers, many dancers made the difficult decision to put their well-being on the line and return to work. These factors, combined with the years of hard work and labor organizing done by strippers across the nation, have brought opportunity for change and protection in the industry.

The efforts put for to organize exotic dancers and adult entertainers are pivotal in combating employee misclassification. All workers deserve fair pay and protection, and dancers are no exception. In times like these, worker solidarity is crucial to protecting the American people across industries.

 

Class Action Lawsuit Against HZ OPS Holdings, INC. D/B/A Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

For Immediate Release:

COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST HZ OPS HOLDINGS, INC. D/B/A POPEYE’S LOUISIANA KITCHEN

JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI- August 19th, 2020- Attorneys with Barkan Meizlish DeRose Wentz McInerney Peifer, LLP, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, and Mangano Law Offices have filed a Collective Action lawsuit against the HZ Ops Holdings, INC., D/B/A Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division. The class defined by the complaint includes current and former employees of Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen locations operated by HZ Ops Holdings, Inc. The allegations set forth by the complaint regard wage theft and unfair overtime practices. Currently, the class includes employees in Missouri and Texas.

 

This lawsuit is an FLSA Collective Action as well as a Rule 23 Class Action, primarily dealing with unpaid wages and overtime pay violation claims. Alleged failure to properly pay employees minimum wage or overtime, in addition to retaliation against employees and refusal to provide statement of wages, are violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act  (“FLSA”), the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (“MMWL”), and the Texas’s Wage Acts. Additional minor labor laws may apply, as some plaintiffs were under the age of 18 at the time of their employment.

 

Individuals who believe they may have been affected by the above-listed practices should contact attorneys with Barkan Meizlish DeRose Wentz McInerney Peifer, LLP via email at info@barkanmeizlish.com or by phone at 614-221-4221. A copy of the complaint is attached to this release.

To opt-in, please fill out this opt-in consent form and return this form to consents@barkanmeizlish.com

 

Plaintiffs’ Attorney, Jessica Doogan, official statement:

 

“The allegations of wage theft experienced by our clients are widespread within this company. It is important to send a message to employers that employees are not to be stolen from and retaliated against.”

 

 

 

About Barkan Meizlish, LLP: The law firm of Barkan Meizlish, LLP is over sixty years old, with a national practice, focused on union side labor law, wage and hour/overtime litigation, worker’s compensation, Social Security disability, personal injury, and medical malpractice.

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