YES, SLAVERY STILL EXISTS...
Do you know there are presently an estimated 21 million slaves around the world? This staggering number comes from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. Known as modern slavery, victims are trapped in some sort of enslavement, be it domestic servitude, forced labor, child labor, or sex trafficking. To be clear, human trafficking can include, but does not require movement. It’s also not isolated to a specific country or region of the world; it’s a global problem. And according to Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest international human rights organization, “women are forced into prostitution, and both children and adults are forced to work in agriculture, domestic work, or factories and sweatshops producing goods for global supply chains; entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts; or girls forced to marry older men, the illegal practice still blights the contemporary world.”
Perhaps you have an idea of what being enslaved means, but in truth, slavery is defined by men, women and children who are: mentally or physically threatened to work, owned, or controlled by an ‘employer’ through various methods of abuse, dehumanized or treated as a commodity through being bought or sold, and/or physically constrained or having restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.
On its website, the U.S. Department of State also identifies “child soldiering as a manifestation of human trafficking when it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children – through force, fraud, or coercion – by armed forces as combatants or other forms of labor.” You probably heard of this as a common tactic used by extremist groups (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram), paramilitary organizations, and rebel groups worldwide. The U.S. Department of State goes on to say “many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants while others are made to work as porters, cooks, guards, messengers and spies. It’s extremely common for both female and male children to be sexually abused by commanders and male soldiers.”
It’s important to raise awareness about modern slavery and to recognize a victim when you see one. Preyed upon, victims are often desperate to earn money, escape an unstable and abusive environment, and seek refuge for a better life. They are commonly promised payment, transportation, and freedom in exchange for their labor. We must educate our children and citizens, arming them with opportunity and a chance to prosper. We, in turn, can help people to protect themselves against deceitful “recruiting” methods through community engagement at the grassroots level and offering educational programs. Our united goal of eliminating castes and gender inequality should also be a priority as is working with organizations aimed at eliminating slavery.
I would hope in my lifetime slavery would cease to exist. I am an optimist and know the reality of that happening anytime soon is being wishful. Now I’m asking myself, what can I do to help make a difference.
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—Marra Allen, Marketing Coordinator & Office Manager
In a stunning rebuke to the Obama administration, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas granted an injunction blocking the new salary threshold for overtime pay. The increased limits on salaried-overtime were set to take effect on December 1st.
The injunction prevents the new rule from expanding overtime coverage to salaried employees earning between $23,660 and $47,476 per year. The Department of Labor anticipated that this would spread coverage to 4.2 million American workers.
The Obama administration had sought to increase the salary limits to keep the overtime law current with inflation. In 1975, the salary limits ensured that 62% of full-time salaried workers. Today, the limits only cover 7% of salaried workers.
Writing for the court, Judge Amos Mazzant ruled that the Department of Labor “exceeds its delegated authority and ignores Congress’s intent.”
Businesses across the nation have already taken action to avoid overtime exposure on December 1st. But for now, the salary limits will remain unchanged.
Many salaried employees are about to discover they’re entitled to overtime pay. On December 1st, the salary minimum for certain overtime exemptions is going to jump up from $455.00 per week ($23,660.00 per year) to $913.00 (or $47,476.00 annually).
The increased salary minimum applies to administrative, executive and professional employees (often called the “White Collar Exemptions”). Although these employee’s duties and responsibilities may not change, their exempt status will change to non-exempt, making them eligible for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The new salary limits will also change the overtime status for highly compensated employees. Currently, any employee making $100,000.00 per year who performs minimal administrative or executive duties is exempt from overtime pay. As of December 1st, that limit shoots up to $134,004.00 per year.
The new salary minimums are not a minimum wage. Instead, they are a limitation on the salary that certain white collar employees can be paid without being exempt from overtime. Exempt employees paid in excess of these limits will remain exempt.
The problem for businesses throughout the country is that many of them are not prepared for the new salary limits. Unless employers pay these newly nonexempt employees overtime, then the businesses may face immediate civil liability, including double damages and attorney’s fees.
There are a number of ways businesses can protect themselves, but time is short. Businesses have only thirty-five days left to take precautions against new overtime liability before the salary minimums go up. Now is a good time for businesses to prepare for the change.
If you are concerned about overtime liability, please contact our office today.
–Matt Allen, Associate
Employment and Labor Law Attorney
Sexual Harassment at Work
If you're like me, you've probably read the recent headlines about the settlement between Fox News and former TV anchor Gretchen Carlson. The story made waves when Carlson claimed she was sexually harassed by former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Now just two months after Carlson's lawyers filed the papers, Fox News and Carlson have reportedly settled the case for $20 million. In addition, as part of the settlement agreement, Fox issued a rare public apology that stated "We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
We should be proud of courageous women like Carlson who stand up for their rights and their beliefs. It can be hard. Certainly there is doubt, fear, and the possibility of being shunned by co-workers, friends, and family. The idea of risking your career and going up against the "boys" is enough to make you think twice, three times, and ultimately remain silent. I believe educating women and advising them of their civil rights is paramount. But in a tough situation will a woman make the choice to defend herself?
My hope is we all learn a lesson from this recent lawsuit—that no matter who you are, where you come from, where you work or the "powerful" people involved, you have a voice and are protected under U.S. sex discrimination laws.
Women are powerful and deserve to be treated with respect.
–Marra Chinn Allen
Marketing Manager, Harris Law Firm
As someone who recently accepted a new position at Harris Law Firm, I can proudly say I benefited from the stable job market last month.
According to the Associated Press’ coverage of a government monthly jobs report, over the past 12 months, the jobless rate for women fell from 4.9% to 4.3%. Specifically, women ages 35 to 44 contributed to unemployment dropping more than a full point to 3.5% over the past year.
It is noted that even with the significant job gains, the overall unemployment rate remained at 4.9% for the second month in a row which took into account the more than 400,000 people who looked for jobs in July with some not immediately finding employment.
While women benefitted overall, for some groups the jobless rate increased (men, Asians and people over 55 years of age).
Even so, the positive jobs report is an indication that the economy is in an upswing following our nation’s recession. This is based on the number of adults that have recently been hired or are currently looking for employment.
- Marra Allen, Marketing Manager
Source: The Associated Press, 2016-08-05