Today, more than at any time in the past quarter century, employment law and the lawyers who practice in the field play an important and integral part in protecting workers. Many of the gains made by labor have been jeopardized or eliminated as huge corporations merge, then downsize to remain competitive. There has also been unprecedented greed, contempt of the law and abuse in the corporate world which, although not universal, seems to have permeated the business culture.
The relationship between employer and employee has evolved over the past hundred years of more - from unregulated, wide-spread exploitation of workers in the 19th and early 20th century, to the rise of labor unions which advocated for safer and more humane working conditions and increased governmental regulation. During the past thirty years, the labor movement has been largely in decline. To some extent, this may reflect the substantial gains made on behalf of workers during the 1950's and ‘60's, when workers were generally paid a living wage, had no-cost health insurance, paid vacations and overtime compensation.
Sadly, many of the benefits workers once enjoyed have been sacrificed on the alter of increasing profits and shareholder dividends. The business climate no longer seems to value labor as it once did. Perhaps the best indication of this is the increasing gap between CEO compensation and that of the average worker. In 1990, CEOs were earning approximately 85 times what workers earned. Nine years later, CEO pay surged to more than 400 times the average worker’s wage, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Disdain for employees is not expressed only through disparate compensation packages. It seems that every day we hear news of another big corporation that didn’t pay overtime wages or forced its employees to work “off the clock.” Harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims are on the rise - all reflecting the unequal balance of power between labor and management.
For a corporate executive looking to downsize, getting rid of older workers and replacing them with younger, less costly employees may make good business sense in this toxic environment. But, it is against the law.
A manager who “doesn’t like” people whose first language is not English, may get satisfaction out of harassing such an employee. But, it is against the law.
An employer may think it makes good business sense to give a job to another worker while one of his employees is out on maternity leave. But, it is against the law.
When a well-qualified worker is passed over for a promotion because he is gay, it is against the law.
When a worker is fired because he points out to a supervisor that the company is breaking the law, it is against the law.
When an employee complains that he isn’t being paid overtime or being given meal or rest breaks he deserves and he is terminated, it is against the law.
Rice & Bloomfield, LLP, are here to help if you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment or retaliation. We can help if you aren’t being paid what you are owed for the time you spend working or if your employer doesn’t let you take a lunch break or if you are being asked to falsify your time cards.
Until business puts as much value on its workers as it does its profits, lawyers like Rice & Bloomfield are here to help level the playing field between management and labor. Call us if you have any questions or are concerned about being the victim of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.