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August 09, 2013

Unpaid interns are not legally protected from sexual harassment

Why Unpaid Interns Aren’t Protected Against Sexual Harassment - Blair Hickman, ProPublica and Christie Thomson, ProPublica - The Atlantic Wire
In 1994, Bridget O'Connor began an internship at Rockland Psychiatric Center, where one of the doctors allegedly began to refer to her as Miss Sexual Harassment, told her that she should participate in an orgy, and suggested that she remove her clothing before meeting with him. Other women in the office made similar claims. Yet when O'Connor filed a lawsuit, her sexual harassment claims were dismissed because she was an unpaid intern. A federal appeals court affirmed the decision to throw out the claim. Unpaid interns miss out on wages and employment benefits, but they can also find themselves in "legal limbo" when it comes to civil rights, according to law professor and intern labor rights advocate David Yamada. The O'Connor decision (the leading ruling on the matter, according to Yamada) held that because they don't get a paycheck, unpaid interns are not "employees" under the Civil Rights Act—and thus, they're not protected. . . .

Area man amends credit card application with his own terms, schools bank at their own game

He mailed the form back along with his modifications (0% APR, huge fines for the banks changing things, other fun caveats) and ran up a modest tab. When the bank sued him to get payment he fought back AND WON. Man Tries To Beat Bank At Its Own Game With Fine Print That Gives Him Unlimited Credit – Consumerist
RT News has the story of a man who looked at an unsolicited credit card offer from Tinkoff Credit Systems back in 2008 and wondered what would happen if he signed the agreement, but only after writing in his own additional terms by hand. Among the amendments in his version of the contract — unlimited credit, 0% APR, no fees, including the stipulation that he “is not obliged to pay any fees and charges imposed by bank tariffs.” Since the contract included a URL for a web page containing the full terms of service, the customer also wrote in a new URL of his own so that the bank couldn’t just say “but these terms are different than what’s published on the site.” Per the amended terms, every change to these terms would result in a payment of 3 million rubles ($91,000) to the customer, or a cancelation fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000). A pretty sweet deal. No way Tinkoff would agree to it. But of course Tinkoff did agree to it, because it did exactly what most of its customers do — accepted this contract without reading it. “The opened credit line was unlimited,” said the man’s lawyer. “He could afford to buy an island somewhere in Malaysia, and the bank would have to pay for it by law.” He didn’t buy that island, but he did use the card for two years, racking up only $1,363 (including interest and fees) during that time. Not bad, considering the sweetheart deal he’d written for himself. But of course he wasn’t paying that amount because he maintained that he had a 0% APR and could theoretically just keep making charges on the sheer promise that he’d pay up someday. And so Tinkoff sued the customer. However, the court held that his amendments were binding since the bank accepted them, whether it looked at them or not. The court said the customer only owed the principal balance of around $575.

Detroit declared bankruptcy because it wanted to steal workers' pensions

Story Bones: Taking the money from Paul to refund Peter
With the Detroit bankruptcy the media is trolling out the conservative line about public employee pensions being a burden and how we can't and shouldn't ever pay this money to retirees. Let me say first off this is complete bullshit. This isn't money we need to pay to people who aren't working, this is money these people earned while they were working. This was a part of their contracts, this was a part of the deal we made to get their labor. We agreed to take care of them later as long as they worked for a little less now. Oh, and they needed to put their own money on line as well as their employers committing funds to the pension. This is their money. If the pensions are underfunded the real reason for this is not that the employees failed on their part. It's that the employers often failed to send in their part of the deal (and in some case, send in the money taken from the workers' pay). And while I haven't done a scientific study on this the exact same people who are saying public employees should accept lower pension payouts than they were promised seem to be the very same people who told us we couldn't deny Wall Streeters their bonus payments, deny executives their deferred compensation, tax capital gains as income, and every other scheme where the 1% also "take lower pay now for money in the long run" because, after all, they "earned that money." Even if canceling one year of bonuses, or denying one executives deferred package could fully fund the pension programs those same companies then dump on the taxpayer through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. And yes, many times one executive's deferred compensation and/or golden parachute payment could make most pensions full funded, and then would serve thousands of employees. . . .