Service of Hourly Work–No Bed of Roses

May 31st, 2018

Categories: Airlines, Gambling, Medical Administration, Pay, Supermarket, Wage, Work, Workplace Disputes

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Hourly workers have more than minimum wage pay and taxes nibbling away at their income. They must fight to get the full wages due because of technology that gyps them and also upends and holds their lives hostage by changing their work schedules at the last minute.

Photo: work.chron.com

Rachel Feintzeig in her Wall Street Journal article reported something that doesn’t get sufficient attention. The headline: “Employees Say Time-Tracking Systems Chip Away at Their Paychecks–Employers maintain the methods keep labor costs predictable and reduce time spent recording breaks.”

Workers are suing American Airlines, Kroger and Montage Hotels & Resorts, to name a few businesses “for unfairly subtracting fractions of their hourly wages using time-tracking technology.” These “rounding policies” over years can amount to $thousands in lost pay.

Some hourly hospital workers are in the same boat as their counterparts in airline, supermarket and hospitality industries. Often they can’t leave a patient to grab a bite of lunch yet they are automatically dunned a half an hour of pay each day for a break not taken. Workers in call centers who stay past their shift to finish a call claim that the time “is rounded away.”

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The fines made against businesses represent chump change to employers who have saved $millions in unpaid wages. Elizabeth Tippett, a professor at the University Of Oregon School Of Law told Feintzeig that casino workers in Nevada were awarded $450,000 when the gaming company they sued saved $12.6 million in wages thanks to its rounding policies. After litigation costs the employees shared $207,500.

Photo: casino.org

The software creates a “heads I win, tails you lose” dynamic with employers holding all the cards causing additional miseries for hourly workers. Feintzeig wrote: “Time-tracking software is usually part of a broader workforce management system that records absences and schedules workers. These suites of software have come under fire from attorneys general in New York and other states for enabling employers to switch around shift assignments at the last minute, creating unpredictable schedules for workers.”

Time tracking technology is also big business–$12 billion worth. Clearly more than a few companies use it.

Do these workers have a prayer in today’s economic climate that favors the rich and ignores everyone else?

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11 Responses to “Service of Hourly Work–No Bed of Roses”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    The time-tracking practice you describe seems basically unfair and unethical on multiple levels. It provides for no honest calculation of those skipped lunches and extended work time as exemplified by the workers remaining unpaid for unanticipated overtime. Furthermore the ability to control employee’s schedules as if they were slaves or not actual human beings, making scheduling involuntary and one-sided seems unfair, unrealistic and very backward, perhaps feudal.

    I would think that as employees become more aware of the amount of manipulation and deception in these practices there would in short order be a demand for fairer labor practices. We are under the regime of a dictator wannabe. Our Congress currently is predominately composed of anachronistic, supremely ignorant, passive and cowardly members. Their only functions at present seems to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil or alternatively be supremely evil lying constantly. During the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, its “New Deal” and modern labor legislation brought America out of the Great Depression starting in 1933.

    Much of the rest of the world has followed suit. It seems that only present day America is rushing backward faster than a moving sidewalk could take it and that our economy and social fabric will manifest the ills of all this mooching and chiseling at the expense of the work force which means the general public.

    Anticipate corporate decline and unrest if this pattern continues!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I worry about our workers, our air quality–with increasing rollbacks of environmental regulations to decrease costs for businesses that pollute our rivers and air–our investors too. The latter because of the national shrug of “so?” as we learn of example after example of cheating even by politicians at the highest levels. If they resign, they serve zero time. Meanwhile investors who may have lost their collective shirts are left in the gutter.

    Back to the workers: Under the present regime, who will listen to them? My next post is about worker shortages so perhaps the only way to be heard is to follow the European model of national strikes and for folks to walk away from unfair corporations but then who will pay their shelter and food bills?

    A good nurse can’t be asked to leave a failing patient to make the point about taking a well-deserved break for which he/she is paying. Imagine if a customer has been on hold for a time and finally gets someone in customer service on the phone as the shift ends to be told in mid-conversation, “Sorry, gotta go,” click. The employee would lose his/her job and then what?

    I keep thinking of the casino workers who collectively were gypped out of over $12 million in wages who were awarded a pittance by the court. Shocking.

    As for the last minute shift-changing, some states have forbidden this practice or are looking into doing so. How a single parent with small children who need to be looked after or workers with more than one job can work under these circumstances is beyond comprehension and downright cruel. Your reference to feudal behavior is spot-on.

  3. Deborah Brown Said:

    You ask if you think there is a prayer in today’s economic climate for these worker bees who are being cheated out of their earned pay due to this Time tracking technology. Honestly, I’m not optimistic until there is regime change in Washington. This will mean more people stepping up to serve, more people going to the polls, more attorneys and legislators on the side of the underserved and overworked; many of which I assume are immigrants which does not give them much of a voice these days. Tough times!

  4. Hank Goldman Said:

    Very interesting! Corporations have become way too powerful, don’t you think?

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debby,

    Say it isn’t so–but it is, and I must agree with you. We read of pendulums swinging so here’s hoping that with the midterm elections in November we witness one that moves in a different direction to achieve balance at the least.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Yes, the heads of most corporations act like young children who test the rules. They’ll push, without regard to impact on others, until someone tells them to stop and reinstates or tightens the regulations. Right now empathy, considered a sign of weakness, is nowhere in view.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    Interestingly there is absolutely no reference to labor unions in this post. As the daily news reports in France especially, labor unions assert power on behalf of their workers, and there are even general strikes that take place with previous announcements before their onset. At this time in Brazil, the economy is in complete uproar over strikes by truck drivers, individual owners in particular who are protesting increases in the price of fuel and taxes, as well as failure to maintain passable roads. It is a nationwide movement which has threatened all sectors of the economy as well as the government.

    Since software is able to do so many different things and calculate so many different matters related to work shifts there must be a way in the technological world for calculations of work time put in and or time forfeited for authorized breaks to be registered so that individual compensation could fairly respect wage and hour realities.
    It is not enough to use technology half-way.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    Surely technology could be tweaked to reflect what workers actually do, but it won’t be. They don’t control the purse strings.

    I didn’t reference labor unions in my comments but fuzzily referenced them in one response where I wrote: “so perhaps the only way to be heard is to follow the European model of national strikes and for folks to walk away from unfair corporations but then who will pay their shelter and food bills?”

    Italy is another country that has plenty of strikes.

    In my first PR job, the agency I worked for represented one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world at the time. I took a tour and marveled at assembly lines in which pills landed perfectly in bottles, labels on bottles, cotton and tops popped in place. Workers were strategically placed to check pill levels, that labels were on straight and tops tightly closed and they changed places every X minutes so as not to be hypnotized by the process and to focus. Once placed in cartons, a worker would randomly open one and again check that everything was as it should be with the pill bottles. Not fun work but work just the same. [Today computers do all of this.]

    I had the chance to walk down a hall at the plant with the corporation’s president. He knew a remarkable number of workers by name and greeted each, smiling at others. The ladies room at this company was stocked with many things a woman would need or enjoy including hand cream and tissues [which, by the way, they didn’t manufacture]. The company did not have a union. It was a different, kinder world; the president today would be considered a chump to provide those items in the ladies room for free. Executive hopping prevalent today would mean that the president would just about know the names of those in the C-Suite when it would be time to shove on to another big job after collecting a few giant bonuses. Workers and maintenance crews are expenses to be controlled as tightly as possible. Remember that bonus!

    I’ve removed the rose colored glasses and am back to reality. This is a different world and there are few good corporate citizens. Investors don’t permit largesse and it’s not the appropriate style for business today. Maybe it is time to bring back strong unions, which came with problems of their own, unless someone has a better idea.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Cheating ones employees is theft. Trouble is it’s time consuming to document, and more difficult to prove. Hats off to those who are able to get their hard earned money back!

  10. jmbyington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    You are correct but the businesses are not punished and the workers who fight are insufficiently compensated by the courts and they must spend money to get back what they are owed. Lousy situation.

  11. Protius Said:

    Interesting, I didn’t know about “time tracking.”

    It seems to me that this is a good example of hyper-technology run amuck. Some computer geeks dreamed up the program, got the backing of venture capitalists who then sold their idea to the human resources honchos at mega-gapolies whose job it is to seek new ways in their forever battle with labor to reduce expenses. Bingo! Big business management supposedly now had another arrow in its labor cost control quiver.

    Everybody but labor supposedly benefitted. The geeks and investment bankers, no doubt, got rich, and, of course, like high crime rates justify our spending a lot of non-productive money on cops and a prison system, the mega-gapolies must have spent a lot of money on buying complex computer software and hardware, and for the people to manage them. Even though they probably passed most of their cost on to their customers, what did they get for all this expense?

    Yes. They benefitted from a claw back from their workers, but with it, no doubt, came a ton of resentment and distrust, and a massive PR black eye. There seems to be something terribly deceitful about the whole thing.

    What if they’d saved their money and hadn’t bought into the idea, and had relied instead on their labor force to respond favorably to fair, open and honorable treatment?

    I know I’m being old fashioned, but, based on my experience, I’ll bet you that they would have come out ahead.

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