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Attorney Areti Georgopoulos appeared on FOX 9 to discuss how unemployment benefits are affected by COVID-19 and the new CARES Act. She explained that the new federal legislation expands unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other gig workers. Such workers are not normally covered by unemployment insurance, and thus have no safety net to replace their wages at this unprecedented time.
Minnesota and Iowa Restaurants to Pay $831,232 in Back Wages to Employees for Violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), three restaurants in Minnesota and one in Iowa will pay back wages of $831,232 to 113 current and former employees. The payments are due to violations of minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Plaza Garibaldi in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, La Terraza Mexican Grill and Bar in Mankato, Minnesota, Plaza Garibaldi Authentic Mexican Restaurant Inc, in New Ulm, Minnesota, and Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Mason City, Iowa are the offenders. According to the WHD, the restaurants: required some servers to “kick back” their hourly wages and work for tips only; paid bussers, food runners, cooks, and dishwashers flat salaries, regardless of the number of hours they worked; failed to pay all workers minimum wage; and failed to pay all workers overtime for workweeks longer than 40 hours. Read more about it here: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20181128-0.
Harmony Law Firm has represented workers who were not paid proper wages in violation of the FLSA. If this is your story, contact us to see how we can help.
Minnesota Court of Appeals Issues Rare Unemployment Decision Finding Employee Eligible for Benefits When She Quit After Losing Childcare
In a rare move, the Minnesota Court of Appeals published a decision reversing an unemployment law judge’s ruling that an applicant was ineligible for benefits when she quit after losing her childcare. In Gonzalez Diaz v. Three Rivers Cmty Action, Inc. and Dept. of Emp’t and Econ. Dev., 917 N.W.2d 813 (Minn. App. 2018), the court found that the applicant properly notified her employer and asked for accommodations when she lost her childcare, and then quit when the employer did not provide them. The employee had requested and received accommodations that were later taken away by the employer. The court found this satisfied the requirement in the law for eligibility.
Under the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Act, an employee who quits a job due to loss of childcare must first request time off or another accommodation from the employer—and be denied this request—in order to be eligible for benefits.
Harmony Law Firm has represented many employees who quit their employment and sought unemployment benefits. If you are fighting for unemployment benefits, contact us today to see how we can help.
The EEOC sued New York’s Hudson City Savings Bank (HCSB) because it had a discriminatory policy against employees with disabilities. HCSB would place disabled employees on involuntary leave unless they provided medical clearance to return to work with no restrictions. This practice denied reasonable accommodations to disabled workers, forced them on involuntary leave, and in some cases, terminated their employment. These actions were in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires employers to provide qualified employees with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities so that they can continue working. Wilmington Trust, which acquired HSBC, agreed to settle the case after the EEOC filed suit in federal district court. Read more about it here https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12-19-18a.cfm.
Harmony Law Firm has represented many employees in the workplace who are not properly accommodated, are forced to take involuntary leave, or are subject to a no-restrictions work policy. If this is your story, contact us today to see how we can help.
Areti Georgopoulos strives for harmony in the workplace. Thus, Harmony Law Firm was born. She has been lucky to find harmony in her job and through her volunteering with the HCBA, even if it has sometimes come unexpectedly.
Six months into serving as co-chair of the HCBA Labor and Employment Section, Georgopoulos was representing a client who was having issues with her employer. Negotiations between the parties were not going well, so Georgopoulos’ opposing counsel said that an outside lawyer would be taking over the negotiations, and she would be getting a call from Kurt Erickson.
Fortunately, she knew Erickson—he was the other co-chair of the section. Even though they were on opposite sides of the negotiating table, their previous connections helped the process move along. “I found that it was a very efficient way to resolve the dispute because we already knew each other. There was trust and mutual respect between each other,” she said. “We were able to reach a satisfactory resolution in that case. I did attribute it, in addition to his lawyering skills, and perhaps mine as well, to our effective advocacy. But I also attribute it to the fact that we had been working together.“
Georgopoulos also appreciates that she gets to work with defense counsel in non-contentious settings. She has planned CLE seminars and participated on panels with other labor & employment attorneys. “It’s really a space where there is a lot of collegiality, where there is an interest and truly an exchange of ideas, perspectives, and it’s just a space that’s very conducive to informative and insightful discussion. And it’s just building relationships across the aisle if you will,” she said.
The local aspect of the HCBA has also helped the collegiality between all types of labor and employment lawyers. “The HCBA Labor & Employment section was an opportunity to work with defense attorneys and generate ideas for insightful seminars that were relevant to both sides of an employment dispute. I like that from a philosophical perspective,” she said.
The involvement with the HCBA has helped burnish her credentials among her colleagues. “They know who I am and what I do for the HCBA and there is a recognition of my role as a chair, trying to bring together, wanting to have open and informative debates about how we do what we do. I would say the reputation is respected, so it does add a layer of understanding,” she said.
Harmony has become a part of her practice in other ways as well. “Even potential clients will call me and say, I saw your website and your name. I like this idea of harmony,” she said. “I thought on some subliminal level and some direct level I am striving for the resolution and the harmony, even though I am a litigator and tell people that I’m still that fierce advocate. Ultimately, everyone wants resolution and it’s all about how we’re going to get there. It does very much embody my practice.”