Wage Watch: Franchise owners fight Seattle’s $15 minimum wage

August 8, 2014, 5:47 PM UTC
Seattle and Mt Rainier after sunset
Photo by P.Folrev—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Franchisees sue over Seattle’s $15 per hour law

The $15 per hour minimum wage that Seattle passed in June that was heralded by labor advocates isn’t going into effect without a fight. This week, the International Franchise Association asked a federal judge to immediately block portions of the law that gave the city the nation’s highest minimum wage.

The lawsuit filed by Paul Clement, former solicitor general under George W. Bush, said that the ordinance will irreparably harm franchisees and put them at a competitive disadvantage because it treats them as large employers simply because they’re associated with big corporations. The lawsuit takes aim at the provision of the minimum wage law that treats small franchises differently than other small, local business. As it stands now, franchisees must adopt the $15 minimum wage within three years—the same timeframe given to large employers. Other small businesses, meanwhile, have seven years to reach the $15 per hour threshold.

According to the lawsuit, the ordinance violates the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Its “discriminatory” nature, the suit says, “crosses the constitutional line.”

Government broke labor law during shutdown

The U.S. government abided by the “better late than never” theory last fall when it came to paying federal employees who worked during the shutdown. But that approach still broke labor law, according to a ruling by Chief Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, who rejected the government’s efforts to dismiss the case.

When the government shutdown began on October 1 last year, employees deemed “essential” were required to stay on the job even though they weren’t paid in full until the shutdown came to a close. Employees from the Bureau of Prisons—who were later joined by hundreds of other federal employees—filed the lawsuit against the government in late October, claiming that even though essential workers eventually received their paychecks, the government nonetheless violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by delaying the payments—a stance that Judge Campbell-Smith accepted in her ruling.

Lawsuit: Subway owner avoided overtime pay by creating fake workers

A former Subway restaurant worker claimed in a lawsuit Thursday that his boss avoided paying him overtime by creating a fictional worker and paying him half his wages under that fake name.

The worker, Erwin Zambrano Moya, said that the owner of the Subway franchise where he worked in Washington, D.C. systematically shortchanged him by paying him as if he were multiple employees. Moya said he worked an average of 70 hours per week, which should have entitled him to 30 hours of overtime pay, but he didn’t receive time-and-a-half for those extra hours since he was paid “about half of his wages under his name and about half under a fictional name, typically Ever Ventura,” according to the lawsuit.

The franchise owner, Parvin Firoz, did not immediately return a request for comment; neither did Subway, which was not named as a defendant.

Sick New Jerseyans should have right to stay home

All workers should receive paid sick leave, according to a proposal that the New Jersey state assembly is set to consider next month. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the bill, which was introduced in February and would allow employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work, would constitute a “step forward in workers rights.”

The future of the bill is murky given the opposition from business leaders and the uncertainty over Republican Governor Chris Christie’s support for such a measure.

Advocates of the law say the measure will give sick leave to an estimated 1.1 million New Jerseyans, and they have pushed for cities throughout the state to put mandatory sick leave to constituent votes in November. The coalition has already convinced the state’s two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City, to adopt a leave policy. Nearby New York City’s sick leave law went into effect last week.

Restaurant charges patrons minimum wage fee

A cafe in Minnesota further stoked the debate over higher minimum wages this week by tacking a 35 cent “minimum wage” fee onto patrons’ tabs.The owner of Oasis Cafe said that the fee is intended to help offset the 75-cent hike to the state’s minimum wage that went into effect last week—a raise that he says will cost him about $10,000 per year. (It was the first minimum wage increase in Minnesota in a decade.) News of the fee sparked outrage on the roadside restaurants’ Facebook page, with some commenters calling for a boycott of the business. But other posts commended the restaurant for using the fee to make what they interpreted to be a political statement against the hike.