Employers do some crazy things, sometimes. One employer in New Braunfels has been paying “volunteers” with gift cards and fabric. Quilt Haus and Way to Sew have been paying some workers with gift cards payable to the store itself. The workers would receive one gift card valued at $8 for each hour of work. The worker could then use the card to buy fabric. The store referred to the workers as “volunteers.” But, as I understand the Fair Labor Standards act, there is no such thing as a volunteer worker. If the employer accepts your work, then the employer must pay for it.

Apparently, some of the workers complained. Because, the Department of Labor investigated. DOL then found violations. And, now, DOL has now filed suit. See San Antonio Express News report.

It is not that hard to get legal advice about wages. The DOL and Texas Workforce Commission both provide free advice regarding how to pay employees. A person might have to wait on the phone a bit, but it is free. And, an employer can point to that advice later if the business is investigated. I expect these two businesses did not seek legal advice. This method of payment is nowhere close to kosher.

 State workers have it rough.  Yea, they have more job security than many private employees.  But, if they are not paid in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, they cannot file suit against their employer.   That was the result of the 1999 decision in Alden v. Maine.  They also cannot sue their employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.  

The Texas equivalent of the ADA and the ADEA provide comparable protections.  But, the state version of the Fair Labor Standards Act has no teeth.  Most states have a law comparable to the FLSA.  A handful of states, including Texas, do not.  So, at least regarding wage violations, state workers have little or no recourse. 

The 1999 Alden decision was a 5-4 decision by the US Supreme Court.  That decision overturned decades of earlier decisions by lower courts.  So, yes, presidential appointments to the Supreme Court do matter.