Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the week ending on Friday, August 18
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling that a Memphis Starbucks violated the National Labor Relations Act when it fired seven workers over union organizing efforts.
The NLRA gives workers the right to form a union and collectively bargain, and forbids employees from interfering. Specifically, employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers who organize or support union efforts, and that includes by creating new rules or by enforcing old rules inconsistently, which is what happened here after the Memphis Seven were fired - and were previously disciplined - for things they had done before but not been disciplined for.
The Aug. 8 ruling affirmed the terminations also had a chilling effect on organizing efforts, not only in the Memphis store but in Starbucks outlets across the U.S. and agreed with a district court that the workers — known as the “Memphis Seven” — should have been reinstated to their jobs, and it is right that they have been reinstated.
The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division last week recovered $314,211 in back wages and liquidated damages after a Mississippi staffing agency - Prime Care Nursing - stole the money from the paychecks of 91 nurses and other employees by paying them straight time instead of the legally required overtime rates after 40 hours, including for some nurses who worked as many as 84 hours. This was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets overtime pay as time and a half the standard rate after 40 hours.
Located in Jackson and Greenville, Prime Care Nursing provides nursing care staffing throughout Mississippi serving hospitals, nursing homes, patients in their homes, hospice agencies and rehabilitation centers. Prime Care Nursing workers include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and caregivers.
After the investigation and the recovery of the stolen wages, Prime Care Nursing will begin paying employees what they are owed under the law.
The USDOL notes that enforcement in this sector is particularly important because as the aging U.S. population grows and demand for health care increases, employment in a variety of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031 – faster than the average for all occupations – adding about two million jobs.
Wage and Hour Division District Director Audrey Hall in Jackson, Mississippi said: “When employers violate workers’ rights, they make it harder for them to provide for themselves and their families. The Department of Labor will hold employers accountable when they mistakenly think they can violate these rights.”
Federal workplace safety inspectors have determined after an investigation that one of the nation’s leading cement manufacturers - Buzzi Unicem USA, which operates as River Cement Sales Co. - could have prevented a 50-year-old employee from drowning after falling from a barge into the Mississippi River in February 2023.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration looked into the fatal incident and that found three employees boarded a barge without wearing personal floatation devices. Shortly after climbing to a second deck to repair a blocked valve, one of the workers fell head-first into the river from the barge’s side. Co-workers tried unsuccessfully to rescue their colleague and the remains weren’t recovered until nearly a month later.
OSHA’s inspectors identified five serious violations by the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based company. Specifically, the agency found
the company failed to make sure employees wore personal flotation devices when exposed to drowning hazards
did not install guardrails to protect workers from falling into the water
failed to train employees in first aid.
And found an eyewash station was not installed for workers exposed to corrosive materials.
The company faces $62,500 in proposed penalties and has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
In 2021, the US Department of Labor filed a lawsuit after Sentinel Security Group - a company employing security guards - refused to comply with the findings of the department’s Wage and Hour Division. Investigators determined Sentinel Security Group denied overtime to the affected employees by not combining hours employees worked at more than one location, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provision.
Last week, the DOL announced that in May 2023, the US Department of Labor obtained a consent judgment in U.S. District Court ordering Sentinel Security Group Inc. to pay $23,841 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to the affected employees.
The department also filed a separate action in administrative court and obtained consent findings that require the company to pay $7,317 in civil money penalties for Sentinel’s repeat violations.
Here’s something to help you grasp how big of a problem wage theft is –
In fiscal year 2022, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $3.9 million for more than 4,600 people employed in guard services after over 600 investigations nationwide.
A federal workplace safety investigation determined that 39-year-old employee of a south Arkansas timberland and sawmill facility - Anthony Timberlands Inc - suffered fatal injuries from an automated lumber stacking machine at its Bearden location.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the employee was cleaning around and beneath the machine in February 2023 when its hoist table fell on them.
Inspectors learned the company had the lumber stacking system installed in July 2022 without any barrier devices to prevent employees from entering the area beneath the stacker hoist.
OSHA issued citations to the company for four serious violations, including
failing to provide lockout and tagout procedures to prevent a machine from starting and moving during maintenance
not ensuring that guards were in place beneath the stacking system
failing to provide barriers to stop employees from entering the danger zone
and not making sure to have signage in place to warn employees about crushing hazards.
The agency proposed $218,759 in penalties for the violations.
The relatively high penalty is because this isn’t the first time that this company has negligently endangered employees, or even the first time the company’s negligence has killed a worker.
OSHA Area Director Kia McCullough in Little Rock, Arkansas said: “This company’s continued disregard for the safety and well-being of its employees is inexcusable and must stop. Ensuring workers’ safety is not optional, it’s the law.”
In August 2022, OSHA cited the company after an employee at its Malvern facility suffered fatal injuries when an unguarded sharp chain activated. The agency also cited the employer in January 2020, when an employee in Bearden facility suffered a thumb amputation when their finger made contact with an unguarded chipper feeder.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The EEOC alleges that Supreme, a staffing agency, and Barrett, one of Supreme’s clients, retaliated against a former account supervisor when the companies removed the employee from the worksite after the employee complained about the companies’ treatment of Hispanic persons. The EEOC further alleges that Barrett and Supreme further retaliated against the employee when they fired him less than two months later.
More Perfect Union uncovered an illegal scheme by Starbucks to rid itself of unionized locations. It is against the law for employers to assist or encourage decertification attempts of a union, and yet, that is exactly what More Perfect Union has uncovered that Starbucks is doing across the country - with managers talking about the process, and dozens of flyers with information about decertification and contact information for the National Right to Work Foundation laying around where employees can see them - unprompted.
Five Norfolk Southern train cars left the railway near Battelle in the northern part of Dekalb county, Alabama, near the Georgia state line. There are no hazardous materials reported, nor injuries, or current threat to life.
In 2018, state and local governments in Alabama agreed to pay Shipt at least $19 million in combined cash incentives and tax breaks, if it met goals of hiring hundreds of corporate workers and investing in its local presence. The company has failed to meet its hiring goals and it is unclear if they have met the promised $10M investment in Birmingham. In response, the government says they will give the company no more incentives – with the city, Jefferson County and the state’s workforce development agency having only paid a measly $3 million so far.