How to Stop Corporate Wage Theft

Norm Blumenthal – an attorney for workers and consumers. Selected as one of the Top Attorneys in Southern California. Norm was inducted and recognized as one of America’s Most Trusted Lawyers in Employment Law.


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Bert Martinez:

Welcome. Welcome. Norm Blumenthal on the show today. Norm Blumenthal is an attorney for workers and consumers like you and I, selected as one of the top attorneys in Southern California. Norm was also inducted and recognized as one of America’s most trusted lawyers in employment law, Norm Blumenthal. Welcome back.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Nice to be back, Bert. Good to talk to you. Today, we’re gonna talk about, corporate wage theft of employees’ salary. And, you know, wage theft is not just the fact that they take may take money from you directly, they do it indirectly by having you work and not being paid for the time you spend at work.

And what’s gonna happen in November in California, they’re gonna have initiative, on the ballot, it seems, and where they’re going to basically eviscerate the, ability of employees to join together and bring claims against employers and causing everything to go to arbitration before an arbitrator where they they won’t have an attorney and they can forget about their claims. So this is this is where we’re headed. Let me try to kind of encapsulate it a little bit more to to give you a personal feel. You know, the best place to look at is is a restaurant.

Have you ever seen in a restaurant where the waiter says, oh, I have to take off, 10 minutes for my rest break or I have to take off about 30 minutes for my meal break. These they just work straight through.

Same thing in the agricultural field. This is another area where they they don’t take off for the time they they once they’re in the field, they’re in the field, they don’t get a rest break.

They keep doing the work in the field that they have or required to do, and they’re not being paid for the the time that they spend. And what happens is is there’s a corporate culture in all these companies and it doesn’t just happen in restaurants and in in the field. It happens in these big box distribution centers, which is most prevalent now where everything literally your time is, is marked from beginning to end, and in between.

And people who work start early off the clock, work late off the clock, work through rest period, work through lunch period, and then they’re recognized by their, managers as to, you know they would come up to you, oh, Bert, you know, we see that, how hard you’re working, and we appreciate that. And, you know, we can see that you’re a company guy and you’re gonna go far here. So they they work it into the system to reward persons who work with the, overtime off the clock, or start early off the clock.

And this is the system that you have unless there’s some safeguards where the employer will got this law out there, the Private Attorney General Act, which let these employees, work together, bring their claims together through the LWDA, the Labor Workforce Development Agency, and this is all that’s left.

If  an employee has an arbitration agreement, which a large percentage of them now have, And that takes away the right to have a class action that’s going up to the Supreme Court. Across the board, you can’t have class actions anymore if you have an arbitration agreement. So now they’ve tried to do the same thing with the private attorney general act action.

And they’re telling the LWDA, hey. If we have an arbitration agreement, the government can’t sue us. LWDA can’t sue us because you no longer have a representative. Well, what happened is the case went up to the US Supreme Court and the Supreme Court, they took away the, right to, join together in arbitration.

They came up with this novel decision where they said the arbitration is an individual proceeding and you can’t bring it here. Then Alito then tried to go a step further and have the right of the state now, to be unable to bring the claim in court. And justice Sotomayor, with enough concurring opinion said, well, we aren’t we aren’t, you know, no one’s brought up the fact whether that state lost their right. And, you know, that’s something for the state courts and state law to decide.

So that went back to the California, Supreme Court and they decided that, well, hold on here. Just because the employee, you’ve segregated him to to bring his individual claim in arbitration, that doesn’t mean that he it that he can’t also still represent the state in court. And so that’s where it was left off.

And so arbitration now, is currently, does not ad hesitate the claim of the state with the representative to bring the claim for a representative action under the private internal general act. So then I know this is a bit in the weeds, but it’s not a small matter.

Last year, the LWDA collected over $200,000,000, in penalties from companies and saved what would have otherwise been a $100,000,000 in in expenses that the private attorneys, brought, that they the state didn’t have to pay. So there’s a $300,000,000 swing if this initiative passes. And the initiative is is going to eliminate the ability essentially of of of joining together and it’ll there’ll be no private attorney generals.

Everything will be brought by the state, which is incapable of bringing all these claims. And it’ll cost many 1,000,000 of dollars and nothing will be accomplished, if this wage theft initiative, is successful.

Bert Martinez:

Yeah. And what’s amazing what’s amazing about this, at least for me, is is that with all of these rules and regulations in place, that this happens all the time. I mean, just just like you just stated, last year alone, the PAGA initiative, helped collect $200,000,000. That’s a crazy amount of money, and this is just California. Could you imagine what’s happening when you look at it nationwide? We’re talking probably $1,000,000,000,000.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Oh, yeah. Usually, if you heard it. So it’s gonna nothing’s gonna change nationwide. They’ve been managed because the state legislatures are in in red states and, the corporate influence on the state legislatures in blue states, you’re just not gonna have a private attorney general action action in other states. They just it doesn’t exist yet. And maybe someday it will when people realize all these people are working, you know, basically overtime and not being paid. And so they’re you know, when you’re in a company, you don’t talk about people. You talk about FTEs.

And those are not the e doesn’t stand for employees. It stands for equivalent. So if you’re the bean counter, you take all your workers and you say if I can get so you have a 1,000 workers. If I can get 5 minutes more from each of my 1,000 workers, and that’s 5,000, minutes that I take off the equivalents. That’s a lot of of full time equivalents.

It’s how the that’s the corporate mentality. You know, we’ve always talked about this being an adversary system and but it’s gotta be an honest system.

And right now, throughout the country, it is, you know, there’s really there’s no way around it. Only in California has the Private Attorney General Act. And, yeah, it’s it’s probably in the 1,000,000,000,000 of dollars or, you know, 1,000,000,000,000 of dollars when you measure it by full time equivalents.

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Bert Martinez:

Right. Yeah. And this is something that, and you correct me if I’m wrong. I imagine, except for maybe in California, there are this is probably one of those things that is hard to, first of all, measure and to prosecute because employees are afraid of retaliation.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Really, retaliation is it’s always in the back of people’s mind, but it it’s amazing that, you know, I started doing this many years ago, and retaliation was brought up from time to time by the, employees. But now they in California, you know, the the fear of retaliation, is is is not something that’s simply because there’s so many cases and so many people bringing them and so problems.

The last thing a company wants to do is retaliate against the employees. So the first thing I tell an employee, you want to be safe from retaliation? File the lawsuit. Because there’s no better, protection. Because if you’re fired because of as a result of of participating in a public interest, you they they might as well go to the cash register and they find out how much more they’re gonna have to pay this fellow or lady before they have another job because they’re gonna own.

Bert Martinez:

Right. And, you know, I wanna give you a a kind of a personal example. I have a, a dear friend of mine. I’ve known her for, gosh, 20 years. And the she’s a what you could what you would consider a a company gal. Right? So to give you an an example, not only has she had stellar, evaluation, she’s been with the company for many, many years, top, evaluation and, promoted consistently. To show you what kind of employer employee she is, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. So she was going to take her 2 week leave, her 2 week, vacation time to have her surgery and to try to recover.

And and I think she had, like, an extra 5 days of sick pay that she was gonna take. So basically, she’s gonna take all of her time to try to recover so she doesn’t miss any work. And she let her, superiors know this. And, of course, they said, hey. That’s awesome. So she has the procedure. She shows up to work and they fire her. And luckily, because of my relationship with you, I would told her, Hey, this is a Dallas case.

I said, You need to find yourself an employment attorney now. And so that’s what she did, and she got a sizable settlement. But it’s crazy to me that in today’s world, this still goes on. This employer abuse still goes on and employees have to stand up and put a what do you call it? A line in the fan. You cannot treat me this way. You cannot cross this line.

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Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

The problem with the line is, and you’re right, a 100%, but because of the influence of management on state legislators and federal legislators, you know, we can’t even get the minimum wage in this country up from $7.40. It’s been that way. And so while California just, instituted a $20 minimum wage for restaurant workers and we have, I believe right now, a $16 minimum wage in California for other workers.

And most people are working $20 an hour plus. The the bottom line is is that management and labor, it’s an adversary system. Right now, management controls all the political arms of this country. And labor has very very few persons in in the in government that protect them.

And that’s, you know, California fortunately is a blue state, And you can see out there, you know, when you vote in in their elections, vote for Democrats because they’re the the chances of them being pro labor are substantially greater than the Republican ever being pro labor.

There’s very few pro labor, government officials. So you’re not gonna get anything. In California, you know, they’ve tested it and tested it and tested it. And right now, we’re still hanging on, but it’s not to say that this initiative may not pass, which will be, like, basically the last nail in the coffin of, of employee protections.

But I think in California, the workforce and the and the voters are smart enough to see that this is another issue of the box, you know, guarding the hen house. Oh, look. We’re going to amend PAGA to, take the attorneys out of the of it and just have the state bring the case for you, and they won’t get as much money.

You’ll get more money, which is is completely not true. And all they’re doing is is and it’s not true because the state can’t handle the the the volume of cases. And most of the idea that you would get what’s called the Berman hearing is is just it’s a pipe dream.

Because if you have an arbitration agreement, you can’t bring labor commissioner to a claim. I mean, it used to be you could bring a claim before the labor commissioner, but if your employer has you sign an arbitration agreement, you can’t even bring that.

So and, you know, where who’s gonna pay for a 100 of 1,000,000 of dollars of cost to hire, employees of the labor department? Well, now you get the services basically at no cost to the state, saving 100 of 1,000,000. They also put a couple of 100,000,000 or have put this past year a couple of 100,000,000 into the coffers of the state. So it’s a win win situation for the state.

It’s a win win situation for the employees, and it’s a win win situation for honest payment for wages earned. And that’s what everybody should be looking forward to, is whatever the law says, the employers have to have to follow.

Bert Martinez:

And I wanna I do wanna point something out to illustrate your point about how, management is represented at the higher levels of government and employees are not or labor is not.

As you pointed out, California now has a minimum wage of $20, and Panera Bread somehow was excluded from that, because of some exception exception to that rule, Panera Bread, which is like I think they have, like, close to 3,000 restaurants across the nation.

They have certainly, they have a bunch in California. And the guy that owns Panera Bread, bless his heart, is a billionaire. So it’s not like he couldn’t afford to pay his people $20 an hour. Anyway, so he had this, accept exception carved out. So Panera Bread would not have to raise its wages to $20 an hour.

But here is what happened, the call it the employees, call it also society. The citizens of of California, were so upset by this carve out that they rallied and basically shamed Panera Bread into paying livable wages. And $20 an hour, as a lot of people know, is just still scraping the bottom.

You know, in places like California, specifically, you know, like San Diego or Los Angeles, $20 an hour, isn’t, you know, it it’s better than 7.50, but it’s still, I would not consider that necessarily a livable wage. It’s certainly a good start. But bottom line is, this is the power when people come together and they can publicly, correct a wrong. It doesn’t even take a court action. They were able to do it outside the court because they banded together, which is what you talk about all the time.

People need to band together. You need to vote with your pocketbook. Things like the the private attorney, action that you talk about, PAGA, is another example of that. And until we band together, the labor is always gonna be able to outflank us.

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Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

There’s no question about it. I had a case, where I work with an attorney from, North Carolina and if PAGO was involved, preferably, I won’t go into the details of it. But he was saying, why doesn’t every state have PADA? I mean, you you would save cost of government and at the same time, they’ll keep employee employers honest and you get a fair wage which you’re entitled to.

There’s the power is not there as you can see from, you know, woman’s rights and, you know, abortion rights and they they the more they they accept for gun rights, the more rights you have, they they keep taking away. And so it’s less and less, and that’s the fault of the voters. You have to get out and vote for Democrats who will protect your rights. And you gotta start with your city council and your county commissioners and your, state legislatures.

You and you can’t just start with your US senators. That’s not gonna work. I mean, it’ll help, But they’re they can’t overturn all these local laws, which can be a good thing. Right. So if you’re out there and you said, I don’t like this law, run for county commissioner. Run for city council. You know, support persons at the local level that can help you. And and that’s where the power is. It wants its exercise.

Bert Martinez:

Right. And there’s a famous quote that I’m gonna butcher right now, but it’s, that, it only takes a small group of dedicated people to change the world, and that’s all that’s ever changed the world. It’s something along that line. When when you look at at all the some of the major changes in the world, it was a small group of people. Desegregation, very small group of people.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Yeah. There’s there’s no question about it and it’s just having the idea that you’re not protecting the few, you’re protecting the many. And so that’s that’s where you wanna be. And the question is, are you part of the many or the few? Right. They blame the few for trying to protect the few. That’s what they that’s how they became one of the few. But when you most of us are, you know, part of the many, And, and and some of the, the many are are also from the few. So if you put that group together, you have a powerful voting block, much more powerful than just the few.

And what they’ve been what they’ve been able to do, the few, though, hires the best public relations experts and, and spin experts, and they’re able to make, I should you know, dog poop look like ice cream.

Bert Martinez:

Right. Look. And one of my favorite examples of what you’re talking about, and people, if you don’t believe us, by all means, Google this. When cigarettes first hit the market, the cigarette company being smart people that they are, they hired PR people and they even hired doctors to say, smoking, good for you. Smoking is good for your throat. It relaxes your throat.

They had all these stupid claims that were unfounded and untrue. And from that point on until they were finally held accountable was, like, 50 years of absolute, death and destruction that they left in their wake.

But bottom line is, companies do this. That’s just one example. Companies will invest heavily into publicity, into quote experts, into, what do you call it? Promoting a specific narrative that helps their position. And some of these companies have deep, deep pockets. So not only can they do it, traditionally through marketing and publicity, but then they could do it politically.

They have lobbyists. They have a a a small group of people again dedicated to getting the company in the right position or to promote the company or or promote a specific law that they want to push. So this is this is something that’s just part of business now.

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Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

It is it is part of business and don’t think for a minute that the, business world managers didn’t take notice of the, tobacco cases so as to protect their company from the same type of lawsuits by putting in power persons who are favorable to corporate positions that they hold.

And, you know, that and to have the foot splice, or I would say, they have the nerve to come out with the initiative telling everybody, oh, vote for the vote for getting rid of whatever right you have left under FADA and let the state handle it for you knowing that arbitration eliminated the state’s right so as to eliminate the ability to have actions brought by a group in pocket.

You can only bring them individually once if this initiative is to pass. Right. So it’s a big no no no no for this initiative. If it actually hits the ballot, they should be embarrassed to put it on the ballot because it’s gonna lose by a landslide. Because I don’t people are just smart enough to know that you have to stop corporate greed. You have to stop the steal.

And they steal money from the employees through having them work overtime off the clock, miss meals, miss rate breaks, start early, work late, and they reward you by giving you notice that you’re a corporate guy or corporate gal and look, what does it do to you? It doesn’t help you one bit.

You know, you keep your job, you know, there’s there’s 4,000,000 jobs outstanding that that that Dylan will take. So there’s a lot of bargain jobs out there, but meanwhile, you need you need to protect yourself and join together to protect others to defeat this initiative that’ll be coming on the ballot in November, it looks like.

Bert Martinez:

Right. And you know, I wanna point out a couple other, examples. So I used to be a hardcore Republican and then, I guess it’s been 30 years now. They, the Republicans got in bed with the insurance companies and they started passing a law known as tort reform or a series of laws called tort reform.

And this took away people’s rights to be made whole. So specifically where it came to medical malpractice, if a doctor accidentally injured you, you were only, in most states, you were capped at $250,000 plus medical expenses. And that to me was ridiculous, and and I just could not abide by that that somebody is going to limit my rights. Then, I think it’s been 5 or 6 years, maybe 7 years now.

Again, we saw a, a bill that was called the Medicaid I think it was called the Medicaid Cost Reduction Act or something similar to that, and it basically gutted Medicaid’s ability to negotiate and buy medicine at wholesale. So now they had to pay retail cost. So it cost taxpayers literally 1,000,000,000,000 of dollars or if not 1,000,000,000,000, definitely 1,000,000,000 of dollars.

We see it now with the reversal of, of, Roe versus Wade where not only have they taken away, a purse a woman’s right to have an abortion, that, again, I I’ve said that I don’t know somebody that would do this in a flippant manner. Now they’re going after IVF. So they’re trying to take away people’s rights to have a family through IVF. And so you have to be aware you have to take action against some of these laws and some of these politicians that are trying to stunt or remove your rights. That’s simple.

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Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Yeah. You know, and and it it crosses all these other areas of of law that, you know, areas that I I don’t practice in. Right. You know, but certainly, I’m a voter, and and I, you know, I appreciate that and that’s why California is the blue state it is. They’ve changed the, micro cap. The 250 cap has gone up. I I don’t know all the particulars on it, but the legislature did that. So So it’s you you need to be you need to make your state blue.

Yeah. We I can’t emphasize that enough across this country. And why people would vote for someone that’s going to, make their life more miserable, I don’t understand. But put somebody in the office that that’s gonna protect your your rights as an employee, is is the the most important thing I could could the advice I could give anybody out there. Because the election’s coming up. I mean, before we know it, and, people are gonna have to vote. It’s a serious election, but it’s not just a serious election at the top. It’s a serious election up and down the ballot getting, you know, as far down the ballot as initiatives.

You know, there’s one they just put in in Florida about restoring, abortion rights in Florida that’s gonna be on the on as an initiative. And my guess is it’ll pass overwhelmingly.

I mean, what because and I and I think at at some point in time and I’ll bring this up now and, you know, we many years ago, when we talked about raising wages when they were $6 and then can we get it to 8? Can we get it to 10? Can we get it to 15? Can we get it to 20? Can we get it to 25? We were successful.

We just you know, our little discussions, you know, maybe a drop in the ocean, but it’s a drop. And so this is where we’re headed, and I think there’s gonna be and and I’m gonna put this out here now and I’m gonna start the discussion. We need to increase the number of US Supreme Court Justices on the Supreme Court.

If we have a democratic senate and a democratic president, we can increase the number from 9 to 15 and put in put in additional 4, which would be democrats to turn this around. And we really need to do that, and that’s perfectly legal. They can do that with the majority vote in the Senate, But we have right now, in my opinion, we have this far right crazy people in there that that took away 50 years of court working, destroying Roe. And they’re after now it’s worse than you think, Bert.

They’re after contraception. Right. Take contraceptive pills, you know, Griswold versus Connecticut. That’s about 70 years old. They wanna get rid of that. And this is because they’re citing some crazy case, some comp slot case from the 18 seventies that say that you can’t distribute birth control bills, you know, across borders. So, really, you this court is out of control, And it’s out of control because of of the people that they put on this court are evangelicals, and I I I’m I’m fine with their religion, whatever they wanna be, but not when they dictate it to the rest of the country. And that’s what’s happening now.

And Life begins at at, at fertilization. I mean, really? I don’t think that’s that’s all that is is a bunch of molecules put together.

Bert Martinez:

Well, but but here’s the you know, my my whole point is, is that that is again between a man, a woman and their beliefs, right? The religious beliefs. And, and that’s, I think that’s where it should start and end. And to this current, Supreme Court, they are certainly not looking out for our best interest. For example, you know, they were given a a very, big case, or I don’t know, maybe. I guess all the cases they have are big.

But a very important case, that came out. I’m trying to remember, Southern District. I can’t remember where, but it had to do with gerrymandering and and how, because of the current law in this particular state, it’s affecting South Carolina.

And it’s it’s it’s affecting black voters and and and brown voters and and the case, they won the case, in the, what do you call it? In the first the trial court, they won the case in the, the, state, Supreme Court. It’s been kicked up to SCOTUS, back in October. And they specifically asked SCOTUS, hey.

This is going to affect the the the the the, what do you call it? Upcoming election. Can we please have an answer by January or February? No answer. And and and we know that the Supreme Court is busy, but we also see that when they want to, they can pull out the stops and they can have an answer within a couple of weeks.

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Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

But because this idea was is that the supreme court is not supposed to be a political animal.

This court has turned it into 1, so we have to follow suit and fight with everything we have legally. And the one thing we have legally is expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court. They are are letting Trump skate on the idea that he has power to, go on fifth avenue and shoot somebody.

And as long as he, in fact, that he was president, he can do that with impunity. And they they’re screening it out to come to be decided after the election. And so they’re a political animal. I would never have said this years ago because I’ve always thought that they were a legal animal, but now they’re a political animal and you have to treat them as such. And we need to put 6 more justices on the Supreme Court from a Democratic, senate and Democratic president as soon as possible to take away what we have here as a a political animal making political decisions.

And its adversely affects everybody across the country in in their day to day life And it needs to change.

Bert Martinez:

Absolutely. Look, there is a very conservative judge. He has been known to be a very conservative judge. He has retired. He is also a a, constitutional judge, and a and an expert if you will, judge Ludwig and he himself is blown away by the behavior of this Supreme Court. He did not expect them to behave like this. Just like you said, he did not expect them to vote politically, but it’s obvious that they are. He is just blown away that Again, we see conservatives who aren’t really being conservatives anymore.

I mean, they’re they’re really being this far right group. You know, people refer to them as MAGA. And so it now that it’s infiltrated the Supreme Court, I agree with you. We need to, we need to Get some other Supreme Court judge justices in there Because we need the balance we need some level heads.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

We do. And and we we we need to restore to being a court of law, not a a court of of of interest groups, and that’s what we have now. And, you know, and my old saying goes, unfortunately, you know, good attorneys know the law, great attorneys know the judge.

And so right now MAGA has control of the great attorneys.

Bert Martinez:

Yes. And and, for those who don’t realize this, the Supreme Court justices are untouchable at right now, there is no oversight for them. There if they break the law, which it seems like justice Thomas Tom Thomas has broken the law, and and possibly one of the other justices. And so there is no recourse. They they still can’t be fired As of right now, my understanding, nothing can happen to them. So when your justices of the Supreme Court have been compromised, it really is a red flag event. It it’s it bothers me more than just about anything else happening in our government right now.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Yep. And, I think, hopefully, if everybody gets out and votes democratic up and down the ticket, And at a minimum, we get a Democratic senate and a Democratic president. We can increase the number of of justices on the Supreme Court by 6. Put in 6 more democrats and turn around all of this nonsense we’ve seen for the last couple of years because it’s out of control.

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Bert Martinez:

It really is. Like like you said, you and I, did not expect our Supreme Court justices to behave in this way. They’re they you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has always been revered, respected, and now it has become a shadow of their former selves. And so I love this idea, again voting With the conscious voting for a purpose voting with your pocketbook voting to protect your rights Let’s get some more democrats in office so we can get some Justices in there that will actually administer justice.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Yeah It’s where we wanna go, Bert.

Bert Martinez:

Alrighty, Sir. Hey. We’re out of time. This has been a wonderful conversation. Looking forward to have you back again, my friend.

Lawyer Norm Blumenthal:

Always a pleasure. Take care.

Bert Martinez:

You bet. Good stuff there from Norm Blumenthal, Norm Blumenthal. If you wanna find out more about Norm, you can go to bam law c a. That’s Maybe you disagree with what we are saying. Love to hear it. Maybe you have a better idea. Love to hear it.

Remember, my friends, you were created to succeed.






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