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January 25, 2013

50 San Francisco restaurants have been caught stealing millions from their employees

More Than 50 San Francisco Restaurants Accused Of Scamming Customers & Employees By Pocketing Health Care Surcharge – The Consumerist
For more than four years, dozens of restaurants in San Francisco have been tacking on surcharges to diners’ bills, claiming that the money was to go toward health care costs. But it turns out that millions of those dollars were just going into restaurant owners’ pockets. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that starting in 2008, some owners decided that, rather than raise their menu prices to cover city-mandated health care costs, they would just add a surcharge to customers’ invoices. In some cases the surcharge was a flat amount, in others it was a percentage of the total bill. Regardless, this money was to be used for health care for employees. But per the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, that just wasn’t happening. It tells the Chronicle that in 2011 alone, $14 million was collected via these surcharges, yet only around one-third of that ever went to health care. “It was pocketed back to the restaurateur,” said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who says that some restaurant employees were actually denied health care when they shouldn’t have been. The City Attorney is expected to announce an amnesty program today that would forgive violators if they fess up to the skim and pay back some of that money to employees.

January 16, 2013

In the North Dakota oil boom towns, women feel preyed upon (more than usual)

Kate Beaton, the amazing cartoonist, says this is how it is up in the tar sands of Canada, too. An Oil Town Where Man Are Many, and Women Are Hounded - NYTimes.com
The rich shale oil formation deep below the rolling pastures here has attracted droves of young men to work the labor-intensive jobs that get the wells flowing and often generate six-figure salaries. What the oil boom has not brought, however, are enough single women. At work, at housing camps and in bars and restaurants, men have been left to mingle with their own. High heels and skirts are as rare around here as veggie burgers. Some men liken the environment to the military or prison. “It’s bad, dude,” said Jon Kenworthy, 22, who moved to Williston from Indiana in early December. “I was talking to my buddy here. I told him I was going to import from Indiana because there’s nothing here.” This has complicated life for women in the region as well. Many said they felt unsafe. Several said they could not even shop at the local Walmart without men following them through the store. Girls’ night out usually becomes an exercise in fending off obnoxious, overzealous suitors who often flaunt their newfound wealth. “So many people look at you like you’re a piece of meat,” said Megan Dye, 28, a nearly lifelong Williston resident. “It’s disgusting. It’s gross.” Prosecutors and the police note an increase in crimes against women, including domestic and sexual assaults. “There are people arriving in North Dakota every day from other places around the country who do not respect the people or laws of North Dakota,” said Ariston E. Johnson, the deputy state’s attorney in neighboring McKenzie County, in an e-mail. Over the past six years, North Dakota has shot from the middle of the pack to become the state with the third-highest ratio of single young men to single young women in the country. In 2011, nearly 58 percent of North Dakota’s unmarried 18-to-34-year-olds were men, according to census data. That disparity was even starker in the three counties where the oil boom is heaviest — there were more than 1.6 young single men for every young single woman.