Fair Work News – April 2019

APRIL 2019

Pay day for Jorge

Jorge was something of a jack of all trades at the popular restaurant in Shoreline where he’s worked for years. He worked a number of roles in the kitchen and helped out as a server in the dining room when needed. Jorge was not paid properly. His employer would pay him irregularly and only when asked. And he was never paid all that he was owed – it was always just enough to survive, enough to pay rent or buy groceries when needed. To make matters worse, the temporary owner kept incomplete and inaccurate records of his hours, so Jorge wasn’t getting any paystubs to document his hours or the full degree of wage theft he was experiencing.

Working with the Fair Work Legal Clinic, Jorge recreated over a year’s worth of his work calendar and calculated that he was owed more than $22,000. We worked with him to develop a demand letter that we sent to his employer. After Jorge received no response, we helped him file a wage theft claim with the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Throughout the investigation, we supported Jorge in navigating the process with L&I and responding to their inquiries and requests for additional information. L&I recently sided with Jorge and sent their own letter to the temporary employer demanding he pay Jorge the $22,000 he’s owed.


Shady scheduling and discrimination on display at the mall

Belle, who works at a jewelry store at a mall in Seattle, first contacted Fair Work Center after experiencing frequent disruptions in her work schedule. In addition, she felt that her employer’s treatment towards her was drastically different than their treatment towards other employees. For example, while other employees were allowed to take breaks freely, Belle was required to get permission in advance. Belle never received any disciplinary actions from her employer and did not understand why she was subjected to this different treatment.

During Belle’s consultation, we discovered that Belle is the only elderly worker in that store; all other employees are in their 20s and 30s, including Belle’s supervisor.

As a salesperson part of her pay is through commission, but the nature of sales in the store are such that people often come in once, scope out what they want and come back later to make the purchase. Because Belle’s schedule was so unpredictable, she would not be able to let customers know when she might be in the store next. This meant that often another salesperson would get commission on the sale that she did the bulk of the work on.

We provided Belle information about our state laws regarding breaks and commission. We advised her that Seattle’s Secure Scheduling Ordinance requires large retail and food service employers with more than 500 employees globally to, among other things, post schedules two weeks in advance, or provide additional compensation to workers for last-minute changes to the schedule. If her employer meets its criteria, it would be in violation. In addition, we advised her to begin documenting her treatment at work in order for us to better assess her whether employer had violated age discrimination rules.

If we determine her employer is covered by Secure Scheduling, we will be able to take action that will not only fix Belle’s scheduling concerns but her coworkers’ too. We are also continuing to work with Belle to address concerns around age discrimination in a way that enables her to keep her job and, just as importantly, close more sales and receive more commissions.


When a hiring bonus isn’t a bonus for getting hired

Dudley worked as service technician for a small general contractor company. He mainly went to other small businesses to make repairs or perform other building services. The primary reason he took this job over others he was considering was because the company was offering a $1,500 hiring bonus for qualified candidates. In his interview, he asked about the hiring bonus and says he was told he would get it upon starting to work.

Unfortunately, he ended up being terminated two months into the job but never received his hiring bonus. He came to Fair Work Center looking for help getting bonus he was promised in his interview. We’re supporting Dudley in preparing to file a claim in small claims court where a judge will decide if an employer can be held accountable to a verbal agreement made in an interview.

Because the law around how hiring bonuses work is a little murky, there are likely many other workers in the situation of feeling like they are owed an advertised hiring bonus only to never receive it upon taking the job. We know it is common for employers to promise one thing to their workers and do another, so we will be fighting hard to help Dudley get his bonus.


Three strikes don’t make this dismissal right

Juanita worked at a nonprofit organization in Seattle from 2008 until very recently. Until early last year, she never had any sort of disciplinary or performance issues with management and was considered an integral part of the team. In fact, Juanita was someone a lot of people in the office came to for questions or support when they needed help.

Last year, her longtime supervisor was terminated and replaced by a new, younger supervisor. Juanita is older than most of her coworkers, and she noticed that her employer was moving towards hiring younger workers. She started to feel like she was being pushed out by her new supervisor, both in how she was being treated day to day and also in the trivial things she was being disciplined for by her supervisor. The first time she was written up it was because she spent six minutes in the copy room when her supervisor said it should only take two minutes. The second time she received a notice saying she was taking excessive bathroom breaks. She became suspicious of her supervisor’s actions and even noticed a few of her newer coworkers following her around the office and timing her breaks. Juanita believes her supervisor directed those coworkers to pay close attention to her activities. It was at that point she first came to Fair Work Center for legal consultation.

The final straw that led to her termination came one day when the office was closing and a client showed up in a state of emergency seeking services. Because she was committed to providing services to people in need, she stayed an extra hour to counsel the client. Company policy is that workers must get advance approval for overtime hours, so, after two trivial strikes already against her, she was written up again for her third strike for taking an unapproved overtime hour and terminated. She feels it was retaliation by her supervisor, who was just waiting to find a reason to let her go.

Juanita first tried going through the internal HR complaint processes twice, but HR sided with management both times. So when she was officially terminated she said she was going back to Fair Work Center to seek legal counsel. At that point, her employer offered her a severance package. We supported Juanita in preparing for the severance negotiation with HR and management, which resulted in her getting the payout she was looking for.


A balancing act: standing up for herself & keeping her job

Gabriela is a Mexican immigrant who works at a Mexican restaurant. She contacted Fair Work Center after a cook, who she did not get along with, put an extremely hot pepper in her salad without her knowing. She raised this issue with her supervisor but no action was taken; the cook was not warned, disciplined, or otherwise put on notice of his behavior. So she took it up to a higher level of management and asked for their help. Gabriela was then written up by her immediate supervisor for going over his head to management, even though her immediate supervisor ignored her complaints.

Gabriela had been working at that restaurant for more than 10 years. And in that time, Gabriela’s schedule remained relatively consistent. Yet as soon as she started to raise concerns over her coworker’s aggression towards her, her schedule changed drastically. Not only were her work hours reduced, but she was scheduled to work “clopening” shifts, where she was required to close one day and open the next. She feared she would soon lose her job entirely.

She was referred to Fair Work Center by one of our community partners, and we provided Gabriela about her workplace rights and advised Gabriela about retaliation. We also discussed ways for her to effectively address her concerns with her employer. Gabriela left the clinic feeling empowered to talk to her employer to address the retaliation and to request that her schedule return to what it previously was. After speaking with her employer, she got her old schedule back. In addition, the problematic cook was transferred to work at another location. Gabriela felt relieved to no longer be working with that cook but still had concerns about her personal safety, given the cook’s strong dislike of her. We provided her with information and resources on how to file for a protection order.


Putting tips back on top

Working WA, our sibling organization, has been organizing gig workers (i.e., people who work for app-based companies like Postmates, Instacart, and Doordash) for the past couple of years. Last fall, Mia, a worker on the grocery delivery app Instacart and leader on Working WA’s gig economy campaign, raised the alarm about major pay cuts on Instacart. She and her coworkers were getting paid 30-40% less for each job, the company was using a black-box algorithm to set pay. And what’s more, they were taking customers’ tips instead of passing them on to workers.

When a customer tips, it is generally understood as extra money for the service provided by the worker. But Instacart was just paying the worker less and pocketing the tip. Here’s how it worked. An Instacart shopper might agreed to take a job that promised $10. The customer who made the order agreed to a $5 tip for the work. But instead of that worker getting $15, Instacart used the tip to subsidize the amount they paid the worker for the job.

Working WA started a petition demanding better pay, no more tip theft, and a more transparent pay system for Instacart’s workers. In a few short weeks it was signed by more than 3,500 gig workers and customers outraged by Instacart’s shady pay practices. Workers and customers were standing up and speaking out, and the media took notice. Bloomberg News did a piece on the petition, which generated even greater attention to the petition and generated even more news stories and social media outrage among gig workers and customers alike.

The tremendous weight of public outrage in combination with the power of gig worker’s organizing forced Instacart to put tips back on top of pay. But the change Instacart made wasn’t enough – they’re still paying workers too little and their pay stubs are still a mystery. And these problems aren’t limited to Instacart workers. Gig workers on all apps are facing low pay and lack of transparency. So they are continuing to organize and a national campaign called  #PayUp to demand $15 plus expenses for each hour they work, tips on top, and pay transparency.


Are your rights at work being violated? For a free consultation, contact us today online or by phone: 1-844-485-1195.

Fair Work News – February2019

February 2019

Catering company forced to take racism off the menu

Jane was a line cook for a catering company that provides food service to colleges. Jane loved her job, the interaction with the students especially. And she was good at it, churning out all of the food that came from the grill. The Executive Chef however made it impossible for her to stay there with unrelenting racially-motivated comments. Jane did everything she could, informing her superiors and human resources, but it didn’t stop. Jane stayed another three months, but eventually she found it too difficult.

We filed a charge of discrimination and a suit to recover wages, and met with the employer at mediation. There, the employer agreed to pay our client to compensate for the trauma caused by their employee and, importantly, agreed to change their policies and provide enhanced training to supervisors and staff.

Though she has a culinary degree, Jane had left cooking after this experience. With the damages recovered from the company, and she dreams of opening her own restaurant.

 


Wage theft at Emerald City Fence

Dan learned about Fair Work Center from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) after attempting to make a complaint about his former employer, Emerald City Fence, a statewide fencing company. This company had a practice of deducting an hour of time from each employee’s pay, regardless of how many unpaid or paid rest and meal breaks the employee took. Because all employees at the company were victims of this wage theft, L&I recommended that Dan talk to Fair Work Center to see if he could make a claim for all his co-workers.

We immediately recognized the magnitude of the problem and agreed to work with Dan and his coworkers. Working with Breskin Johnson & Townsend, a local plaintiff’s employment firm and longtime supporter of Fair Work Center, we recently filed a class action case against Emerald City Fence.

 


404 error – paychecks not found

Jenna worked for a small tech start-up company. She enjoyed the work, but she started noticing issues with the company’s funding. At first, Jenna was patient with her delayed paychecks because she understood funding for a start-up is not always steady. However, the issue quickly escalated from receiving her paychecks late to not receiving compensation for months at a time. Eventually, Jenna’s employer failed to pay her for 12 pay periods for a total of $19,963.69.

This is when she came to Fair Work Center where we are currently supporting her in pursuing a wage complaint through L&I.

 


If your employer is training you, they should be paying you

Said worked as a driver for a transit company. He was required to do 120 hours of training and promised pay at his hourly rate.

Said came to the Fair Work Center after the employer failed to provide him any pay for the training. We provided Said with information about his rights and walked him through his options. Said decided on a small claims lawsuit. When his employer caught wind of it, the employer sent him a check for half the amount owed, promising the rest soon. Said thought about delaying his filing but, when the check bounced, he realized that he should keep going.

With our support, Said’s small claims case is underway in King County District Court.

 


Are your rights at work being violated?  For a free consultation, contact us today online or by phone: 1-844-485-1195.

Fair Work News – December 2018

Fair Work Center is a hub for workers to understand and exercise their rights on the job. This edition of Fair Work News brings you stories of what justice on the job looks like for workers who were victims of wage theft, discrimination and more. Read on to learn how the Fair Work Legal Clinic is recovering workers’ stolen wages and helping enforce laws like Seattle’s Public Accommodations Ordinance and Hotel Employee Health & Safety Initiative.

The Queen Mary Tea Room gets on board

Coleman worked as a server at the Queen Mary Tea Room in North Seattle. Coleman, who is non-binary, noticed that the Tea Room maintained gender-exclusive bathrooms, with “ladies” and “gentlemen” written on the outside of each door. Indeed, the tea room had been cited by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights several times for violation of Seattle’s Public Accommodations Ordinance, which, among other things, requires all single-occupant restrooms to be gender-neutral restrooms. After each citation, the owner took down the signs, but moved them from the outside to the inside of the door or replaced them with pink and blue ribbons. Coleman raised this concern with the management, but nothing was done. Soon after, Coleman was terminated. Fair Work Center filed suit on Coleman’s behalf and negotiated a settlement by which the Queen Mary Tea Room compensated Coleman, agreed to change its practice and hosted a staff training on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by LGBTQ Allyship, one of our collaborative partners.

Wage theft at a residential construction company

Martin served as a foreman at a residential construction company. Most of the workers on his crew primarily spoke Spanish, and because Martin was more fluent in English, he served as a communicator with the employer to determine and secure payments for the jobs his crew worked. These contracts between the workers and the employer were oral and based in trust that both sides would uphold their end of the deal. This trust was broken when the employer refused to pay Martin and his peers for their work.

Unfamiliar with the law and unaware of any legal recourse available to him and his coworkers, Martin came to Fair Work Center worried that he would not be able to secure payment for their work. This money was essential to their livelihood. We assisted Martin in preparing a demand letter and filing his case in small claims court. The week before his scheduled court hearing in September, the employer paid Martin and his coworkers everything they were owed. Just as we are certain that Martin will continue to stand up for his fellow workers with the information he learned from visiting Fair Work Center, we are certain that his former employer will think twice before trying to exploit its employees again.

Local Montessori school learns a lesson

Leslie has been a teacher for most of her career. Recently, she took a job as an assistant teacher at a Montessori school in King County. She initially contacted Fair Work Center with questions about her employee handbook. Specifically, she wanted to know if she was entitled to receive pay for a week-long vacation. While looking through her paychecks, we discovered inconsistencies with nearly every one. She worked for the Montessori school for several months, but only one of her paychecks in that time was accurate. We calculated a total of 84.5 hours of missing wages, equivalent to nearly $2,500. We helped Leslie file a case in small claims court this fall, and we will be supporting her throughout the process.

Cleaning up

An undocumented immigrant looking for work, Beatriz was excited to take a job cleaning apartments in an affluent Bellevue neighborhood. Soon after she was hired, her employer doubled the number of apartments she needed to clean each day, regardless of how long it took. Beatriz tried but quickly found it was impossible to complete her duties without working a 12-hour shift, something she could not do as a mother with children at home.

When she tried speaking up about her workload and asking for a raise to compensate for the extra work, her employer cut off communication and disappeared without ever paying her for the days she already worked. Unsure of her rights and concerned about retaliation from the employer with regard to her immigration status, Beatriz came to Fair Work Center to learn what protections she had and how she could get paid. After discussing her options, we assisted Beatriz in gathering evidence and filing a complaint with L&I. Two weeks later, L&I informed her that her complaint was processed, and she would be paid the $602 in wages she was owed.

Delivering justice for delivery driver

Yakub first came to Fair Work Center in 2017. As a delivery driver for a small company that contracts with Amazon and others, Yakub started his day bright and early and worked long hours, but he enjoyed his work. Unfortunately, trouble struck soon after he started. He received a ticket because his employer’s van did not have proof of insurance. Instead of paying for the ticket or working with Yakub, the employer tried to put the responsibility on him. In addition, the employer refused to pay him his final paycheck of more than $1,000. We helped Yakub assess different options for getting paid and assisted him in filing his case in small claims court.

He returned recently, almost a year later, with great news – he received a small claims judgment for almost $2,000! The payment covered his final paycheck, the ticket, and associated filing fees. But he also had some bad news. The employer was refusing to pay him and he had no idea how to get his money. By researching the different methods of collecting on a judgment, we helped prepare and file a writ of garnishment against the employer, thereby allowing him to collect the money he was owed.

Hotel worker stands up for health & safety

Lucie is a housekeeper at a hotel in Seattle. Her employer failed to comply with the Hotel Employee Health and Safety Initiative, which limits the amount of cleaning work hotel workers can be required to do in a shift. Not surprisingly, she was injured as the result and asked for light duty while she recovered. The hotel refused her request and, instead, fired her.

Lucie came to Fair Work Center distraught having lost her income, health insurance, and the ability to pay her mounting medical bills. We recognized that Lucie’s immediate medical needs could be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, so we assisted Lucie in filing her claim with the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). We also connected Lucie with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights to make a complaint of disability discrimination for the hotel’s failure to accommodate her disability and termination. Finally, we connected Lucie with advocates for hotel workers, and we will continue assisting her as needed in addressing the hotel’s ongoing violations of the initiative.


Please note: We moved! Our new offices are located at 116 Warren Ave N, Suite A | Seattle, WA 98109 (map)

Summer 2018 Fair Work News

 

Hello and welcome to the Summer 2018 edition of the Fair Work News!

My name is Rachel, and I am the new Executive Director of Fair Work Center and Working Washington.

Rachel Lauter

Yes, you read that right, I am the new ED of both organizations!

Fair Work Center and Working Washington are coming together to build a powerful, sustainable and scalable worker organization to advance worker and economic justice in Washington and beyond.

By aligning the legal, community education, advocacy and organizing strategies of each organization, we will bring a comprehensive approach to supporting workers in Seattle and throughout Washington. We’ll be a one-stop shop for low-wage workers, connecting them with efforts to change policies impacting their lives or with the legal services and support they need to achieve fair employment and get justice on the job.

Fair Work Center is known for our community-based approach to workers’ rights and enforcement of labor standards. Our deep relationships with nonprofit organizations in the region enable us to engage low-wage workers most likely to be victims of workplace violations, including low-wage women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ people, and young people.

Working Washington is known for its groundbreaking campaigns to raise standards for workers, including leading the fast food worker strikes that led to $15 in Seattle, passing the nation’s first secure scheduling ordinance, and creating new standards for domestic workers long operating in the shadows of labor and employment law.  

Together, we will help shape the 21st Century workers’ movement in our region.

You can already see it in action. The Seattle City Council just passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a historic law that sets minimum standards for domestic workers and establishes a standards board that will serve as a new model of worker organizing. Working Washington was a central partner in the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance, the coalition that advocated for the bill, and the Fair Work Center stands ready to educate workers about these new standards and enforce the new law.

I’m honored to take on this role and am eager for the challenge ahead. Organizations like Fair Work Center and Working Washington are playing increasingly vital roles in building and sustaining power for low-wage, unrepresented workers, and together we can accomplish so much more than either organization can on its own.

I started on May 29 and my first order of business is finding a new space to house the 20 or so staff that make up both organizations. You can read more about my background hereThere will be more changes coming, so stay tuned and let me know if you have any ideas for ways we can do more for low-wage workers in Washington.

In Solidarity,

Rachel

Summer 2018 Fair Work News

Read more

STATEMENT REGARDING TODAY’S RULING IN JANUS V. AFSCME

 “Today’s ruling abandons over 40 years of precedent. It shows five judges can’t handle the truth that strong labor unions have played a central role in building a more equitable economy and putting meaningful checks & balances on corporate power.

The Janus case came before the court as the result of a decades-long, multi-billion-dollar campaign to shift money and power from workers to the wealthy. It also came with an accidental poetic flourish: Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and endings, of change and transition, of passageways connecting past and future.

Here in Washington, we’re already leading the way to new futures for workers rights. Working Washington and Fair Work Center have partnered with unions and community groups over the past several years to win the nation’s first $15 minimum wage law, Seattle’s landmark secure scheduling ordinance, paid sick days, paid family leave, and more. We’ve scaled up new approaches to community-based outreach & enforcement of worker rights laws. We’re building a groundbreaking Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance that will take nannies & house cleaners from invisible to powerful. And more.

And regardless of what economic realities the Supreme Court chooses to dismiss, workers in our state will continue to build their power and organize towards a world where everyone can support themselves, contribute to the economy, and participate in our communities.”

— Rachel Lauter, Executive Director of Working Washington and Fair Work Center

2017 Annual Report

We are excited to share Fair Work Center’s 2017 Annual Report. 2017 was a year of growth for Fair Work Center. We expanded our outreach team and added new partners to the Fair Work Collaborative to reach more low-wage workers with information about their rights at work. We bolstered the Fair Work Legal Clinic by adding two new staff attorneys, doubling the size of our clinic staff and more than doubling our capacity to provide free legal services. And we stepped up our advocacy at the state and local level to broaden our impact for all workers, not just those we see in our day to day work.

We are grateful for all the people and organizations that support Fair Work Center and make this work possible. With the incredible challenges workers face at the national level, Fair Work Center will continue to grow and evolve in 2018 to ensure workers in our region have access to justice on the job.

Click here to view Fair Work Center’s 2017 Annual Report.

Case Briefs

Below are a few cases that have come in to the Fair Work Legal Clinic in the past couple of months. Names and other identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of these workers.

Ivan and his family were new to the United States, having moved here from Argentina to pursue new opportunities in the food service industry. Back in Buenos Aires, he and his wife were accomplished gluten-free bakers and small business owners, and they were hoping to replicate that success here in the Pacific Northwest. To help make ends meet, Ivan went to work at a local South American restaurant. Despite consistently working 12-hour days, he never once received overtime pay. Eventually, he left to work in a different restaurant, without ever being paid for the overtime he was owed. After coming to Fair Work Center, Ivan worked with one of our law students in the legal clinic, who helped draft a demand letter for Ivan to send to his former employer. We then negotiated a settlement with the employer covering $5,000 in unpaid overtime to Ivan.

Jeffery is a maintenance worker who disclosed his HIV-positive status on a health insurance form he completed for his employer. His employer [who had no right to see Jeffrey’s confidential medical information] then ordered the Jeffery to take a leave of absence, saying he couldn’t come back to work until Jeffery provided a doctor’s statement releasing him to work and detailing his personal medical information. The anti-discrimination employment law protects people with HIV and other medical conditions from differential, negative treatment at work, so we sent the employer a letter alerting them to the legal implications of their current course. Thankfully, and because Jeffery wanted to continue working there, the employer withdrew its demand and paid Jeffery back wages for the time he was forced to stay home from work.

Lastly, we also recently settled a case in which we represented Sandra and Nate, two former employees of a local general contracting company. The general contractor had been stringing them along for months, promising to pay as soon as he could, while the workers continued to work full-time without getting a paycheck. All the while, the contractor was sending his kids to private school and taking a family vacation to Mexico. After a few months, the contractor abandoned the construction projects and laid off the entire staff. Sandra and Nate were referred to the legal clinic by the King County Bar Association, and once we took on their case we filed suit, which led to negotiating a settlement with the general contractor for $15,000 in compensation.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

Summer Staff Additions

We’ve been fortunate to grow our staff over the past few months to help meet the increased outreach, education and legal services we are providing. Please join us in welcoming Katie, Andra and Alex. Learn more about each below.

Katie Cameron
Staff Attorney
Katie Cameron is a graduate of Stanford University and Berkeley Law. Prior to joining the Fair Work Center Legal Clinic, she worked in private practice in Seattle, representing employees in state and federal litigation. Her experience also includes work in public policy, impact litigation and immigration law. At Fair Work Center, Katie focuses on direct representation, litigation, and policy advocacy designed to enforce workers’ rights and shift power in the workplace for workers. Katie will also provide legal and technical support to our community clinic program and collaborative partners.

 

Andra Kranzler
Intake and Outreach Staff Attorney
Andra Kranzler is a graduate of Eastern Washington University and Seattle University School of Law. After law school, Andra received the school’s Justice in Action fellowship, where she spent two years at Columbia Legal Services providing critical legal support and advocacy that was instrumental in producing Seattle’s groundbreaking priority hire ordinance. Most recently, Andra was a Legislative Aide for Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. Andra will join the legal clinic in August and will be responsible for coordinating our community clinic program, handling intake services, and joining our outreach and education team at events to provide legal services in the community. She will also represent workers directly

Alex Gallo-Brown
Retail Workforce Development Coordinator

Alex Gallo-Brown, Retail Workforce Development Coordinator. Alex is responsible for developing and guiding our Retail Workforce Development program. He brings experience as a community college instructor, labor organizer, published writer and poet, retail worker, and caregiver, among other vocations. Alex holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from Georgia State University in Atlanta and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He is passionate about empowering workers, promoting racial justice, preparing pasta puttanesca, and reading and writing poetry.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

Fair Work Legal Clinic First Birthday and Fundraiser

What a night! Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the 1st Birthday of the Fair Work Legal Clinic on September 27.

The Fair Work Legal Clinic has been a tremendous addition to Fair Work Center. Since opening the legal clinic one year ago, we have provided intake and legal information, advice or representation to more than 450 workers looking for a solution to workplace violations, most commonly some form of wage theft. The total monetary impact of our interventions in these cases is more than $400,000, while also helping numerous workers get their jobs back after wrongful termination.

We’d like to especially thank our sponsors one last time for making the event a success: Emery ReddyBreskin Johnson & Townsend PLLCTerrell Marshall Law Group PLLCFrank Freed Subit & Thomas LLPUniversity of Washington School of LawSeattle University School of Law. And thanks to our boosters: AKW Law, P.C. and Kittleson Cairns PLLC – Injury & Employment Lawyers – Tacoma.

In case you missed the event, you can still contribute at fairworkcenter.org/donate.

Check out the pics below!


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS:

The Beecher’s Case

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is a prominent, local, artisan cheesemaker. Founded in Seattle in 2003, Beecher’s now anchors popular in-house cheesemaking shops in both Seattle and the Flatiron District of New York City.

Back in September of 2015, nine hoop-breakers – a job requiring extreme physical labor that comes near the end of the cheese-making process – came to Fair Work Center alleging that they were routinely denied breaks, paid sick leave time and overtime. When they did take leave, they said they had been retaliated against by their manager.

At the time, Fair Work Center did not yet have a legal clinic, just three staff and a part-time legal director. We formally requested the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) file a Director’s Charge on behalf of the cheese-making employees at Beecher’s. After months of Fair Work Center advocating alongside and on behalf of those workers, OLS worked to convene a settlement conference so that we could talk directly with Beecher’s and persuade them to change their practices.

In what would become our first major co-enforcement action with OLS, we saw company-wide changes at Beecher’s as a result of the charges filed and resulting settlement that finally came in May 2017. All cheese production workers at Beecher’s received raises. Every employee at Beecher’s will receive Know Your Rights training provided in a unique partnership between Beecher’s and the Fair Work Center. Supervisors will receive training on how to comply with Seattle’s labor standards, and Beecher’s will enhance its oversight of those employees. And the managing supervisor accused of denying breaks and paid sick leave, retaliating against employees who took leave, and denying overtime pay was fired. Training for employees and supervisors will begin later this year.

While the individual cases we represent are incredibly important for those individual workers – often meaning they can pay the rent on time or put food on the table – we are increasingly looking for cases like Beecher’s, where we can make company-wide or even industry-wide impacts. By working with the Office of Labor Standards on an innovative new model of co-enforcement, we are forging a path in labor standards enforcement with the potential to see powerful, lasting improvements for workers.


FAIR WORK NEWS CONTENTS: