Wage Violations: New Developments for Health Care Workers and Gig Workers like Uber and Lyft Drivers in 2023
Wages are falling behind the rising cost of everything. Rents doubling, gas doubling, food up 50%, health care up 50%, tuition up 50% in private schools; costs are up everywhere.
Health care workers and gig economy workers have had a particularly tough time. Unlike many employees of the federal government or carmakers like Ford, they face long and unpredictable hours, understaffing, and incomplete or nonexistent reimbursement for the high costs they pay.
Fewer than 25% of nurses in most states are part of a union. In Pennsylvania the percent may be less than 15% by this point. In California it’s about 20%.
Some nurses may earn less than the legal minimum wage due to a variety of complex factors. One is loopholes in the law like charitable or religious institutions. Another may be that they are still in training and have to work without lawful pay as part of their degree or recertification. Others may be independent contractors, or misclassified as independent contractors, and get denied the full legal rights of employees.
Some home health care workers may not get the minimum wage either. New York State passed a law entitling home health care workers to $18 per hour in October 2023. Recent statistics, however, suggest that many home health care workers were earning less than $14 per hour. New York has had difficulty fully funding home and community health projects as well. An additional $2 billion per year might be needed to bring all the affected health care workers up to $18 or more per hour.
A failure to pay for all hours worked or served “on call” is a big part of the problem. One worker reported being paid for 13 hours despite a shift of 20 or even 24 hours, which is by law to have sleep and mealtime breaks, but given conditions in patients’ homes and the demands of some home health agencies, these breaks can be interrupted or denied, or the worker put “on call.”
Gig workers like food app delivery drivers and grocery delivery workers are maybe even in a worse situation. Dozens of people crowded a New York City hearing in April 2023 about low driver pay. According to a speaker at the event, despite dangerous road conditions and being targeted for crimes, delivery drivers may be earning only $11 an hour, including tips.
In 2021, New York City decided delivery drivers need to be paid almost $24 to ensure them a minimum wage after paying for gas and delays in a restaurant or store in putting together the orders. Uber, DoorDash, and Grubhub failed in their initial effort in federal court to block a higher minimum wage. The law should go into effect soon, as the city wanted it to be the law as early as July 2023.
Violations of Minimum Wages Act: Next Steps
Employees can claim their full minimum wage or overtime rights in the event of a violation, even after they cashed the check with the underpayment. They can band together in a group, or sue individually. As a collective or class action in federal or state court, an employee can avoid the problem of an individual person’s unpaid wages not being equal to the legal costs of going to court.
In addition to unpaid wages, employees can request a sort of penalty or fee that is over and above the actual unpaid wages. An employee may be entitled to a reasonable attorney’s fee from the employer, and a payment of court fees and costs by an employer if there was a violation.
If you have been paid less than $15 or $18 per hour as a gig economy worker or health care worker such as a nurse or health aide, or been asked to work off the clock, received wrongful tip deductions or missing tips, or are being misclassified as a contractor, you may benefit from a free consultation to make sure you are being fully and correctly compensated for the hours you work.
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