Saturday, September 22, 2018

From the Wire - Business

AT&T among Texas companies fined for wage theft

DALLAS — Two Dallas-based companies have made the top 10 list of businesses that paid the biggest penalties over nearly two decades for short-changing employees — by actions such as forcing them to work off the clock or depriving them of overtime pay.

With $139.3 million and $127.2 million in fines respectively, AT&T and Tenet Healthcare ranked seventh and 10th on the list from Good Jobs First, a Washington-based organization that tracks legal violations at large companies.

In a statement, AT&T said its 34 lawsuits in the report do not reflect the pay and benefits given to its more than 250,000 employees.

“It’s ludicrous that they use cherry-picked data to support their inflammatory claims, which would amount to a tiny fraction of a percent of the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve paid our employees over the time period the report covers,” the company said.

Likewise, Tenet Healthcare, a national hospital operator that employs more than 100,000 people, cited issues with the data. It said one of the three cases listed under its name relates to an incident filed prior to the hospital company taking over ownership, and a second case that settled in 2008 dates back to a pay practice that has since been eliminated.

More than 30 Texas-based companies were listed among hundreds of corporations that have paid $1 million or more in wage theft penalties. Combined, business in the Lone Star State paid out more than $581 million in legal penalties during the time period studied.

The findings are the result of a yearlong evaluation of 1,283 collective action lawsuits resolved since 2000. The report calls out more than 450 U.S. organizations that paid $8.8 billion in penalties combined. It ranks them based on the amount of penalties they paid.

With one case against it and one $1 million payout, Southwest Airlines tied with four other companies at the bottom of the list.

It’s an noteworthy report in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month which upholds workplace arbitration clauses barring employees from joining together in labor lawsuits against corporations.

Instead, a worker who signed such a contract would need to settle a complaint individually with a third-party arbiter. Supporters say the ruling will simplify, speed up and reduce costs in the arbitration process.

But dissenters fear it will result in less enforcement of worker protections. And that could cut the number of employees seeking justice, said Philip Mattera, director of Good Jobs First’s Corporate Research Project, which documents regulatory violations and misconduct.

“And given the number of cases we reviewed, you can argue that this is not a rarity,” he said.

The report also broke out the penalties by industry sector.

With 608 lawsuits and $2.7 billion in penalties paid out, retail led the way. Rounding out the top five were services provided in the following industries: financial services ($1.4 billion), freight and logistics ($828 million), business services ($611 million), and insurance ($577 million).

Tribune News Service


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