What You Need to Know About Workplace Discrimination Laws in Ohio

During 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed 2,274 charges for employment discrimination in Ohio. Far more workers and job applicants suffered from discrimination, however. The EEOC handles most such cases, but it is not the only federal or state agency that does so. Additionally, 75 percent or more of the discriminatory actions taken by employers go unreported.

One reason so many victims of workplace discrimination do not file complaints is that discriminatory motives for what Columbus employee rights lawyers call adverse employment actions go unspoken or get expressed in coded language. For instance, a subtle method many employers use to engage in discrimination against older workers involves writing job ads that include phrases like “cutting edge” or “energetic.” Such terms suggest that younger applicants are sought.

Workplace Discrimination may also lead an employer to

  • Decide not to hire or promote a qualified individual,
  • Set unrealistic performance goals,
  • Target certain individuals for harsh discipline while allowing other people to break the same rules without experiencing consequences,
  • Subject people to harassment,
  • Layoff or fire someone without having a solid reason for doing so, or
  • Refusing to recall a laid-off worker while welcoming back other employees.

Who Has Legal Protections Against Workplace Discrimination?

A number of federal and state laws define so-called “protected classes” of employees and jobseekers. U.S. laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans With Disability Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protect people from discrimination based on their

  • Race,
  • Skin color,
  • National origin,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Pregnancy and recent childbirth.
  • Disability,
  • Age when older than 40,
  • Citizenship status, and
  • Genetic information.

Ohio statutes follow the U.S. Code very closely, but it is worth noting that state-based claims of workplace discrimination can be filed in relation to

  • Race,
  • Skin color,
  • National origin,
  • Ancestry,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Pregnancy and recent childbirth,
  • Disability,
  • Age when older than 40,
  • Military status, and
  • Caring for a parent, child, sibling, or spouse who was injured while serving in the military.

The cities of Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo also have local ordinances that prohibit workplace discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Note, too, that for the purposes of federal and Ohio workplace discrimination laws, classes such as race and religion include people of all races and religions. The legal protections are not reserved for people from specific racial groups or faith traditions.

What Is the Process for Filing a Claim for Workplace Discrimination in Ohio?

The EEOC process—which is the one most people follow and which serves as a model for the process used by the Ohio Civil rights Commission—starts with the victim of workplace discrimination making a formal complaint to their employer. The report can go to a human resources representative or a trusted manager or supervisor. Receiving the complaint legally obligates the employer to conduct a good-faith investigation into the problem.

The next step involves the employer working with the parties involved in the complaint to resolve the problem. The victim of discrimination can then take their complaint to the EEOC if any of the following situations develop:

  • The employer does not conduct an investigation,
  • The investigation is conducted sloppily or unfairly,
  • No action is taken to resolve the problem, or
  • The action taken fails to prevent the problem from recurring.

The EEOC will then conduct its own investigation. Depending on what the commission finds, it can dismiss the complaint, ask the employer to implement another solution, issue a letter authorizing the victim to sue their employer, or sue the employer on the victim’s behalf.

Winning an Ohio workplace discrimination lawsuit allows the victim to receive monetary damages, past and future wages (sometimes with interest), attorney fees, and, when appropriate and requested, reinstatement to their previous position. A ruling against an employer may also include court orders to change and document its policies and practices to ensure other workers do not suffer discrimination.

How to Get Help From an Attorney With Your Ohio Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit

Any person who thinks they have suffered workplace discrimination in Ohio has an undeniable right to seek advice and representation from an employment discrimination lawyer. It can help to speak with an attorney before filing an official complaint with an employer because the lawyer will be able to offer an opinion on whether a problem could potentially merit filing a lawsuit. The attorney can also help with gathering evidence and drafting a letter that states the complaint. At Barkan Meizlish, LLP, we partner with workers all across Ohio to combat workplace discrimination and to hold employers accountable for illegal employment practices. You can schedule a free and confidential consultation online or call us at (614) 221-4221.

What Is the Minimum Wage in Ohio in 2019?

On Jan. 1. 2019, the minimum wage for most workers in Ohio rose to $8.55/hour, which totals $342 for 40 hours before taxes. Employees who do not receive at least that much have the legal right to sue their employer for violating a law called the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. This is true even for the majority of people who work on commission or who take temp positions that require reporting for work.

The FLSA does allow restaurants, bars, and similar businesses to pay tipped employees a lower minimum wage. At the time this posted, the minimum wage for tipped employees in Ohio was $4.30/hour.

Provisions of the FLSA and a similar Ohio state law do, however, require employers to make sure their tipped employees earn at least the standard minimum wage. Complying with those rules requires businesses to document that the hourly wage they pay plus the tips employees receive total at least $8.55/hour for each hour worked up to 40 hours.

Every business is required to inform employees of their right to receive the minimum wage and what that wage is. State regulators actually distribute wage posters that employers are encouraged to post in places where workers can easily see the information.

What Happens When Employers Do Not Pay the Minimum Wage in Ohio?

The five FLSA wage attorneys who work out of the Columbus, Ohio, offices of Barkan Meizlish DeRose Wentz Mclnerney Peifer, LLP, often find themselves representing hourly and tipped employees whose employers engage in wage theft. This illegal pay practice can take many forms, with two of the most-common being denying overtime and miscalculating tip credits.

The FLSA requires employers to pay nearly every minimum-wage employee time-and-half for each hour worked in excess of 40 hours during a 7-day period. In Ohio during 2019, the minimum overtime rate is $12.83. Tipped employees who go into overtime must also earn that time-and-half rate when their tips are properly accounted.

Restaurants, bars, and the like play many games when it comes to tips. Some tell workers that they are only legally entitled to earn up to the standard minimum wage. Others require workers to pool all tips and to accept whatever their manager determine their share is. Still others simply take away tips without returning any of the money.

Workers who notice that they are being paid less than the minimum wage should raise the issue with their managers. Honest mistakes do get made, and good employers quickly correct errors to make workers whole. When illegal pay practices persist, notifying the state attorney general’s office and contacting an FLSA wage and overtime attorney makes sense.

We have offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Marietta to serve workers all across Ohio. We offer free consultations and work hard to put together class action and collective lawsuits to ensure that each employee who was denied the minimum wage or failed to receive earned overtime receives the money the law requires an employer to pay. To speak with an experienced employment law attorney, call (614) 221-4221 or connect with us online.

What is the Minimum Wage in Ohio?

Minimum wage is federally mandated financial figure that each worker throughout the country must be paid per hour. However, the federal government grants states’ the right to set a wage above the one set by the Department of Labor.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal minimum wage due to all employees is $7.25 per hour. This rate has not changed since it was instituted in 2009. In Ohio, because of the state’s Minimum Fair Wage Standards law, the minimum wage is set at $8.55 per hour for non-tipped employees and $4.15 per hour for tipped employees.

If you have not been receiving at least $8.55 per hour as a non-tipped employee or $4.15 per hour as a tipped employee in Ohio, you need to contact a Columbus minimum wage attorney. Our Ohio minimum wage attorneys at Barkan Meizlish, LLP have decades worth of experience in fighting unfair labor practices. The legal professionals at Barkan Meizlish, LLP will pair you with one our practiced minimum wage lawyers in Columbus, Ohio. We will fight for your right to earn the state legislated minimum wage.

How a Columbus Minimum Wage Attorney Can Help

We have encountered many cases in which employers have unfairly paid employees below the minimum wage. Whether it be incorrectly categorizing an employee as tipped or simply refusing to pay the wage that is state mandated, some employers look to cheat the system. For an employer to pay their employees $4.15 an hour, the employees must make at least $30 per month in tips. It does not matter how many hours they worked that month. Employees must also make minimum wage with their base rate of pay and tips combined. If they do not make minimum wage between their base pay and received tips, then employers must compensate with minimum wage pay.

Our minimum wage attorneys can help you determine if you are eligible for tipped workers pay or if you should be receiving the minimum wage in compensation. We can comb through your pay stubs and claimed tips to see if your employer has been incorrectly paying you below minimum wage.

It up to the employer to keep proper records of employee information and rate of pay for at least three years. This information is subject to investigation by the state department. Employers must correctly record the rate of pay, hours worked, and amount earned each pay period of every employee on their payroll.

Contact Us

If you are being paid Ohio’s minimum wage, it is imperative to contact Barkan Meizlish, LLP to speak with one of our experienced minimum wage attorneys. We can determine if you have a failure to pay minimum wage case against your employer. Employers may illegally deduct from your paycheck or hours without your knowledge, causing you to lose wages that you are entitled to.

Employees are frequently taken advantage of by their employers and lose out on earned wages. Different industries and jobs are subject to subtle nuances in Ohio’s minimum wage laws, so it’s crucial that you contact a lawyer if you believe that you are not being paid correctly under FLSA or Ohio’s Minimum Fair Wage Standards law.

The Columbus minimum wage attorneys with Barkan Meizlish, LLP are skilled and experienced in helping clients navigate minimum wage laws and build a case to bring forward to an employer not paying them the lawful wage. Gathering documentation through paystubs, bank statements and timecards can be a difficult task to complete alone, so don’t hesitate to contact our wage attorneys in Columbus Ohio to review your case and give you a free consultation.

Menards – Overtime Lawsuit

Griffith, et al. v. Menard, Inc., Case No. 2:18-CV-81 (S.D. OH)

Attorneys: Bob DeRose

Practice Area: Wage and Hour/Overtime Violations

On January 31, 2018, the law firms of Barkan Meizlish, LLP and Anderson2X, PLLC filed a nationwide class and collective action lawsuit against Menard, Inc., the Wisconsin-based operator of the roughly 300 Menards retail stores across 14 Midwestern states.

The Allegations

The lawsuit contends that Menards maintained several unlawful company-wide policies in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and numerous state wage laws. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Menards maintained a company-wide policy of requiring employees to clock out for restroom breaks and certain store meetings during their shifts. It also alleges that Menards required employees to complete job-related training exercises at home, but failed to compensate them for performing the work.

The Case

Unpaid work hours and unpaid overtime compensation resulted from these alleged violations. The Named Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are 160 current and former hourly Menards employees from 13 different states. The Named Plaintiffs seek to recover all unpaid compensation, overtime, and other damages owed to them under the FLSA and respective state wage laws. They also seek the Court’s permission to send notice of the nationwide collective action lawsuit to all similarly situated individuals to apprise them of their rights and provide them an opportunity to opt-in to the lawsuit.

To inquire further about this case, please call (614) 221-4221 ext. 1129 or email srasoletti@barkanmeizlish.com. To read the Complaint, please click the link below.

Media Links

Ohio Attorneys File Class Action Suit Against Menards

No Closed Lid on this Class Action

Lids, a store selling jerseys, hats, and t-shirts, is facing a class-action lawsuit for failing to pay overtime to store managers.  Lids’ managers were paid under a fluctuating work week (“FWW”) method of payment. Under this method of payment, employees are paid a fixed salary amount whether or not they work more or less than 40 hours a week. The FWW method further permits hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week to be compensated at a minimum of one-half time the worker’s regular rate. However, the lawsuit alleges that Lids store managers were not fully compensated for all of the overtime hours they worked and were instead paid a bonus based on meeting sales quotas.

On January 2, 2018, the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana denied Lids’ motion to dismiss the case and granted the managers’ motion for conditional certification of an opt-in class of current and former store managers. The judge ruled that the lead plaintiff in the case “has made a modest factual showing that she and the potential opt-in plaintiffs were victims of a common policy that violated the FLSA.”

The judge ordered Lids to provide a spreadsheet listing the names and last known addresses of non-exempt store managers who were entitled to overtime pay since Feb. 2, 2014.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and is titled Julia Shumate, on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Genesco, Inc., Hat World Inc., d/b/a Lids Sports Group, 1:17-cv-3574.


New Year Marks Ohio’s Minimum Wage Increase

On Monday, January 1, 2018, approximately 150,000 Ohio workers received a pay raise. The state’s minimum wage rate increased to $8.30 an hour, up 15 cents from last year.  The $8.30 is now $1.05 above the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour.

For tipped employees, such as waiters and bartenders, the minimum wage rate also increased from $4.08 to $4.15.

Ohio is one of 18 states that ushered in the New Year with minimum wage increases. The change is the result of a state constitutional amendment passed in 2006, which automatically adjusts Ohio’s minimum wage rate each year according to inflation rates.

DOJ Reverses its Position on Class Waiver.

The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) was enacted in 1935 to “to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices.”[1] The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) was enacted in 1925 to encourage private dispute resolution through arbitration.[2] Whether two federal statutes can live in harmony or conflict is often a thing of heated legal debate.

Currently before the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) are three consolidated cases that may put to rest a circuit split, deciding whether arbitration agreements that prohibit employees from joining other employees to pursue worked-related claims, including claims for unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime, violate the NLRA.[3] In a rare position reversal, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in which it now supports class waiver by arbitration agreements.

While not among the consolidated cases before the SCOTUS, the Sixth Circuit recently supported workers’ rights, holding that the NLRA does not conflict with the FAA, and since the NLRA creates a substantive, nonwaivable right to engage in concerted activity, arbitration agreements that prohibit concerted activities in any forum are unenforceable.[4] It is important to note that the Sixth Circuit does not say that an arbitration agreement cannot require collective or class claims to be brought in arbitration. Rather, the Sixth Circuit says that an arbitration agreement cannot prohibit an employee from pursuing collective claims, class claims or any other concerted activity in all forums. It is an arbitration agreement’s prohibition against concerted activity that violates the NLRA, not the arbitration agreement’s requirement to arbitrate.

Of course, disagreement on this issue is what the SCOTUS will decide. While the DOL’s shift certainly does not bode well for workers, we are hopeful that the legal arguments presented by the Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuits prevail. The power balance between workers and historically more powerful employers is facilitated by workers’ rights to join their individually insignificant damages and resources into collectives.

If you feel that you are not being properly paid wages you’ve earned, and if you think you have no recourse because you signed an arbitration agreement; you should call us for a free consultation. You may have a viable claim in court or in arbitration, and we can help you determine the best course of action after thorough consideration of your situation.

We can be reached at 800-274-5927.

[1] https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act

[2] http://www.legisworks.org/congress/68/publaw-401.pdf

[3] https://www.law360.com/employment/articles/935889/doj-reverses-obama-era-stance-in-class-waiver-suit?nl_pk=535043a8-09cf-4835-9108-d6d87bae778c&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=employment

[4] See 6th Cir. Opinion at Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. v. Alternative Entm’t, Inc., No. 16-1385(6th Cir. May 26, 2017)

(Advertising Material:  This Notice is for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice).

The Fight For 15 Just Landed at America’s Busiest Airport

A McDonald’s worker speaks on a bullhorn outside O’Hare Airport yesterday. (Airport Workers United / Facebook)

Encouraged by an energetic rally of more than 100 janitors and other members of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 1, a group of low-wage security, cleaning and passenger service workers at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Tuesday launched a campaign to organize 5,000 airport workers to win higher wages and the right to form a union without intimidation.

The O’Hare organizing drive hopes, first, to bring the non-union workers at the airport into the Fight for $15 movement, initiated three years ago among fast food workers and, according to SEIU, already responsible for raising wages of 11 million workers. Then SEIU organizers hope to use the energy of that campaign for higher pay—and whatever success they have—to help create a union that can continue to defend and bargain for better working conditions.

The anticipated strategy is different from most union organizing. Organizers typically sign up a majority of workers, go through an election (or a “card check”) to win recognition, then negotiate a contract (and each step is hard to accomplish). But even SEIU’s initial airport worker organizing about 15 years ago was somewhat unorthodox: in both Los Angeles and San Francisco labor-community coalitions eventually won for the airports both living wage ordinances and labor peace agreements (legal provisions that favored giving contracts for work at the airports to companies that were not blatantly anti-union).

Over the years, SEIU has won contracts for such airport workers as janitors, aircraft cabin cleaners, skycaps, security officers, passenger transporters (pushing wheelchairs for passengers who need help getting around), and security screeners at some airports. Recently, the Fight for $15 has won referenda, local government votes, or—in New York City—a decision by a governor-appointed wage board setting the city minimum wage at their targeted $15. These victories have raised wages of both non-union and even some union workers (in cases with contracts setting wages at less than $15). In many cases, UNITE HERE (or other unions) have joined in such airport campaigns and also won contracts, for example, for workers in airport concessions.

Such campaigns depend on winning support not only from the workers involved but also from the general public.

In the campaign launch, Local 1 president Tom Balanoff emphasized the hardship of the airport workers and their families, and their need for $15 as a minimum income for a decent life. “There are thousands of workers here,” he said, “most of them working below the poverty line.”

Some workers, such as the passenger transporters, said that they often earn less than the state or federal minimum wage as a result of being classified as tipped workers and suffering management deductions of some of their tip income. Transporter Jackie Chako, a recent college graduate with $40,000 in debt and family pressures to help her younger siblings financially, said that she makes $5 to $8 an hour. Airplane cabin cleaner Jason Davis said he gets no health insurance through his job: he couldn’t visit a doctor for his injured knee, and he had to pay out of pocket for health and dental care for his children.

Beyond the needs of the workers themselves, however, Balanoff also stressed the public interest in raising their wages. At around $15 an hour, he said, workers would no longer need to rely on the public safety net programs, which in such situations amount to a public subsidy to big corporations that can pay more and save taxpayers the expense.

Also, he argued that higher pay offered an alternative, community-oriented strategy for economic development. Raising wages complements whatever development generated by the big projects that politicians often like, even when they are not very productive—such as airport expansion, downtown construction, stadiums and new tourist and entertainment destinations on the lakefront.

“O’Hare airport is an economic engine for the city,” he said. “It should be an economic engine for the workers, too. The best thing for this airport and the city is for these workers to be paid a living wage and to have a right to organize. Then our communities will have the resources to come back.”

Before deregulation started in the late 1970s, most of these airport support service jobs paid decently, said Silvia Ruiz, national director of the SEIU’s airports campaign, but as airlines entered a more competitive environment, they subcontracted many activities, typically driving down wages as firms fought to win the contracts.

But SEIU organizing at 16 airports, including seven of the biggest origins and destinations of international flights, has raised wages and won some union recognition across the country, but have also pushed contractors to compete on quality more than on wages. O’Hare, now the third busiest airport, is an important link in the organizing. Despite years of turmoil in the now-consolidating industry, United and American pay executives hefty salaries, benefit from major public subsidies, and can pay more for airport service workers, as they have elsewhere.

But organizing at O’Hare, where SEIU many years ago tried to organize transporters, may be a challenge because it is they major hub of two big airlines, United and American. Those airlines have as much or more power to determine worker standards in most cases than the subcontractors they retain, and could make a big difference in how difficult organizing at O’Hare might be.


This Is How Bad the Sharing Economy Is for Workers

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs keep telling us their way of doing business will “change the world.” And in many ways it already has, but it’s changed your world differently than it’s changed theirs.

The “sharing” or “gig” economy—think Airbnb, Uber, and Taskrabbit—has made massive fortunes reducing labor to disassembled microtasks; unfortunately, it’s shrunk workers’ rights too. But as our jobs are redefined by labor-brokering platforms, some advocates are trying to redefine labor rights for a digital economy.

Currently, the gig economy trades labor fluidly across online platforms, digital hiring halls where workers typically farm out their short-term gofer services: a ride offered through your private car, fishing someone’s keys out of a gutter, hand-delivering a package across town. For these nominally independent contractors, labor protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act generally don’t apply. Yet these contract jobs are at least as hierarchical as an assembly line; “independence” means you get assigned where to drive but pay your own traffic tickets, you fund your own social insurance, and if you’re sexually harassed or hurt on the job, may be left completely on your own.

That’s why the National Employment Law Project (NELP) has come up with a new policy blueprint, focused on regulating the so-called “on-demand economy” of tech-driven gig employment, to put forward concrete policy models that can help restructure the “1099” contractor relationship to offer workers greater protection. One potential model is the statutory employee framework, under which contractors are for certain regulatory purposes considered workers, generally for tax laws. NELP notes that local and state policymakers can expand this structure to provide “portable” benefits by “directly requir[ing] that companies that use IRS-Form-1099 workers abide by labor standards such as the minimum wage and others, and pay into Social Security and state workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance funds.”

Many gig workers aren’t really thinking about retirement yet; they’re struggling to get paid today.

At the media conference announcing NELP’s report, Takele Gobena of Seattle said he used to make $9.40 at the SeaTac airport complex, but sought more entrepreneurial pastures driving for Uber and Lyft while studying and raising a young family. Then came the car expenses and other requisite investments needed for ride-sharing, plus the 15-hour shifts his “flexible” job platform demanded—which left him earning the equivalent of less than $3 an hour.

“We are not earning a living wage, we don’t have job security even though we bought a car to work for them,” Gobena said. The pressure intensified after he spoke out publicly about his labor conditions to the media, he claims. Although Uber has denied any misconduct, Gobena argued, “When drivers speak about their driving experience [and] working conditions for Uber and Lyft, they automatically investigate” drivers to try to penalize them. “I want that to be changed so that drivers like me and many others can have fair treatment.”

What if these “on demand” workers could make demands of their parent companies? In addition to policy changes, NELP says establishing an avenue for contractors to organize and collectively bargain on labor conditions might empower workers to respond directly to ever-changing market and labor conditions. This provides a platform for labor action that doesn’t rely on bureaucracy to catch up with Uber and Lyft, and it may hit the industry in its Achilles’ heel: publicity. These companies have managed to wrangle local governments into bending regulatory rules to fit the gig business model, but face a rougher challenge shielding their brand image from public criticism from disillusioned drivers like Gobena.

One potential model is Seattle’s plan to just provide rideshare workers the legal right to collectively bargain. This complements the ongoing Teamsters-led campaign to organize drivers under the App-based Drivers Association.

Organizing could in fact be an ideal countervailing force against gigification, if a collective-bargaining unit were able to—like their parent company—expand freely across states and sectors. For example, the home-office analogue to ridesharing, the so-called crowdwork industry, has created a vast global network of telecommuting clerical jobbers; the leading companies, Crowdflower, Crowdsource, and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, collectively manage the services of more than 13 million workers worldwide. Although no full-fledged labor organization has crystallized from this workforce yet, some recent labor litigation has sought to bring claims on behalf of a broad class of workers.

Regulatory reforms could provide immediate relief for exploited workers while the legal system works through numerous labor cases charging on-demand service companies with abusing independent contractors. According to NELP Deputy Director Rebecca Smith, in those cases, “Courts may well deem them employers, but in the interim, we can adopt policies that bind them in these contexts.”

New legislation in Maryland will give the state’s Public Service Commission authority to regulate so-called “Transportation Network Services,” with a governing body representing drivers, the riding public, and business, to develop regulatory standards and negotiate corporate obligations like taxes, insurance, and fair business practices. The commission would also run a dispute mediation system for drivers, and even authorize the creation of a taxi-worker co-operative.

The two forces pushing back against gigification, labor action from below and regulation from above, might collide in the next great Uber turf war in New York. Across this city—both a union town and a financial capital—an Uber traffic flood has run into a mass opposition campaign led by militant taxi drivers and community groups. Uber has deftly resisted regulatory pressures from local officials and the Taxi and Limousine Commission over taxes and other car-service industry standards. But rising street-level activism against Uber’s corporate heavy-handedness and tax dodging might help curb its breakneck expansion.

Rocio Valerio of New York Communities for Change, a grassroots group campaigning for drivers and the riding public, says via email that NELP’s analysis helps activists break down “how the ‘sharing economy’ is wiping away baseline labor standards that took workers decades to win. From misclassification of workers to meager wages below the minimum wage, the ‘gig economy’ is getting away with murder, and it needs to stop.”

So far, traditional regulations haven’t effectively checked the rise of gigdom. But if the wave of tech-fueled disruption can’t be stopped, the public can erect enough speed bumps to ensure that the kings of the sharing economy must share the consequences of their disruption, too.


NetJets Pilots Ask for Better Pay for Flying Millionaires

Despite the inch of rain dumped on the city, last Thursday was a busy day in private aviation for New York. Vice President Joe Biden touched down in Air Force Two a stone’s throw away from Donald Trump’s jet, and just across the river, at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, 85 NetJets pilots walked in circles for three hours as part of a nationwide picket.

At six other airports—Columbus, Dallas, Scottsdale, Seattle-Tacoma, Van Nuys, and Palm Beach International—700 of their colleagues did the same. The pilots, who all work for the fractional jet-ownership company, picketed as part of a more than two-year-long labor dispute. The roughly 3,000 pilots who fly for the company have been working without a contract since 2013. Their union, the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots, and NetJets blew past their self-imposed September 3 deadline for a tentative agreement.

The bristle, of course, has been over pay and benefits. The pilots’ union said salaries are not high enough and the company’s proposed changes to benefits would put them on the hook for more health-care costs. NetJets said in a statement that on economic issues, the two sides are still a long way apart.

”Much of this difference is due to the parties’ views about the economics of this business­ . . . as well as different expectations concerning the demand for the services we provide,” the statement read. The company then noted that the pilots’ interests have to be balanced with the commitments to other staff members and stakeholders. NetJets is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Captain Brian Ward, who’s been a NetJets pilot since 2002, joined the group picketing in Seattle. He’s based out of Denver, flying the eight-seat, midsize Cessna Citation X jet, working the same 14-hour days every other pilot is capped at. Like most NetJets pilots, he works seven days on, seven days off, maxing out at 98 hours on the job during the “on” weeks.

Unlike most commercial-airline pilots, Ward said, NetJets pilots have a whole other set of jobs to worry about, since the smaller private planes typically don’t have a crew. They also land in small, private-use airports that don’t always have ground support. That means NetJets pilots are not only in charge of flying passengers safely to and from a destination, but they’re also loading luggage, working with catering, making sure the plane is fueled and serviced once they land, and complying with client requests for pets to be taken care of and blankets arranged in a certain way. Add to that the fact that since NetJets customers often fly to small or private-use airports in small towns for businesses or remote resorts and vacation homes, pilots are constantly flying routes and landing at airports they’ve never flown to or landed at before. And since customers can book and change flights at the last minutes, Ward said pilots rarely know where they’re going, when they’re going, and how many places they’ll be going until right before they’re actually taking off.

“It’s a very high level of service and we’re trying to provide that experience, and because we don’t have support personnel, that work comes from the pilot. That’s stuff normal pilots wouldn’t be doing,” he said.

Yet Ward, who’s been involved with the union for years, and other union members feel like they’re not being fairly compensated for all of the extra responsibilities, which has been a huge sticking point in the contract negotiations. Ward said he makes a base salary of $132,000, though on average, makes an additional 10 percent of that in overtime and holiday pay.

Ward has been at the company for 13 years, and falls into the captain salary band. Those starting at the company, in the first-officer level, take home $57,000 in their first year, according to the union. NetJets did not respond to requests for information on pay.

The union said NetJets pilots are paid 60 percent of what commercial pilots are paid, though the company told The Wall Street Journal its pilots are some of the “best paid in the industry,” in January. At Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in May, Buffett said NetJets pilots make an average of $145,000 per year, according to The New York Times.

The negotiation comes down to more than just pay. A major hold-up has been proposed changes to health-care coverage. NetJets told the Journal that its proposal called for a “few reasonable changes,” including “a modified health-care plan that will require union employees to contribute to premiums that they currently don’t pay.”

But those changes, however reasonable, are putting pressure on pilots like Captain Coley George, who drove five hours from Providence, Rhode Island, with a few other pilots on his week off to picket in Teterboro last week. He has been a captain with NetJets for 14 years and is also the union’s vice president of Industry Affairs. For the last two, the worry about whether his health-care costs will change, and by how much, has seeped into the home he shares with his wife and two children.

“Not knowing what my costs are going to be, you bring uncertainty into the household,” he said. “You start to think about whether [you’ll] be cutting back on your kids’ activities, putting away for college or retirement. That’s why I picketed.”

Last week’s show at airports weren’t the first. In fact, hundreds of members turned up at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting earlier this year. Before that, they picketed at the Masters Golf Tournament, the Super Bowl, and the NetJets Poker Invitational in Las Vegas, which was hosted by Buffett.

This is not a showing NetJets customers, who are typically wealthy clients looking to avoid the hassles and security headaches that go along with commercial air travel, would want to keep seeing out of their private-plane window for the unforeseeable future. One NetJets client, who did not want his name printed, said that the last thing he wants to know is that his pilot is unhappy.

Perhaps that is why NetJets continues to state its eagerness to come to a resolution. Its statement said they will again meet with the union once their mediator directs them to, and reiterated that the pilots are the “best at what [they] do” and they’re “proud to call them colleagues.”

Captain Ward doesn’t always feel that appreciation. “We’re not going to accept a contract that is subpar, that doesn’t adequately reflect our work and experience,” he said. He understands that seeing a picket line full of pilots may be disconcerting, but he hopes that will knead NetJets closer to a deal. No need to worry, however, since he said pilots are very good at compartmentalizing and trained to put emotions aside, and NetJets pilots are deeply committed to operating safely even in the midst of negotiations.

So sit back, kick your feet up on those specially arranged blankets, and enjoy the view of a hundred soaking-wet pilots earning all year what you paid in landscaping for the summer. You’ll arrive safely at your destination in just a few short hours.


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