Fighting for American Workers

Fight Wage Theft Blog

Chris Marlborough is a class action attorney representing workers seeking wages owed to them by their employers.  

The corporations call this wage and hour litigation, those on the side of the workers call it wage theft.

This blog will explore the civil and criminal legal aspects of the American wage theft crisis as well as its social, economic and moral implications.


Christopher Marlborough

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Yesterday, New York’s Acting Commissioner of Labor, Mario J. Musolino, issued an Order in response to the recommendations of the NY Wage Board, commissioned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last year.

The order will raise the minimum cash wage for tipped workers from $4.90-$5.65 per hour to $7.50 per hour. The increase is expected to impact more than 200,000 workers within the State. A copy of the Order is located here.  

Following outrage over the exclusion of tipped worker’s from New York’s recent minimum wage increases, Governor Cuomo commissioned the Wage Board to make recommendations concerning the State's tipped minimum wage.

Federal law allows employers to pay tipped workers as little as $2.13 per hour, but many states, including New York, provide stronger protections.  Currently, New York’s minimum wage is $8.75 per hour. Employers may take a tip credit towards the minimum wage, but must pay a cash wage of $4.90-$5.65 per hour. New York’s minimum wage will increase to $9.00 per hour at the end of this year, but until yesterday, tipped workers were once again excluded from that increase. 

The Commissioner accepted four of the Wage Board’s five recommendations. First, the Commissioner accepted the Wage Board’s recommendation to reduce the current three tiered minimum wage for hospitality workers and create a single minimum wage for all tipped workers.

Second, the Commissioner accepted the Wage Board’s recommendation to raise the tipped minimum wage to $7.50 per hour effective December 31, 2015, when the increase in the minimum wage for non-tipped workers increases to $9.00 per hour.

Third, the Commissioner accepted the Wage Board’s recommendation to increase the cash wage of New York City’s tipped workers to $8.50 if the legislature enacts a minimum wage increase for the city.

Fourth, the Commissioner accepted the Wage Board’s recommendation to review whether the State should eliminate a minimum wage tip credit system altogether.

Fifth, the Commissioner rejected the Wage Board’s recommendation that tipped employees who make 20-50% more than the minimum wage, should be entitled to a cash wage of only $6.50.

The Commissioner called this latter proposal “complicated” and described its impact as “unclear.” He further noted, “I reject the underlying assumption that the relief provided would be used to increase compensation to employees in the back of the house.”

We contacted the National Consumers League, a leading worker’s rights advocacy group, for comment. Sally Greenberg, the NCL’s Executive Director responded to the Commissioner’s Order, saying, "At long last, restaurant and hospitality industry workers in New York will receive a much needed raise. For months, low-wage workers risked their livelihood, walking out on their jobs and protesting for better pay. Today, it is clear those risks paid off."

Not everyone was celebrating. The New York State Restaurant Association, a lobbying group working hard to keep restaurant workers’ wages low, issued the following statement: “By rubberstamping an extreme, unprecedented 50 percent increase it becomes hard to believe New York is really ‘Open for Business.’”

The NYSRA is clearly wrong. The Commissioner did not rubber stamp the Wage Board’s proposals, but gave careful consideration to their impact. In fact, the Commissioner rejected the restaurant industry’s proposal to provide a smaller tip credit to some workers even though that proposal was recommended by the Wage Board. The suggestion that the Commissioner did not act independently is based more on sour grapes than reality.

Moreover, we find unconvincing the NYSRA’s argument that paying workers more is a threat to business. When the increase goes into effect, there will still be eight states with a higher tipped minimum wage than New York. For example, California provides no minimum wage tip credit whatsoever.   However, the restaurant industry is thriving in California. 

Congratulations to NY's tipped workers and the organizations that support them, including the NCL, Restaurant Opportunity Center, and Interfaith Worker Justice who fought hard for this historic increase.  The impact of these organizations cannot be denied. By raising awareness and staging protests, they have fought for legislative and organizational change and they are winning.

Following more than a year of worker protests over low wages, Wal-Mart announced last week that it would raise its minimum wage to $9 per hour in April 2015 and to $10 an hour by February, 2016. This morning, TJX Companies, the owners of T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and Home Goods stores followed suit, announcing similar increases.

Ms. Greenberg noted the NCL’s work is far from done. She said, “every worker in America deserves a living wage and the assurance that they can provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. We will continue to push lawmakers at the state and federal level to support America's low wage workers.”

With well-funded organizations like the National Retail Association and the National Restaurant Association fighting minimum wage increases every step of the way, worker’s rights organizations like the NCL can use all of the support they can get.

Friday, 13 February 2015 18:47

New York AG Proposes Payroll Card Reform

This morning, New York Attorney introduced the Payroll Card Act, proposed legislation regulating the use of payroll cards.

Mandatory use of payroll cards has been roundly criticized by workers and numerous government agencies because of the lack of consumer choice and exposure to unfair, unavoidable, and/or hidden fees.  

In announced the legislation, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said,

Workers should not have to pay unfair fees in order to cash their paychecks ... “While payroll cards can be helpful for employees without bank accounts, programs often impose fees that chip away at people's hard-earned wages. The Payroll Card Act will ensure that workers have free and clear access to their wages, while providing clarity to employers about how to offer payroll cards in compliance with the law.

If signed into the law the Payroll Card Act will bring meaningful reform and curtail some of the most egregious acts of worker exploitation caused by implementation of the use of payroll cards. First, employees would have the right to decide whether they will be paid through a payroll card, direct deposit or paper check.

Second, the law would require that employees receive clear notice of payroll card program terms and conditions, including potential fees and ways of avoiding those fees.

Third, employers would be prohibited from using payroll card programs that charge certain types of fees, and require them to use payroll card programs with at least one network of ATMs where employees can obtain access to their wages without paying a fee.

Last year, AG Schneiderman’s office issued a report titled, Pinched by Plastic: The Impact of Payroll Cards on Low Wage Workers identifying numerous problems and abuses in the payroll card industry, including the following.

Cardholder employees were often given insufficient information about how to obtain their wages without incurring a fee and, where the employer provided detailed fee data, approximately 75% of cardholder employees incurred some kind of fee while attempting to access their wages.

In some programs, fees reached as high as $20 per employee per month, on average. Workers were steered or required to be paid by payroll card: 40% of employers surveyed did not provide employees with the option of receiving their wages by a traditional paper check, and an additional 31% discouraged the selection of a paper check.

Many programs failed to provide sufficient means for workers to withdraw wages without incurring fees. One employer’s payroll card vendor brought in almost $70,000 in fees for fewer than 5,000 cardholder employees during a one year period, of which over $60,000 were for ATM transactions alone, the majority of them to access wages or check account balances.

More than one-third of employers used payroll card programs that included overdraft fees. One payroll card vendor received over $200,000 in overdraft fees from August 2012 to July 2013, with an average of 2,570 accounts open each month.

Worker exploitation through an employer’s mandatory use payroll cards first came to national attention in 2013 when Natalie Gunshannon, a former McDonald’s franchise employee filed a class action wage theft lawsuit against her employer arguing that it was illegal for an employer to require worker’s to be paid on a payroll card.

While the franchisor responded by changing its policy, a McDonald’s spokesperson took no responsibility, noting "franchisees are responsible for, and make their own decisions around, employment and pay related matters.”

Gunshannon later published a petition on Change.org asking McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson to establish a policy precluding franchisees from scalping workers through the mandatory use of payroll cards laden with heavy fees. The petition received more than 300,000 supporters.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent agency of the U.S. Government, issued a bulletin warning employers and financial institutions that Payroll Cards were subject to the Federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which “prohibits employers from mandating that employees receive wages only on a payroll card of the employer’s choosing.”

We here at the Marlborough Law Firm applaud Ms. Gunshannon and Attorney General Schneiderman for their efforts in seeking serious reform. We look forward to the passage of the Payroll Card Act and hope that other states take appropriate steps to address this nationwide problem.

The Marlborough Law Firm represents former NFL cheerleaders in civil wage theft lawsuits against the NFL and the Buffalo Bills. We are also keenly aware of other cheerleader wage theft lawsuits against the Oakland Raiders,  Cincinatti Bengals, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  So imagine our surpise when we learned that a former member of three of those teams is facing criminal wage theft charges for failure to pay his own workers.

As we have stated before, wage theft is a crime that should be taken very seriously.  Sam Adams, a former NFL star for the Bills, the Raiders and the Bengals may have to learn that lesson the hard way.

On February 4, 2015, Adams was charged with twelve counts of stealing his worker’s wages by the State of Washington. A copy of the Washington Attorney General's charges can be downloaded here

Adams, a three time Pro Bowl defensive tackle played for a number of NFL teams including the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Cincinatti Bengals before his retirement from the NFL in 2007. 

More recently, Adams operated six gyms in Washington and Oregon, including Lincoln Plaza Athletic Club and West Seattle Athletic Club. Numerous wage complaints were filed by Adams' former employees at the clubs.

According to the Information, Adams was charged with first, second and third degree theft and filing false or fraudulent tax returns. Sentencing guidelines indicate a potential sentencing range for the charges of 43 to 57 months, which could be increased by aggravating circumstances.

One of the theft charges concerns Adams' alleged failure to pay unemployment insurance premiums to the state. The raises an often overlooked aspect of the wage theft epidemic. In many instances, employers who steal their workers' wages, also cheat federal and state governments by avoiding payroll taxes, medicare taxes, and contributions to unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation funds.

In connection with the charges, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “Wage theft is a crime, and its victims are often among our most vulnerable residents. I won’t stand for violators who cheat working families out of their hard-earned wages … My office will prosecute unscrupulous businesses that steal money out of the pockets of wage earners and taxpayers.”

Criminal prosecution for wage theft is still rare compared to other property crimes. The Adams case is only the second criminal wage theft case filed by the State of Washington. However, Washington seems to be poised to take a leadership role in fighting illegal wage theft. According to a press release issued the AG’s office:

The Attorney General’s Office has put an emphasis on combatting wage theft in partnership with state agencies and county prosecutors. Additionally, the Attorney General recently proposed bipartisan legislation that would ensure the State of Washington does not do business with wage theft violators. The bill would prohibit businesses that have willfully or repeatedly violated the state’s wage payment laws during the past three years from receiving any contracts with Washington state.

We applaud Attorney General Ferguson for his stance on worker protection and support his proposed legislation that would keep government contracts out of the hands of wage thieves.

We should note that, at the time of this writing, Adams has not been convicted of any of the twenty-one crimes with which he has been charged.

On December 29, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation amending the New York Labor law. The bill includes several amendments to the 2010 Wage Theft Prevention Act. Most of the new amendments go into effect on February 27, 2015.

Here are a few of the effects of the new law:

Reduces Written Notification to Some Workers

The legislation reduces the Wage Theft Prevention Act worker notification of pay rate requirements. Since 2011, employers have been required to provide their employees with wage rate notification statements at the time of hire, and on an annual basis. Workers in the hospitality industry must also receive written notice when their pay rate changes.

Since the law went into effect, employers have complained that the annual notice requirement was burdensome.

The new amendment removes the annual notice requirement, but keeps the other notification requirements in place.

Increases Penalties and Exposure for Labor Law Non-Compliance

First, damages for failure to comply with the remaining notice requirements have increased. If an employer fails to provide the required notice within ten days of an employee’s date of hire, the employer can be liable for up $50 per day to a maximum of $5,000 per violation. Previously, the cap in civil cases was only $2,500 and accrued at a rate of $50 per week.

Second, damages for failure to provide pay stubs in compliance with the WTPA have increased from $100 to $250 per violation and the cap on such damages has increased from $2,500 to $5,000.

Third, recidivist wage thieves are subject to increased penalties. Employers with a wage theft violation in the last six years could be subject to an additional $20,000 penalty.

Fourth, contractors and subcontractrors will be required to disclose their wage violations to their employees by providing them with an attachment in their paychecks summarizing the violations. This will likely help workers determine if they are part of a larger group of workers being cheated in the same way. 

Cracks Down on the Corporate Shell Game

Several provisions of the new law target employers’ use of corporate entities to insulate themselves from liability for wage theft.

First, the new law closes the LLC loophole. New York law previously provided that the top ten shareholders of a closely-held corporation can be held personally liable for the company’s acts of wage theft.  Wage thieves easily avoided liability under this statute by forming a limited liability company to operate the business instead of a corporation.

Under the new law, members of a limited liability company with the ten largest percentage interests may be personally liable for the LLC’s wage theft. This provision removes the advantage of forming an LLC for the purpose of escaping personal liability for wage theft.

Second, it will now be more difficult to simply restructure or rename the business in order to avoid liability. Under the new law, successor entities with the same employees, the same ownership and which are engaged in substantially the same operation will be liable for the acts of the predecessor entity.

Overall, we support the new changes, which should have the effect of reducing the administrative burden on honest employers, increasing the cost of committing wage theft and bringing the hammer down hard on repeat offenders.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014 23:04

Not So Happy New Year For NY's Tipped Workers

Minimum wage workers in New York State will be ringing in the new year with a raise.  Beginning today, the State's minimum wage has increased from $8.00 to $8.75 per hour. 

The news is not so good for the tens of thousands of New York workers who survive on customer tips.

Under certain circumstances, employers can pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage by taking a credit against the tips that workers receive from customers.  

New York law provides for a separate tip credit for three categories of tipped workers: 1) food service workers; 2) service employees and 3) resort and hotel employees. 

While New York’s hourly minimum wage increased by $.75; the employer tip credit increased by the same amount for each category of tipped worker.

As a result, employers are not required to increase the minimum wages actually paid to qualifying tipped workers. 

The following tables explain how tipped workers are shut out of this year's wage increase:

Effective 12/31/2013

Minimum Wage

Tip Credit

“Tipped Minimum Wage”

Food Service Workers:

$8.00

$3.00

$5.00

Service Employees:

$8.00

$2.35

$5.65

Resort Hotel Employees:

$8.00

$3.10

$4.90

Effective 12/31/2014

Minimum Wage

Tip Credit

“Tipped Minimum Wage”

Food Service Workers:

$8.75

$3.75

$5.00

Service Employees:

$8.75

$3.10

$5.65

Resort and Hotel Employees:

$8.75

$3.85

$4.90

Moreover, absent legislative intervention, tipped workers will get stiffed on next year’s minimum wage increase as well.  While the regular minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $9.00 on December 31, 2015, the increase will be accompanied by  a  $.25 across the board increase to the tip credit.  Here's how that breaks down:

Effective 12/31/2015

Minimum Wage

Tip Credit

“Tipped Minimum Wage”

Food Service Workers:

$9.00

$4.00

$5.00

Service Employees:

$9.00

$3.35

$5.65

Resort Hotel Employees:

$9.00

$4.10

$4.90

If you think this is unfair, you are not alone. The Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, a worker's rights organization, has called for New York to abolish the subminimum wage for tipped workers. The organization notes that:

Millions of working American adults spend their careers in tipped jobs, yet tipped workers such as servers, bussers, bartenders, and barbacks face a poverty rate three times higher than the overall workforce. This is because the law allows employers to pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage, forcing workers to depend on unstable income from tips to support their families. This means restaurants are passing the obligation of paying wages onto their customers, even though tips are meant to be a gratuity that shows appreciation for good service.

Many states have raised their tipped minimum wages, and seven states have abolished the tipped minimum wage entirely and pay up to $9.19/hour to tipped workers. But New York’s minimum wage for tipped workers is only $5.00/hour – not nearly enough to support a family in the state with the highest cost of living in the continental U.S.

New York should be a leader in the fight for fair wages for tipped workers because abolishing the tipped minimum wage is a policy that is good for families, good for gender equality, and good for the restaurant industry and economy!

However, 2016 may turn out to be a good year for New York's tipped workers after all.  In July 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the New York Department of Labor to convene a wage board to consider recommending a raise for tipped workers. 

We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 22:35

A Grimm Confession

In May 2014, we reported here that Republican Congressman Michael Grimm had been indicted on tax fraud and perjury charges related to a wage theft lawsuit against him.  Despite the pending charges, Mr. Grimm handily won re-election last November. 

On December 23, 2014, Congressman Grimm pled guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent tax returns.  In connection with the guilty plea, Mr. Grimm agreed to the following facts: 

On or about January 30, 2013, Michael Grimm testified under oath in a deposition in connection with a civil lawsuit pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. During the deposition, Grimm testified that Healthalicious employees had not been paid in cash. Grimm also testified that he did not generally correspond through email regarding the business of Healthalicious.
"Grimm further testified that, to the extent he used email in connection with Healthalicious, he used a 'Yahoo' account to which he no longer had access. In fact, Grimm knew at the time of the deposition that Healthalicious employees had been paid by cash, as detailed above.
In addition, at the time of the deposition, Grimm knew that he had sent and received many emails related to Healthalicious and had accessed and continued to use an AOL email account which he did not identity in the deposition and which contained many emails related to Healthalicious.

At the time of the indictment, we quoted NY City Councilman Rory Lancman who said,  "[i]f Al Capone introduced Americans to the seriousness of tax evasion, then hopefully Michael Grimm's indictment will do the same for the seriousness of wage theft.” and “[w]hile tax, wire and mail fraud are the mainstays of federal white collar prosecutions, the justice department's willingness to apply those heavy hammers essentially in defense of protecting wages and the integrity of our wage-based retirement and income security system should remind all employers that cheating working people is serious business.”

We hope that Mr. Grimm's conviction will alert a few more wage thieves to the seriousness of their actions.

The Buffalo Jills NFL cheerleaders’ class action lawsuit against Buffalo Bills, Inc. (the “Bills”), Citadel Communications Company, Ltd (“Citadel”) and Stephanie Mateczun, president of Stejon Productions Corp. (“Stejon”) will move forward after an Erie County judge dismissed in their entirety two motions to dismiss by the Bills and Citadel.

The action was filed as a class action on April 22, 2014 and alleges that the Jills’ employers failed to pay them minimum wage and misclassified them as independent contractors.  Defendant Bills filed a motion to be dismissed from the action, arguing that it was not the Jills’ employer because it contracted with separate companies that managed the Jills.  Moreover, Citadel which managed the Jills until 2012 claimed that the Jills were not entitled to minimum wage because they were not employees and they signed agreements stating that they were independent contractors.

Plaintiff responded by arguing that the Jills were employees rather than independent contractors and that the Bills exerted control over the Jills.  Moreover, Plaintiff noted that the agreement between the Bills and Citadel, approved and signed by NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, incorporated a mandatory waiver, release and independent contractor agreement, which specifically provided that the Jills would not be paid for Buffalo Bills home games.  

On July 31, 2014, the Honorable Judge Timothy J. Drury, New York State Supreme Court Judge issued a decision denying both of the motions in their entirety.  In its decision the Court noted that,

The minute control that Citadel and Stejon exercised over the work of the cheerleaders supports the conclusion that they were not independent contractors but employees. The Bills insisted that Citadel and Stejon obtain the agreement from each of the cheerleaders that they were independent contractors and the Bills directed that the agreements be returned promptly to them.  These facts are further indication of the control the Bill exercised over the Jills cheerleaders despite the fact that they were in the nominal employment of the subcontractors.

According to Mateczun, the Bills had agreed to supplement the wages of the Jills for the 2014 season, but reneged on that agreement after the lawsuit was filed.  Mateczun claims that she was forced to shut down the operations of the Jills as a result. 

The lawyers on the case responded enthusiastically to the decision.  Christopher Marlborough, of the Marlborough Law Firm, P.C. said, “We are pleased that Judge Drury ruled in our favor and we are looking forward to litigating this case.  We would be even more pleased if the defendants would end the cheerleader lockout and resume operations of the Jills while the case is pending.  The cheerleaders and the fans deserve better.”

Shane Rowley, of Levi & Korsinsky LLP noted, “We were shocked when we saw that Roger Goodell himself approved the agreement which required that the Jills would not be paid for working at the Bills home games.  We intend to fully explore the NFL’s involvement in this scheme.”    

Andrea L. Sammarco of The Sammarco Law Firm, LLP, noted “Buffalo was the home of the historic NFL Cheerleaders’ Association, the first and only labor union formed to address unfair workplace practices for cheerleaders.  It is only fitting that the Jills should rise once again to take a stand.”

On August, 23, 2014, the Bills face their first pre-season home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  For the first time in 47 years the Buffalo Jills will not be cheering at the game because their employers won’t pay them minimum wage of $8.00 per hour. 

A copy of Judge Drurys's decision and the Agreement approved by Roger Goodell are attached below.

 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 13:32

A Cautionary Tale for Restauranteurs

The Brothers Grimm were renowned for recording cautionary folklore tales. For example, the story of Hansel and Gretel teaches us not to wander too far from home and to think twice before leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. Recently, another cautionary tale has been told by federal prosecutors concerning Republican Congressman Michael Grimm. Restaurateurs who steal their workers’ wages should take heed.

This Grimm tale was covered in a recent Huffington Post article entitled Wage Theft is Grimm Business, written by New York City Councilman Rory Lancman. The article notes that “Basically, Congressman Grimm may be going to jail for wage theft.”

This somewhat of an oversimplification, Mr. Grimm was not criminally charged with wage theft. Several states, including New York and California are aggressively enforcing criminal laws against wage theft, but federal law does not provide for any criminal penalties for wage theft.

Nevertheless, Mr. Grimm was indicted on April 28, 2014 on twenty criminal counts in federal court relating to his alleged wage theft practices.  Those charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, preparation of fraudulent tax returns, health care fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury and obstruction of an administrative proceeding.

Congressman Grimm’s alleged scheme to defraud the government unfolded in the course of a civil wage theft lawsuit brought by two former employees of Healthalicious, a restaurant in upper Manhattan owned by Grimm, filed in federal court in December 2011. The complaint in that case alleged that Grimm failed to pay the plaintiffs and other Healthalicious workers minimum wage and overtime required by federal law and failed to pay them minimum wage, overtime and spread of hours premium pay required by New York State law.

The civil wage theft case was settled confidentially in March 2013, two months after the Congressman provided deposition testimony in the case. The evidence obtained in the civil case left a trail of breadcrumbs for federal prosecutors to follow.

The criminal fraud charges against Grimm stem from his alleged failure to report nearly $1,000,000 in taxable income and his alleged scheme to pay his workers in cash “off the books” by failing to report those cash wages to federal and state authorities, thereby lowering the restaurant’s payroll tax and worker’s compensation insurance costs.

In addition, the perjury and obstruction charges concern Grimm’s alleged false testimony in the civil wage theft case. The government claims that “in January 2013, while a member of Congress, GRIMM lied under oath during a civil deposition about his role in operating the restaurant, including falsely denying that he paid Healthalicious’ workers in cash.”

Councilman Lancman correctly points out that wage theft "doesn’t merely hurt the cheated worker; taxpayers get fleeced, too. This is where Congressman Grimm finds himself in hot water. The federal government loses Social Security and Medicare revenue. State workers' compensation and unemployment insurance systems become stretched, in some cases to the brink of insolvency. Governments at all levels lose income tax revenue.” 

Councilman Lancman bookends his article with the following opening and closing comments: "[i]f Al Capone introduced Americans to the seriousness of tax evasion, then hopefully Michael Grimm's indictment will do the same for the seriousness of wage theft.” and “[w]hile tax, wire and mail fraud are the mainstays of federal white collar prosecutions, the justice department's willingness to apply those heavy hammers essentially in defense of protecting wages and the integrity of our wage-based retirement and income security system should remind all employers that cheating working people is serious business.” 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Wage thieves beware.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 14:21

Marlborough Law Firm In the Press

News Coverage of the Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders Class Action

Class Certification Order Affirmed on Appeal

Buffalo News October 2017 Appellate Court Upholds Buffalo Jills' Right to Pursue Lawsuit Against Bills, NFL by Melinda Miller

The Cheerleaders' Fair Pay Act, Proposed Legislation Inspired by the Buffalo Jills' Wage Theft Lawsuits

Buffalo Jills Bill

WNYC The Brian Lehrer Show: Cheering on NFL Teams for Less Than Minimum Wage

CNN: Law Would Force Pro Teams To Pay Cheerleaders by Chris Isidore

NY Daily News: State Lawmaker Wants New York Sports Teams To Pay Fair Wages To Cheerleaders  by Kenneth Lovett

Buffalo News: Seeking A Law So Jills Can Get A Basic Right  by Denise Jewell Gee

WGRZ TV News: Buffalo Jills Lawsuit Inspires New Bill In Albany 

WHEC Rochester, NY: 'Cheerleaders' Fair Pay Act' Being Considered In Albany After Buffalo Jills Lawsuit

Albany Times Union: Bill Would Extend Labor Benefits to Pro Cheerleaqders  by Matthew Hamilton

Capital Nw York: Assemblywoman to introduce ‘Cheerleaders’ Fair Pay Act'  by Laura Nahmias

WKBW Eyewitness News: Buffalo Jills Lawsuit Prompts New Bill  by Joanna Pascer

Buffalo Jills Screenshot Channel 2 News

WGRZ-TV 2 News: Judge Denies NFL's Motion To Dismiss Jills Lawsuit  

NY Times: Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders’ Routine: No Wages and No Respect  by Michael Powell

Bloomberg.com: The Economics of NFL Cheerleaders: What Are They Worth? by Ira Boudway

Business Insider: NFL Commissioner Says He Knows Nothing About Cheerleader Pay by Josh Eidelson

Business Insider: Subpoena Could Drag the NFL Into Cheerleader Wage Theft Cases by Josh Eidelson

Business Insider: NFL Cheerleaders Got An Early Advantage In Their Lawsuit Against The Buffalo Bills by Allan Smith

Salon.com:  Tanning, Gym and Surgery, Ex-Cheerleader Unloads to Salon  by Josh Eidelson

Buffalo News:  Jills Management Blames Bills For Lack Of Support In Face of Lawsuit  By James Staas

HBO Real Sports:  NFL Cheerleaders with Andrea Kremer

 

News Coverage of the Memon Doria Discount Stores Lawsuit

NY Daily News: Workers at Dollar Store Chain Claim to have Endured ‘Sweatshop Wages and Conditions’ in $2M lawsuit by Keldy Ortiz and Stephen Rex Brown

 Bergen Discount owner Michael Memon, 70, says Laguna is 'a criminal.'

 

 

News Coverage of the Call-A-Head Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

NY Daily News: City’s Top Porta-Potty Company Allegedly Treats Workers Like #2, Fails To Pay For Overtime by Stephen Rex Brown

Call A Head3

 

 

News Coverage of the 2 Bros Pizza Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

Pizza Snob Image

photo courtesy of thepizzasnob.net

WPIX-TV: Workers File Lawsuit Against Popular Chain 2 Bros. Pizza by Ann Mercagliano

NY Daily News:  Workers File Class Action Lawsuit Against 2 Bros. Pizza, Say They Earned Less Than Minimum Wage And Weren't Paid Their Overtime by Stephen Rex Brown and Dareh Gregorian

AM New York: 2 Bros. Pizza Accused Of Building 'Dollar Pizza Empire' On Backs Of Workers by Christian Salazar

Gothamist: Underpaid Workers Sue 2 Bros Pizza For Millions In Backpay by Emma Whitford

Refinery29: Your $1 Pizza Slice May Be Costing Someone Else A Lot More by Nina Wolpow

 

News Coverage of the Oheka Castle Workers Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

New York Daily News: Gary Melius Sued By Former Server At Oheka Castle Back For Back Pay  by John Marzulli

New York Newsday:  Former Oheka Castle Bartender Files Suit Against Gay Melius  by Carrie Mason Draffen

New York Magaziine:  Meet Gary Melius, The Long Island Power Broker  by Joe Coscarelli

CourthouseNews.com:  Not a Good Week For A Modern Gatsby  by Nick Divito

 

Insider Exclusive: Season One, Episode 11.  The Global Vision Avacor Fraud 

As an associate at his former law firm, Chris was featured on the Insider Exclusive program as part of the "tenacious and relentless" team of lawyers who obtained a $50 million judgment on behalf of all Califonia purchasers of Avacor, a phony hair restoration product. 

Insider Exclusive

UPDATED: MAY 9, 2014

You may have heard of the 2011 NFL lockout, when the owners of the 32 National Footbal League teams locked out the NFL players from team facilities and shut down league operations from March through July 2011 because they could not come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement with their union, the NFL Player's Association.  Few, however, know the story of the 1995 and 2014 management lockouts of the Buffalo Bills cheerleading squad known as the Buffalo Jills.    

Since, 1967, the Buffalo Jills have been the official cheerleading squad for the Buffalo Bills NFL football team.  

For decades, the Jills were subject to illegal pay practices and unfair working conditions, including not being paid anything for long hours spent working at Buffalo Bills home games, practices and numerous personal appearances.  They also were required to sell posters of the Jills squad and provide modeling services for those posters without compensation. 

In the mid-1990's, the Jills fought back and worked collectively to improve their working conditions.  In 1995, the National Labor Relations Board determined that the Jills cheerleaders were employees not independent contractors and affirmed their right to vote to form a union.  The Decision and Direction of Election reads: 

The facts herein clearly establish that the cheerleaders are employees rather than independent contractors.  The Employer controls their rehearsal schedules, their costumes, their routines, the times and places of performances and requires each to maintain a specific weight.  The cheerleaders are not allowed to book their own performances and have no ability to employ or arrange for replacements.  The Employer places strict limits on their discretionary time, prohibiting fraternization with members of the Buffalo Bills team or staff, and requiring all their actions as an individual to reflect the Jills' organization. All significant business decisions are made by the Employer which alone decides if and when appearances are made as well as how much, if anything will be paid for the appearance.

In February 1995, the members of the Jills voted overwhelmingly (29-2) in favor of making the National Football League Cheerleaders Association the first and only NFL cheerleaders labor union.  For the first time in Jills' history, the unionized Jills received cash compensation for working the Buffalo Bills games and aspired to encourage other NFL cheerleaders to join their union.   

The Jills employer responded bitterly to the formation of the union, stating, "to me, jumping around on the sidelines isn't really work. It isn't labor at all" and "It's not like they work in the coal mines.  They've never been instructed to stand under 3,000-degree iron ore in a steel mill."

The Jills' historic success did not last long.  WIithin months, the Jills filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board after their employer cancelled the Jills' public appearances and failed to notify them of upcoming tryouts in an effort to keep these uppity women off the squad and thwart their efforts to receive a fair day's pay for a fair days work.  After this management lockout, their employer then folded the corporation that managed the Jills and they struggled to find a new sponsor.  The Jills found a temporary sponsor after merging with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, also known as the IBEW.

In 1996, the Jills were forced to dissolve the union as a condition of obtaining a new sponsor.  Many of the improvements in the working and pay conditions that the unionized Jills had worked so hard to achieve were rolled back by management in the ensuing years.  In 1996, one member of the Jills was Stephanie Mateczun, who is now the Jills' Cheerleading Co-ordinator and President and CEO of the corporation that manages the Jills.   

On April 22, 2014, Caitlin Ferrari, through her attorneys Christopher Marlborough of the Marlborough Law Firm, P.C. and Shane Rowley of Levi & Korsinsky, LLP filed a class action lawsuit challenging the pay practices of her employers.  According to the class action complaint, by the time Ms. Ferrari joined the Jills in 2009, the Jills were not being paid for participating in Buffalo Bills games, cheerleading practices, numerous personal appearances, modeling sessions, or auditions required to stay on the team.  They were also required to provide "professional instruction" to young girls in the lucrative Junior Jills cheerleading clinic program.

The complaint alleges that defendants failed to pay Ms. Ferrari and her fellow Buffalo Jills cheerleaders and non-performing ambassadors minimum wage for all hours worked and spread of hours premium pay for working more than ten hours in a single workday.  Moreover, the Complaint alleges that Ms. Ferrari and other Jills were required to pay more than $500 for their own uniforms and to pay for other expenses that should have been paid by their employer and to purchase Jills swimsuit calendars and event tickets to sell on their own time.

Another lawsuit containing similar allegations was filed by five former Jills on the same day as a non-representative action.

On March 24, 2014, two days after the lawsuits were filed, Mateczun announced that her company was suspending all operations of the Jills pending the outcome of litigation.  Once again, the Jills were out of work due to another management lockout.

Mateczun later admitted that the Buffalo Bills have been pulling the strings of the Buffalo Jills enterprise all along, stating, "If people believe they don’t maintain influence and control over every part of their operation, including their cheerleaders, they are mistaken."  Mateczun's lawyer also noted that the Buffalo Bills had offered to supplement the Jills' pay for the 2014 NFL season weeks before the lawsuit was filed, but withdrew that commitment to fund the squad in light of pending litigation. 

On May 8, 2014, the NFL held its annual Draft Day at which the Jills traditionally particpate in support of the Buffalo Bills.  However, due to the management lockout, the Jills were benched for this event.  Mateczun's lawyer commented, "[t]hat is a day that the Jills would ordinarily be expected by the Buffalo Bills to participate in their promotional activities around Draft Day.  We are not going to conduct business as usual as long as these legal issues remain unresolved.

On May 9, 2014, Ms. Ferrari filed an amended complaint adding new allegations concerning the Buffalo Bills control over the Jills and the management lockout.

Like her predecessors, the heroic women of the 1995 -1996 Buffalo Jills, Ms. Ferrari understands the power of collective action.  She filed her case as a class action and will be seeking court certification of a class including all current and former Buffalo Jills since April 22, 2008.

Ms. Ferrari wants to see the Buffalo Jills prosper and continue to support the Buffalo Bills on and off the field, while ensuring that she and other class members are compensated fairly and in accordance with the law for the substantial amount of work that they have provided to their employers.

If you have any information about the employment practices concerning the Buffalo Jills or have any questions about the case, please contact Christopher Marlborough: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (212) 991-8960. 

A Copy of Ms. Ferrari's Amended Complaint is Attached Below.

Page 1 of 2

"I have a message for those employers who break this nation's labor laws and prey on vulnerable workers: It ends today."

 - Hilda Solis, United States Secretary of Labor (2009-2013)

Why Choose Us

We have the experience, passion and commitment that it takes to litigate complex wage theft cases.

We concentrate our practice on class actions and seek recovery for as many workers as possible.

We accept most of our cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you will not be required to pay anything unless your case is successful.

Meet The Team

Christopher Marlborough has been litigating class action cases since 2007. Jennifer Marlborough is a seasoned attorney with more than 14 years of litigation experience. Chris founded the Marlborough Law Firm in 2013 to continue his fight against corporate wage theft practices. 

Contact Us

If you think you may be the victim of wage theft, do not hesitate to contact us. Consultations are always free.  

The Marlborough Law Firm, P.C.
445 Broad Hollow Road
Suite 400
Melville, New York 11747

email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone (212) 991-8960 
phoneToll Free (888) 289-7982