Sunday, August 21, 2016

Slow Saturday Special: Stiffed

Sorry, readers.

"Copley hotel bartender claims time sheets were altered" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  August 20, 2016

A former bartender has sued the Fairmont Copley Plaza, alleging his supervisors doctored his computerized time sheets to cheat him out of wages in a scheme to save the hotel money.

It's the Firm at the Fairmont.

Lou Saban of Somerville said his hours were routinely altered during his nearly four years as a bartender at the famed Oak Room of the downtown hotel, according to the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court earlier in August. The lawsuit included what Saban said is a copy of his time sheet showing a notation from a supervisor adjusting his hours downward on four shifts during one period early in 2016.

“Mr. Saban was told by one of his supervisors that she and others had been directed by hotel management to reduce the recorded hours of all hourly workers in an attempt to improve the hotel’s financial performance,” the lawsuit stated.

A spokeswoman for the Fairmont Copley Plaza declined to comment. Its owner, FelCor Lodging Trust Inc. based in Irving, Texas, did not respond to requests for comment.

The case highlights an age-old problem of employers and employees claiming time sheets were falsified for financial gain. Many companies now use automated systems to reduce fraud and more precisely track employees’ time. Today’s workers clock in using fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition software, and mobile apps deploying tracking technology, all providing a digital trail that can show if time sheets were adjusted or altered.

“We are at the state-of-the-art period with timekeeping,” said Warren Steinberg, a Cambridge technology consultant specializing in attendance systems. “There are so many options and functions available that were not even thought of 10 years ago. We have come a long way from punch clocks.”

Saban’s attorney, Stephen S. Churchill, said his client would clock into his shift at the Copley using a machine that took his employee number and a scan of his fingerprint. Churchill said he obtained copies of Saban’s time sheets that showed dozens of instances, mostly in 2015, when a supervisor adjusted the time he clocked in, often by more than 20 minutes, resulting in fewer paid hours.

The lawsuit said an unnamed supervisor at the hotel told Saban that she was asked by management to reduce employees’ working time to save the hotel money, and that when she balked, she was reprimanded.

This “looks like an egregious case of wage theft,” said Churchill, founder of Fair Work P.C., which specializes in employment law.

Companies are allowed to round an employee’s hours up and or down to the nearest five-, 10-, or 15-minute increment, according to federal law, “in such a manner that it will not result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate the employees properly for all the time they have actually worked.”

“If they routinely shave 20 minutes off, that’s too much,” said Catherine K. Ruckelshaus, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project in New York. “That’s not a rounding error.”

Employers are required to make time sheets and other records available to workers, but Ruckelshaus said they don’t always do so.

The Fair Labor Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office received more than 6,000 complaints about wage and hour violations between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. It issued 600 citations during the same period for a host of violations, nearly a third to employers who were fined for not turning over requested records.


At least you can order a burger at the bar:

"Five former employees of the burger chain founded by celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg are suing the company over what they call ‘‘rampant’’ violations of labor laws. The ex-employees who filed the class-action suit in New York federal court Thursday previously worked at a Wahlburgers location in Brooklyn. They claim Wahlburgers failed to pay them the proper minimum wage and regularly kept tips designated for servers. The lawsuit claims employees at one time didn’t receive a $3,000 tip left for them following a private party for the cast of TV’s ‘‘Blue Bloods.” The suit names Wahlburgers and the owners of its Brooklyn franchise. The Wahlbergs aren’t named. Wahlburgers said Friday that it’s working with the franchise ‘‘to better understand the circumstances.’’

I thought $omething $melled bad when I bit into that burger.

Might even meet someone:

"Christopher Wehner, a 27-year-old who said he worked in marketing, was fun and smart, and could charm strangers at a party, but court and police records would soon reveal that Wehner was an alleged serial con man and thief who over the last two years had taken money from at least a half a dozen others around Boston and the South Shore....."

He worked at a bank.

"Plymouth DA waited on office harassment case" by Michael Rezendes Globe Staff  August 19, 2016

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz waited six months to act on an allegation that his top prosecutor groped a female subordinate during a 2014 conference at the Seaport Hotel, according to documents filed in a federal lawsuit.

Even then, the documents say, Cruz admitted he did not read the report of an outside investigator he hired to review the matter, who found that a second employee had made a similar allegation against the same prosecutor.

By the time Cruz obtained the resignation of the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Frank J. Middleton Jr. , in April 2015, nearly a year had passed since Cruz learned of the first sexual misconduct allegation.

Cruz, the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Plymouth County, said in sworn testimony that his secretary told him about the first episode a week or two after the event at which it allegedly occurred — a conference sponsored by the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. A female employee had complained to her supervisors that Cruz’s chief deputy at the time, Middleton, had grabbed her backside, Cruz’s secretary told him....

Just a little game of grab ass.

One begins to believe that is SOP in institutional and government circles these days.


There is a lot more trouble in that office, too.

Better drive away as fast as you can:

"Shanitqua Steele, 25, a Needham woman who allegedly drove a Mercedes-Benz into visitors walking along the Freedom Trail in Boston, then allegedly exited the car and sprinted up School Street, where she ran into a building, the report said. Police, acting on a tip from bystanders, entered a building at 3 School St. and “ran up the stairs,” eventually finding Steele in a room with a man later identified as her husband, according to the report. Police determined that Steele did not have a valid driver’s license, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office. Steele is due back in court Sept. 14."

I'd say call a cab, but that bridge has already been crossed:

Boston taxi tycoon charged with federal crimes
Taxi tycoon transfers 362 medallions to wife
Boston police defend transfer of assets from taxi king to wife
There’s no defending police decision in case of fallen taxi king

"Edward J. Tutunjian admitted on Wednesday that he dodged payroll taxes, employed undocumented immigrants, and failed to pay overtime wages. Tutunjian’s giant taxi business made him a millionaire. He bought vineyards in Chile and had vast real estate holdings. He made his money chiefly on the backs of a largely immigrant workforce whose members rented his cabs while, as the Globe Spotlight Team found three years ago, being extorted to pay petty bribes to get the keys to the cabs. “Until we got a conviction, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do,’’ Police Commissioner William Evans said of his decision to investigate whether to revoke the Tutunjian family medallions. The federal investigation into Boston Cab began just weeks after the Spotlight Team report when agents — with guns drawn — raided Tutunjian’s grimy garage on Kilmarnock Street, around the corner from Fenway Park. It hasn’t been pretty or surgically precise, but the city is now moving to strip taxi licenses from a family whose leader converted hundreds of brown-and-white cabs into a criminal enterprise."

He hired waves of 'em and admits it, even if they couldn't speak the language, and the Globe ruined it for him!

A nickel for your thoughts on how to make taxis better

Just one more fee tucked into the cushions of the new Uber law in Massachusetts, along with the additional 20-cent kickback per ride to the legislature.

The Uber war is over — Uber won

Driver's lost:

"Judge overturns Uber’s settlement with drivers" by Mike Isaac New York Times  August 19, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge Thursday struck down a proposed class-action settlement between Uber and a group of its current and former drivers, potentially continuing a protracted lawsuit that questioned a key tenet of the ride-hailing company’s business.

Under a settlement forged in April, Uber had been set to pay up to $100 million in reimbursement damages to nearly 400,000 drivers. The drivers first sued Uber in 2013, claiming that they should have been classified as employees rather than independent contractors of the company. Uber has opposed having its drivers be categorized as employees, a more costly designation that would require the company to pay payroll taxes and ensure that drivers earn at least the minimum wage.

In documents filed in US District Court for Northern California on Thursday, Judge Edward M. Chen ruled that the April settlement was “not fair, adequate, and reasonable” as grounds for denial. He also said a small portion of the $100 million amount reflects only 0.1 percent of the potential full verdict value of the case.

The decision is a blow to Uber in a longstanding battle with its drivers, many of whom have argued that the type of control Uber exerts over them constitutes conditions of employment. As employees, Uber drivers would be entitled to reimbursement for expenses and vehicle maintenance, costs that as independent contractors they now pay themselves.

That's not the impression I got from the TV ads. 

You work when you want, and make money, too!

As part of the settlement agreement, Uber also made other concessions, like recognizing and speaking with quasi-unions of its drivers in New York and other states. It also allowed drivers to accept tips at the end of each ride.

Uber had hailed the settlement as a victory for drivers who wanted to maintain flexibility in their roles. But others said the reimbursement amount was far too low. Uber is valued at $62.5 billion, and in June it raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund; the company also recently agreed to sell off its China operations to the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing.

“The settlement, mutually agreed by both sides, was fair and reasonable,” Matt Kallman, an Uber spokesman, said in a statement. “We’re disappointed in this decision and are taking a look at our options.”

Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the suit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Liss-Riordan had offered to reduce her cut of the payout by nearly half to $11 million, after criticism that the proposed deal didn’t do enough for drivers.

“I want to help ensure that the drivers get the benefit of the settlement that I won for them,” the Boston labor attorney said in June. “I cut the fee in order to emphasize that this settlement was good for the class and was not about my firm’s fee.”

Liss-Riordan sued Uber in 2013 on behalf of about 385,000 current and former Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts, arguing the ride-hailing company should stop treating the drivers as freelancers and instead give them the pay and benefits afforded to employees.

That's the new 21st-century labor compact so get with it. 

We are all individual contractors negotiating with the weight of corporate and business power on the other side of the scale -- as it should be.

Under a preliminary settlement reached in April, Uber agreed to pay $84 million to drivers — $100 million if the company goes public later on — in proportion to how many miles each drove. The company also agreed to stop removing drivers that refuse too many potential fares from its network, to only “deactivate” drivers for violating specific clauses in a new driver policy, and to stop suggesting to passengers that tips are included in its fares.

But a number of drivers and the federal judge overseeing the case questioned whether Uber made sufficient concessions. Analysts had described the deal as a win for Uber because it allowed the company to continue classifying its drivers as independent contractors.

What's the problem?


Some drivers had also blasted Liss-Riordan for proposing her firm receive a standard fee of 25 percent, or $21 million, while drivers are set to take home about $8,000 or less each. (The fee would increase to $25 million if Uber goes public.)

Liss-Riordan defended herself forcefully against both charges. The benefits of the settlement far outweigh the risks of taking the case to trial, she said, and any fee will compensate her and her staff for years of work.

“I am offended by the allegations that I settled the case for the fees,” she said in June. “I reached an agreement that I believe is in the best interests of the class. Anyone who has known me and followed my work over these years knows that.”

She also defended the contingency fee system in general, noting that such payouts “make it possible for low-wage workers to pursue these kinds of cases.” She noted that in previous class-action suits she has spearheaded, unfavorable rulings have resulted in her receiving no pay for thousands of hours of work.

Still, Liss-Riordan said, she decided to cut her fee substantially and give the difference to drivers as a sign of good faith — and to encourage the judge to approve the settlement.

Then our $y$tem $ucks!


Still waiting to get picked up....

"Uber lawsuit could shed drivers after settlement rejected" by Curt Woodward Globe Staff  August 19, 2016

More than 300,000 Uber Inc. drivers could be dropped from a class-action lawsuit after a federal judge rejected their settlement with the multibillion-dollar transportation software company, a lawyer for the drivers said.

The ruling erased a potential $100 million payout to hundreds of thousands of drivers, including many based in Massachusetts, who argued that Uber improperly treated them as freelancers rather than employees.

In his Thursday decision, US District Judge Edward M. Chen said the settlement was too small compared with possible damages of $1 billion or more at stake in just one of the lawsuit’s many legal claims.

Uber, a developer of smartphone software that connects drivers-for-hire with passengers, agreed to the settlement in April.

Along with cash payments, the company agreed to give drivers more leeway in the fares they accept and clearer policies for removing them from the network, among other concessions. But the settlement would not have resolved one of the drivers’ chief concerns: that they remain classified as independent contractors, and not as employees of Uber.

The next steps in the case were not immediately clear. One option is for Uber to negotiate a new settlement with drivers. If there isn’t a settlement, the lead lawyer for drivers, Boston-based Shannon Liss-Riordan, said the case could instead go to trial — but with only a fraction of the drivers involved.

That’s because of an arbitration clause in many of Uber’s driver contracts, which binds drivers to private mediation instead of a court case. Chen previously rejected that arbitration policy, but Liss-Riordan said his decision is at risk of being overturned by the US Court of Appeals for that region.

“The writing on the wall is not good,” she said Friday.

In a statement, Uber spokesman Matt Kallman called the rejected agreement “fair and reasonable.”

“We’re disappointed in this decision and are taking a look at our options,” he said.

Enforcing Uber’s arbitration contracts would probably shrink the case from some 385,000 California and Massachusetts drivers to just 8,000, Liss-Riordan said. The remaining drivers would have to file arbitration claims against Uber one at a time.

Chen acknowledged that outcome in his Thursday ruling, writing that drivers “face a considerable risk” that the class-action pool would be severely reduced.

“Requiring the drivers to arbitrate their claims individually will likely reduce by a substantial degree overall recovery for drivers, as typically only a fraction of individuals pursue arbitration,” Chen wrote.

Liss-Riordan said she would pursue those individual arbitration claims if necessary — more than 1,000 drivers have signed up.

“We’re putting out the word now to drivers that most of them will be left out in the cold, most likely, if we’re not able to reach a revised agreement,” she said.

Chen’s Thursday ruling hinged on a California law called the Private Attorneys General Act, which allows private lawyers to sue companies on behalf of the state government. Verdicts under that law, also known as PAGA, “could theoretically be enormous,” Liss-Riordan said.

The settlement agreement set aside $1 million in payments for the drivers to dismiss claims under that law. But Chen said that was a paltry sum considering potential damages of $1 billion or more under PAGA, 75 percent of which would be paid to the state. The parties treated the law “simply as a bargaining chip in obtaining a global settlement for Uber’s benefit,” he wrote.

Some Uber drivers had criticized the settlement as inadequate, and Liss-Riordan subsequently offered to reduce her fee by nearly half, to $11 million, and give the difference to drivers.

The AFL-CIO-affiliated National Taxi Workers Alliance, which helped about 200 Uber drivers file objections to the settlement, said Thursday’s ruling would show Uber “that the voices of drivers cannot be silenced or auctioned off.”

“We congratulate every driver that has stood up for their voice to be heard and demanded that no ‘new economy’ be built by trampling on generations-old labor protections,” alliance president Bhairavi Desai said in a statement.

Stop honking that horn!


Your ride and driver is here and just in time.

"Two Haverhill men were held without bail Monday on allegations that they raped a woman after driving her to a park from a convenience store, officials said. Juan Cela, 19, and Manuel Agualema Guasco, 41, allegedly drove off with the woman from Richdale Convenience Store after she asked for a light for a cigarette, according to a Haverhill police report. The woman told police she approached the men’s car to speak with a child in the front seat, but eventually got into the car and asked for a lighter. The men later drove her to a parking lot at Trinity Stadium, where they allegedly pulled her out of the car, punched her in the face, and raped her, according to the report. The victim told police she didn’t know where the child went before they drove off. Agualema Guasco said the child was his and had gone home with his wife, according to the report..... "

The "US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said both men are now under an immigration detainer pending their cases. Agualema Guasco was deported in 2013. The Haverhill police report does not list their nationalities. ICE would not comment further."

Nor will I.


Look what came in the mail:

"New Mass. gantries can send authorities alerts" by Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff  August 22, 2016

The state’s new all-electronic tolling system will include a “hot list” feature capable of sending law enforcement officials instant alerts when cars with specified license plates or transponders pass under toll gantries.

State transportation officials confirmed the technology is being installed on the Mass. Pike, and vowed that the feature — which has raised privacy concerns — will be used only to track vehicles in public safety emergencies, such as when a child abduction prompts an Amber Alert.

That's how they sold you the spying capabilities after 9/11, only going to be used to catch terrorists as the false-flaggers had you cowering in fear and walking on eggshells, and now they are using it to hand out tickets (as warned beforehand by certain people).

State officials are working with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to draft a list of all situations that warrant “hot list” use. The transportation board takes up the issue Monday.

The state “cares deeply about protecting information about drivers,” said transportation spokeswoman Judith Riley in a prepared statement. 

Especially their own public records.

Still, the prospect of government surveillance has raised questions by the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

“There’s a real possibility for abuse and misuse with this kind of technology,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

“We need to discuss this publicly,” she added. “We need outside legal experts to be involved in helping MassDOT set appropriate policies that won’t violate people’s rights, but at the same time will still allow for public safety officials to use this technology when there’s a true emergency and someone’s life is actually at risk.” 

No, you see, it's okay for authority to collect all your data but wrong for you to want any of theirs. That's how 21st-century AmeriKa works!

The feature allows certain license plates and transponders to be flagged for monitoring. If the toll-collection equipment, which is mounted on the new metal gantries that have recently sprouted above the Turnpike, detects a license plate or transponder from the hot list, an alert will automatically be sent within a matter of seconds to a specified distribution list of e-mail addresses.

MassDOT officials stressed the feature would be used only in emergencies — and the agency will seek the views of the public.

“Circumstances by which such data could be used will be defined through the development of policy and/or regulation through a public process,” Riley said.

State Police spokesman David Procopio wrote in an e-mail that State Police did not expect to use such a feature as “a matter of routine operation.”

“We embrace the technology with all appropriate discretion, and would request immediate utilization of plate reader data extremely judiciously,” Procopio said.

He said the feature would be used only when “circumstances supported by credible evidence suggest that a person may be in imminent danger of death or injury.”

“There are safeguards in place to protect the public’s privacy rights, and we are judicious and mindful of due process in our use of the technology,” he added. “But it is also important to note that the technology could save someone’s life someday.”

And who can argue with that?  

Of course, we are arguing with a negligent and corporate government that does just that, be it lies leading to wars or government neglect of so many social ills in favor of looting the nation for themselves and those they serve.  I suppose some lives are more important than others.

Time to get my eyes back on the road.

State transportation officials confirmed the installation of the “hot list” feature in Massachusetts after the Globe found that the “hot list” provision was included in the 2014 contract MassDOT and Raytheon Co. agreed to when the company was hired to install all-electronic tolling on the Turnpike.

Oh, wow, a DEFEN$E FIRM is benefiting from the increased surveillance!

That contract also said that Raytheon had included a hot list feature in tolling systems it installed on Virginia’s Interstates 495 and 95, and on the Florida Turnpike. The contract was procured by MuckRock, a nonprofit research organization that specializes in obtaining government documents through records requests.

Officials from Raytheon declined to comment.

The hot list feature makes use of automatic license plate recognition technology, which has been installed on some police cruisers to scan and collect data on license plates of cars passing by. The technology has become both common and controversial in recent years.

US Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, has raised concerns about the technology.

“I have no problem with law enforcement using the technology. If they have an individual they’re following and they want to track, and they get a court order, that’s fine,” Capuano said.

But he said he was concerned that data from the system might be stored for long periods of time.

“My main concern is the long-term storage and the bulk collection gathering” of data, Capuano said. “99.99 percent of the people whose information is being collected are totally innocent and have done nothing wrong. So why keep a dossier on them?” 

Because that is what control-freak governments do. They call it tyranny in other places, but not here, never here, in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave....... !

Earlier this month, the Globe reported that the system, even before it has started collecting tolls, has been quietly capturing and storing potentially sensitive data, including the precise time a vehicle passes through each toll zone and the vehicle’s speed at that time.

Transportation officials have said the primary reason for collecting the data is to ensure accurate billing.

They have said that the speed data needs to be gathered for the tolling system’s cameras to capture a precise image of license plates, and there is no plan to use the information to ticket speeding motorists.

Doesn't mean they won't do it later!

They also have said they have been storing data, without identifying information, for research purposes.

And who could possibly argue with those noble intentions?

All the toll transaction data the system has collected is being stored indefinitely, at least for now. But MassDOT’s record-keeping practices may change.

The department said it plans to soon seek guidance from the state Records Conservation Board about what tolling data it should retain and for how long.

The board sets standards for the management and preservation of government records in Massachusetts.

The department said its aim will be to keep data only as long as necessary to charge and collect tolls.

And, officials said, existing federal and state laws help protect the records from being shared or used for non-tolling purposes. In addition, officials said they planned to draft new regulations and clarify existing ones to ensure information is protected.

Let's hope to hell none of it is hacked.

The department said its current practice is to not disclose any data for non-tolling purposes unless it is subpoenaed. The department said it notifies people whose information is sought through subpoenas, allowing them to take legal action to fight the subpoenas.

Something a driver would look forward to, right?

MassDOT has received about a dozen subpoenas per year, on average, for toll transaction data, including subpoenas from federal officials, law enforcement agencies, and lawyers representing individuals in divorce and other civil cases, officials said.


See: $peeding Toward Total Surveillance 

Still got a Waze to go.

Also see: 

"A shooting at a crowded house party early Sunday left 13 people wounded, and police in Connecticut are investigating what they say is an unusual outburst of violence in the state’s largest city. Bridgeport police believe two shooters opened fire on about 100 partygoers from behind some hedges surrounding the home’s backyard. It happened around 1:30 a.m. Responding officers discovered what authorities called a chaotic scene. The party was so crowded that some people believed the gunshots were fireworks, Capt. Brian Fitzgerald said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. Police have stepped up patrols in the area and are gathering information from witnesses and from the victims. Police have not identified a motive and are investigating whether the suspects were partygoers, Fitzgerald said. As of Sunday afternoon, all but five of the victims had been released from hospitals. Most of the victims were shot in the legs. None of the injuries is considered life-threatening, but one woman was in critical condition with injuries to her face and jaw, according to authorities. Police said the victims ranged in age from about 18 to 24. The people who threw the party have not been identified by police. They had requested a permit from police ahead of the gathering because they wanted to sell alcohol there, but the permit was denied, according to Perez. Police believe they charged for alcohol anyway. They may face criminal charges, Fitzgerald said. Authorities are asking that anyone with information contact the Bridgeport police. Last summer, one man was killed and eight people were injured when two men opened fire on a group of people in the parking lot of the Trumbull Gardens housing complex in the city’s North End. Among the injured was a grandmother taking a shower in her nearby home. Two were arrested. The Trumbull Gardens complex is located about 3 miles northwest of where Sunday’s shooting took place."


Club temporarily closed after stabbing, assault
Party bus hits two people in East Boston, killing one
4 injured during shooting at Dorchester barbecue
Lowell neighbors distraught after 2 children pulled from pool

Summer just turned very dark.


Boston Uber drivers among first to get IRA discounts 

No benefits for drivers and Wall Street gets to play with some money.

Uber said to lose at least $1.2 billion in first half of 2016

If not more.

Uber driver charged with sexual assault

I'm sure it was all in the presentation

Maybe you should car pool for safety's sake.

Was that Lexus in Kendall Square a self-driving car?

From Cadillac, an almost-self-driving car

Pennsylvania reinstates $11m fine against Uber after appeal