TIME feminism

Pay Cheerleaders What They’re Worth

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Paul Moseley — MCT/Getty Images The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Marina Adshade is a professor of economics at the Vancouver School of Economics a the University of British Columbia and the author of "Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love." David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He is the lead author of "The Wages of Wins" and "Stumbling on Wins."

It's time to guarantee cheerleaders are properly compensated

How would you like it if there were beautiful women whose only job was to keep you entertained? Women who kept their bodies toned to your exact specifications; spent thousands of dollars on their hair, makeup and clothing so they always looked their best for you; and had invested in years of training to do complicated acrobatics designed to bring you joy. Now add to this fantasy that these women brought you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits and you give them almost nothing in return. Sound like a fairy tale? It should be.

For decades, National Football League teams have skirted the issue of paying cheerleaders fair wages by acting as if cheerleaders were not their employees. This despite the fact that cheerleaders work 42 weeks a year, practice several times a week, attend corporate and charitable team events, are photographed for promotional media and paraphernalia, and, of course, entertain fans during games.

In court case after court case, teams have argued that because cheerleaders are independently contracted through third parties, the multi-billion dollar organizations whose business interests they promote are not obliged to pay them anything close to compensation required by state labor laws. And in court case after court case, judges have disagreed and ordered teams to pay their cheerleading squads millions of dollars in back wages.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently agreed to pay up to $825,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by cheerleaders who were paid just $100 a game. Prior to a lawsuit settled last September, the Oakland Raiders were paying their cheerleaders an hourly wage of just $5. Now, after the $1.25 million settlement, the Raiderettes can look forward to the same income as the team’s other minimum-wage employees.

In California, legislation proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in January would require professional sports teams to recognize cheerleaders as their employees and pay them at least the state-mandated minimum wage. Gonzales, herself a former collegiate-level cheer athlete, has said that it hardly seems fair to pay cheerleaders, with all their specialized training and the risk of physical injury, less than the staff selling beers in the stands.

So are cheerleaders only worth the minimum wage? Standard economic theory indicates that in free markets, workers are paid their value to their employers. Anything less is worker exploitation.

Eric Smallwood, senior vice president at Front Row Marketing, has estimated that the TV appearances of cheerleaders on game days alone are worth about $8.25 million to the NFL, or $317,000 per year for each team in the league. Cheerleaders also provide value by promoting ticket sales and promoting the NFL brand.

So why are they paid so little?

According to National Federation of State High School Associations there are almost 400,000 individuals participating in high-school level cheerleading in the United States. Opportunities for professional cheerleaders are limited, however, given that there are only 26 NFL teams that currently have cheerleading squads (the Buffalo Bills disbanded its squad after a lawsuit last year). This suggests that the supply of cheerleaders exceeds demand. Such a labor market hands bargaining power to the employers, allowing them to negotiate down wages.

You might be wondering why this isn’t a problem for other athletes, many of whom are well paid for their contribution to their teams despite the fact that they face fierce competition from other would-be players. Historically, this had been a problem, and the only reason we no longer hear about it is that those players fought for the fair wages they are paid today.

In the first half of the 20th century, many professional sports leagues used their bargaining power to limit the pay of athletes. In the latter half of the century, though, many restrictions on player wages were eliminated leading to significant increases in player pay. For this reason, the share of its revenue that Major League Baseball paid to its players increased from 17% in 1956 to 53% in 2012. Over the same period, the National Football League increased the share of its revenue paid to players from 32% to 52%. Even the English Football League has had to increase the share of its revenue it pays to players, up from 38% in 1958 to 76% in 2013.

Studies indicate that similar stories can be told today about student athletes at American colleges and universities.

Perhaps you think that cheerleaders aren’t really being exploited for the same reason that people in the past didn’t think players were being exploited: because these athletes really love to play their game. Or perhaps you think that cheerleaders should be willing to work for very little because there are other benefits to the job, such as access to other employment opportunities or even better marriage markets. So what difference does it make if sports teams exploit their workers?

Worker exploitation has nothing to do with how much someone likes their job, or how much that job improves a worker’s other prospects, or whether or not the job can help her fulfill other life goals. If the NFL genuinely wants to address the perception that it has no respect for women (who make up 45% of its fan base), one place to start would be to guarantee that the women who do the most to promote the brand are properly compensated.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Companies

Toys ‘R’ Us Wants to Make Its Stores More Fun For, Well, the Kids

The Toys R Us Inc. logo is displayed inside a store ahead of Black Friday in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014
Peter Foley—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Toys R Us Inc. logo is displayed inside a store ahead of Black Friday in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

Makes sense

In effort to contend with online retailers and discount box stores, Toys ‘R’ Us is planning an overhaul aimed at making its stores more appealing for its core market: children.

Bloomberg reports the company will start with a prototype store in New York this year that will feature interactive technology and — why didn’t they think of this before? —a play area. If the kids are enjoying themselves, the thinking goes, parents will spend more time, and money, in the store.

“It has to be something where kids want to go and play,” CEO Antonio Urceley said on Tuesday, “We have to reinforce that we are a specialist.”

Toys ‘R’ Us is struggling to compete with retailers like Amazon.com and Target, which undercut the toy brand on price. The company hopes that souped up stores will make up for that.

Additionally, the company plans to hire more staff at Babies ‘R’ Us to boost customer service that it admits has been slacking.

The struggles of Toys ‘R’ Us are not new. In 2005, it became a jointly held private corporation owned by Bain Capital Inc., KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust. Since then, it has failed to garner momentum for an initial public offering with the last attempt in 2013 failing due to “unfavorable market conditions.”

[Bloomberg]

TIME Business

The New Recipe for Women Entrepreneurs to Find Success

female-business-owner-computer
Getty Images

One initiative in New York City is boosting female entrepreneurship

Alicia Glen, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, may have found the city’s special sauce: women entrepreneurs. In unveiling Women Entrepreneurs NYC (WE NYC), a new initiative to increase the number of female entrepreneurs from underserved communities, Glen invoked the case of a would-be mole seller in the Bronx: a woman who has mastered, but not yet marketed, her grandmother’s recipe. “We’re going to teach you how to take that amazing mole recipe and get it into the stream of commerce,” Glen explained. Working with Citi, Goldman Sachs, and microlender Grameen America, WE NYC is precisely the kind of public-private partnership that, done right, has the potential to improve the incomes and lives of low-income women, children and families, create jobs, and drive more broad-based economic growth across the city.

The entrepreneur holds a special place in the American psyche. This is true not only of the nation’s iconic entrepreneurs – Ben Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates – but of the millions of unheralded small business owners whose personal livelihoods, and the vibrancy of their communities, depend on the viability of their enterprises. Research now affirms just how important entrepreneurs are to broader employment: in the last 30 years, start-ups and young companies have been the primary engines of net new job creation in the United States.

When it comes to women and entrepreneurship, the story is both worse – and more promising. The gender gap in entrepreneurship is a real and global phenomenon. In the U.S., where women comprise more than half of the educated population, women-owned businesses account for only 16 percent of the nation’s employer firms (at high growth firms, it is only 10 percent). New York’s data bears this out as well. The State of Women Entrepreneurs in NYC, the preliminary findings of New York City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS), released in coordination with the WE NYC launch last week, showed that although there has been a steady increase in women-owned businesses in New York – where women entrepreneur businesses represent 32 percent of all registered companies – a significant “economic impact” gap remains: men still own 1.5 times as many businesses as women, employ 3.5 times more people per business, and generate 4.5 times more sales per business.

New York City is not the first to highlight these discrepancies. Much attention has been paid of late to the gender gap in STEM and STEM entrepreneurship at the engineer and employee, board and venture capital level, in Silicon Valley and in the corporate world beyond. These distortions – and their economic and financial costs – have spurred a new kind of investment thesis, one centered on unlocking the value of “gender capitalism” in a number of ways: investing in companies that provide critical goods and services to women or in those that are women owned, led, governed or promote workplace equity more broadly. Increasingly, and in response to (often women led) investor demand for social “impact,” large financial institutions are creating products and vehicles that employ the “gender lens:” U.S. Trust offers clients a Women and Girls Equality (WGES) investment approach (which in 2013 outperformed its S&P 1500 benchmark); Morgan Stanley’s Parity Portfolio screens for companies with three or more women on the board; Barclays Women in Leadership Total Return Index and exchange-traded notes (WIL) includes companies with a female CEO or women comprising at least 25 percent of directors. Sallie Krawcheck, one of the most successful women on Wall Street and former Bank of America executive, recently launched the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX), which invests in companies that advance women in a number of ways. Last week, Pax Ellevate encouraged the companies in its fund to sign on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint initiative of the United Nations Global Company and UN Women (the Principles includes guidelines for ways companies can empower women in the work place, marketplace, and community).

WE NYC harnesses this gender lens, but shifts focus from board room to barrio. The logic is similar – investing in women makes good economic sense – but the program is concerned with the poor in New York City, where nearly 25 percent of all women and girls are economically vulnerable, and where 40 percent of the households headed by a single mother (raising more than one million children) live in poverty.

The blueprint comes less from portfolio theory than it does from places like Bangladesh, where microfinance proved that small loans and supports to women to start and run businesses could be a pathway to income stability and long-term economic security. Such is the hope of WE NYC and why Grameen America, started by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus to bring the microfinance to the U.S., is a founding partner.

This kind of collaboration will be critical to WE NYC’s success. In creating the program, the SBS interviewed women entrepreneurs across the city to better understand the obstacles they faced in setting up and expanding their business. The response: access to capital, business education and support systems, gender discrimination, and the challenges of “going it alone.” Accordingly, WE NYC will focus on these fundamentals. With the help of Citi, SBS will target women for existing entrepreneurship programs. Grameen America will provide free business building services to their community of 27,000 women borrowers, most from the city’s low-income communities. SBS will also work closely with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a program once run by the Deputy Mayor Glen, which too provides entrepreneurs with technical assistance and access to capital. SBS will also continue to draw on existing partners like Brooklyn based Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade and artisanal goods that has participated in “microbusiness” workforce development programs. Etsy, which in 2014 facilitated nearly $2 billion in sales from microentrepreneurs across the globe and has recently filed for IPO, transcends the gender gap: 88% of its sellers are women.

WE NYC aims to serve 5,000 women entrepreneurs over three years. Partnerships are critical not just for the resources to make this possible. They remind all of us about the shared responsibility – and rewards – of broad-based prosperity. Or what Sally Krawcheck calls “the big idea 2015: inclusive capitalism = a more prosperous capitalism.

Georgia Levenson Keohane is a Senior Fellow at New America and Director of the Program on Profits and Purpose. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Autos

Almost 1 Million Nissan Air-Bag Recalls Probed by U.S. Safety Officials

Colored marks indicate where a crash test dummy's face struck an airbag in a Nissan Tiida sedan following a collision test at the Nissan Advanced Crash Laboratory in Yokosuka City, Japan Wednesday, August 31, 2005.
Michael Caronna—Bloomberg/Getty Images Colored marks indicate where a crash-test dummy's face struck an airbag in a Nissan Tiida sedan following a collision test at the Nissan Advanced Crash Laboratory in Yokosuka City, Japan, on Aug. 31, 2005

Japanese car giant says they fixed the problem during updates

An investigation into 990,000 Nissan vehicles recalled in 2013 and 2014 is trying to determine whether the company adequately fixed a sensor malfunction that can inhibit the inflation of the front-seat air bags during a collision.

U.S. safety regulators are looking into complaints that the cars use ineffective computer software to distinguish whether an adult is sitting in the passenger seat vs. a child, according to the Associated Press. When a child is in the passenger seat, the software is designed to disable the air bag because the powerful inflation can prove dangerous.

Nissan Motor Co. said in a statement that it believes the problem was fixed during the recalls, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 124 people have complained about the issue persisting even after fixes were made.

The recalls affected the 2013 and 2014 models of the Altima, Leaf electric car, Pathfinder SUV and Sentra, as well as the 2013 NV200 Taxi and the Infiniti JX35. The 2014 Infiniti QX60 and Q50 SUVs also required updates.

In one complaint reported by the AP, a customer said the indicator light notifying drivers that the air bag has been turned off does not dim when an adult is in the seat.

[AP]

TIME Courts

Homejoy, Postmates, and Try Caviar Sued Over Labor Practices

The complaints allege that workers at the on-demand startups are employees and not independent contractors

Three more companies in the exploding on-demand economy have been sued over their labor practices, a day after it emerged a class action lawsuit was pending against grocery startup Instacart.

The lawsuits filed on Thursday contend that workers for house-cleaning company Homejoy, as well as delivery service companies Postmates and Try Caviar, have been misclassified as independent contractors when they should be treated like employees. The class action complaints were filed in California’s Northern District Court, where similar lawsuits are already pending against Uber, Lyft and Instacart.

Postmates and Try Caviar are both primarily in the business of facilitating delivery from restaurants that don’t normally deliver. Customers places orders for food through their apps and orders are dispatched to couriers who pick up and deliver the food to the customers’ homes or offices, using their own personal transportation. On Wednesday, Postmates announced it had partnered with Starbucks to deliver food and beverages in Seattle.

The cleaners working for Homejoy use their own cleaning supplies and transportation to do jobs they get through Homejoy. The companies take a cut of the proceeds, whether a fare, an hourly wage or delivery fee.

The lawyer behind many of the cases is Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston-based labor lawyer who specializes in worker classification. She first filed the case against Uber on behalf of drivers in 2013, which claims thousands of workers in California are owed for expenses like gas and vehicle maintenance.

The publicity from that case has put her much in demand from people working similar jobs at other startups who believe they are being treated unjustly, she says. Today she filed separate class action complaints on behalf of workers for those three San Francisco-based companies. If the court approves the class, the suits could potentially affect thousands around the U.S.

“When companies have control over their workers, when they get to dictate how they should act, when they get to decide whether they can work or not work,” Liss-Riordan says, “those are employees. These are the workers carrying out the services that these companies provide. So these workers are entitled to the protections of the law, to get their expenses reimbursed, to be guaranteed overtime, to make [at least] minimum wage.”

Homejoy and Postmates did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this article. Try Caviar declined to comment, as did Instacart about its own pending litigation.

One of the key issues in the case is determining exactly what business these companies are in. These on-demand companies say they are merely middle-man technology companies connecting people who want a service with someone willing to provide it. Homejoy, for instance, bills itself as a marketplace where people willing to clean homes can connect with people who want their homes cleaned through their platform. Its terms of service are explicit:

THE COMPANY DOES NOT PROVIDE CLEANING SERVICES, AND THE COMPANY IS NOT A CLEANING SERVICE PROVIDER. IT IS UP TO THE THIRD PARTY CLEANING SERVICE PROVIDER TO OFFER CLEANING SERVICES WHICH MAY BE SCHEDULED THROUGH USE OF THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICE.

But other marketing materials and advertisements often send conflicting messages. Homejoy uses first person pronouns on their website, telling potential users: “If you’re not 100% satisfied with your cleaning, we’ll come back and re-clean it!” If Liss-Riordan can prove in court that companies like Homejoy and Uber are in fact cleaning companies or transportation companies and not just middle-men that could help convince the courts that the workers are in fact employees.

“You can’t name yourself out of employer status,” says Harvard law professor Benjamin Sachs. “The realities matter because if Uber is really a transportation company—and by that we mean they’re involved in many aspects of actually providing rides, screening drivers, hiring drivers, setting rates—that’s like a taxi company with a new technology. That doesn’t change anything important about the nature of employment.” Uber has said it doesn’t comment on pending legislation.

The complaints contend that workers for each of the platforms are owed reimbursements for expenses like vehicle maintenance, cleaning supplies and gas they used to get from job to job, as well as overtime and in some cases minimum wage. The suits against Postmates and Try Caviar also contend that the companies are unfairly competing, by not paying for expenses that delivery companies with employee couriers would, like unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation.

“There seems to be this new wave of companies coming up that seem to be copying one another and thinking that it’s okay to do this because they call themselves technology companies,” Liss-Riordan says. “There’s nothing new about this. These workers should be entitled to the protections of employees.”

TIME Drugs

New Senate Bill Could Solve Medical Marijuana’s Tax Problems

Katy Steinmetz / TIME Bryan and Lanette Davies pose for a portrait at their "Christian-based" medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento in February 2014.

The bill aimed at healing the sick could save dispensary owners lots of money

When Bryan and Lanette Davies got an $875,000 bill from the Internal Revenue Service, they didn’t pay it. Instead, they took the IRS to court, arguing that a 1982 law meant to prevent drug traffickers from deducting business expenses should not apply to Canna Care, their small “Christian-based” medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento—or any other medical marijuana dispensary legal under state law.

The couple is in the midst of a years-long legal battle over these expenses, arguing that marijuana dispensaries should be treated like most other small businesses and be allowed to deduct payroll, rent and health benefits from their taxable income.

But a new bill introduced in the Senate could help bring their trial to a conclusion.

On March 10, three Senators introduced a historic bill called the CARERS Act that would end the federal ban on medical marijuana, clearing up the discrepancy between federal law that considers pot an illegal drug and the 23 state laws that sanction the use of medical weed. The bill explicitly does several things: It would reschedule marijuana as a drug with known medical uses to allow for research. It would allow banks to work with dispensaries—both medical and recreational—without fear of being prosecuted for money laundering. And it would create an exception in the Controlled Substances Act that essentially says it doesn’t apply to medical marijuana in states where that substance has been legalized. That last part may help solve legal pot’s tax problem.

An obscure bit of the tax code known as 280E states that businesses in violation of the Controlled Substances Act can’t take a tax deduction or receive any credits for any expenses connected with their trafficking of illegal drugs, which is what medical marijuana dispensaries are currently doing in the eyes of the federal government. (Due to a tax court ruling, the one deduction they can take is for the cost of goods sold). The costs can be crippling, and politicians have joined dispensary owners in saying that prohibiting cocaine dealers from writing off the boats they bought to ship the drug, as one lawyer put it, is not the same as businesses deducting quotidian operating costs while on the right side of the law in their state.

In 2010, a group of Congress members, including Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, sent letters to the IRS asking the agency to interpret the tax code in a way that would allow medical marijuana businesses to be taxed on net income instead of gross income. This is what the IRS told those members of Congress in response:

Because neither section 280E nor the Controlled Substances Act makes exception for medically necessary marijuana, we lack the authority to publish the guidance that you request. The result you seek would require the Congress to amend either the Internal Revenue Code or the Controlled Substances Act.

Legal experts have said that the IRS’ hands are essentially tied. If this bill passes, University of Denver’s Sam Kamin says that may be enough for the IRS to loosen the rope and issue that guidance. “It definitely puts marijuana on much sounder footing and makes much clearer what the legal rights of marijuana businesses are,” he says.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, who worked with the Senators’ offices on the Hill to craft the bill, is more absolute in his interpretation: “It resolves the 280E issue.”

Both of them agree that the bill has the potential to affect other areas of life too, in states where medical marijuana is legal. It may prevent people from being fired for using marijuana as medicine. Parents may no longer lose custody of their kids for having medical marijuana in the house. Known medical-marijuana users could be allowed to legally own a firearm; if a drug user or addict currently possesses a firearm, that’s punishable by up to 10 years of jail time.

Malik Burnett, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance—which also had a hand in crafting the bill—cautions that these are only potential interpretations of a potential law and that separate, explicit legislation should be passed if reform advocates want to definitively solve these issues. But he says the bill would enable lawyers to make stronger arguments to protect clients who use medical marijuana. “You would certainly have more solid ground to stand on,” he says.

Since being introduced, the bill has gained two cosponsors: Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and, as of Monday, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. Despite bipartisan support for the bill, it remains unclear whether it will be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Davieses, in an interview for a previous article on their legal battle, said that they not only see themselves as a legitimate business but as a force of positive change in society. Lanette Davis said she felt they were being unfairly punished. “It has to do with taking care of the sick and ill. Jesus Christ made a statement that all people should care for one another, and this is our way of taking that to our community,” Lanette said. “What we try very hard to provide is a way for people to get well.”

TIME Business

Google Executive: You Can Win Every Interview With These 6 Steps

business-hands
Getty Images

Laszlo Bock is the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice

LinkedIn Influencer Laszlo Bock originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Laszlo on LinkedIn.

Three unbelievably cool things happened to me this week. On Monday, my publisher sent me the first hardcover copies of my new book, Work Rules! It’s a real thing now! On Tuesday, the CEO of a major company told me he’d been following my interviews with Tom Friedman about how to get a job at Google, or anywhere. He asked how his company could adopt some of those same practices. Someone is listening!

And on Wednesday, a new Googler stopped me in one of our on-campus cafes. He told me, “I read every one of your articles about resumes and what Google looks for, did what you said, and just started at Google last week. I just want to thank you for helping me get hired by Google.” That was the coolest moment — more than anything I want all of us to have meaningful jobs in workplaces where we feel like owners, not replaceable cogs in a machine.

So first, my thanks to the millions who have read my advice. Thanks for the tens of thousands of posts, and for sharing your success stories with me and one another. I can’t wait to hear more of them!

Let’s assume, like my Noogler friend (new + Googler), you’ve got an awesome resume. You’ve avoided the errors that plague almost 60% of resumes, nailed the right keywords, and your accomplishments burst from the page. (And if your resume isn’t awesome – yet! – read my earlier articles about getting it right here and avoiding getting it wrong here and here.)

Now you’ve got the interview. How do you convince the person on the other side of the table to hire you? How do you win the interview?

You use the fact that most of us aren’t very good at interviewing to your advantage.

I write about hiring in Work Rules!, but here’s an abridged preview from the book:

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” was the tagline for a Head & Shoulders shampoo ad campaign in the 1980s. (A couple of cringe-worthy examples are here and here.) This unfortunately encapsulates how most interviews work. Tricia Pricket and Neha Gada-Jain, two psychology students at the University of Toledo, collaborated with their professor Frank Berieri to report in a 2000 study that judgments made in the first 10 seconds of an interview could predict the outcome of the interview. They videotaped interviews, and then showed thinner and thinner “slices” of the tape to college students. For 9 of the 11 variables they tested — like intelligence, ambition, and trustworthiness — they found that observers made the same assessments as the interviewers. Even without meeting the candidates. Even when shown a clip as short as 10 seconds. Even with the sound turned off.

In other words, most of what we think is “interviewing” is actually the pursuit of confirmation bias. Most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless.

There’s much more in the book demonstrating that, on average, we’re pretty crummy at assessing candidates. I write about how to get better. And how at Google we’ve applied 100 years of science to radically upgrade the quality of our assessments (still not perfect, though!).

But if you’re a job seeker (and who isn’t?), the fact that most of us don’t know how to interview well is a huge opportunity. Because that weakness lets you control the encounter. It lets you win. Here’s how:

  1. Predict the future. You can anticipate 90% of the interview questions you’re going to get. Three of them are listed above, but it’s an easy list to generate. “Why do you want this job?” “What’s a tough problem you’ve solved?” If you can’t think of any, Google “most common interview questions.” Write down the top 20 questions you think you’ll get.
  2. Plan your attack. For EVERY question, write down your answer. Yes, it’s a pain to actually write something. It’s hard and frustrating. But it makes it stick in your brain. That’s important. You want your answers to be automatic. You don’t want to have to think about your answers during an interview. Why not? Keep reading.
  3. Have a backup plan. Actually, for every question, write down THREE answers. Why three? You need to have a different, equally good answer for every question because the first interviewer might not like your story. You want the next interviewer to hear a different story. That way they can become your advocate.
  4. Prove yourself. Every question should be answered with a story that proves you can do what you’re being asked about. “How do you lead?” should be answered with “I’m a collaborative/decisive/whatever leader. Let me tell you about the time I ….” Always tell a story or have facts to prove you are what you say you are. More on how to construct and tell these stories in a future article.
  5. Read the room. All that brainpower you’re not using to desperately come up with answers to questions? Look around. Focus on the interviewer. In the first 10 seconds, is there anything in their office, or about them, you can notice and use to forge a connection? A book on a shelf? A family photo? A painting? Read the interviewer: is their body language open or closed? Are they tired and should you try to pep them up? Do they like your answer or should you veer in another direction?
  6. Make it to Carnegie Hall. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Same goes for getting a job. When I was in my second year of business school, I practiced my interview answers — out loud — until I could tell each story smoothly, without thinking about it (but not so smoothly that I was bored with the re-telling). My roommate walked in one day to find me sitting on the futon reciting why I thought I was a great leader again and again. He figured I was stuck in some kind of Stuart Smalley-like self-help loop. But I got 7 job offers from 5 companies (that’s another story) and was on track to get another 6 before I stopped interviewing. How is that possible? Practice.

Everyone deserves an amazing job. I hope this helps you get one.

Read next: A Simple Formula for Answering ‘Tell Me About Yourself’

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME justice

Lawsuit Claims Instacart ‘Personal Shoppers’ Should Be Classified as Employees

Kaitlin Myers a shopper for Instacart studies her smart phone as she  shops for a customer at Whole Foods in Denver.
Cyrus McCrimmon—Denver Post/Getty Images Instacart shopper Kaitlin Myers navigates through the aisles at Whole Foods in Denver.

A case filed in California's Northern District Court claims that the grocery delivery service owes workers for expenses

A new lawsuit alleges that Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery service valued at $2 billion, misclassifies its workers as independent contractors to avoid paying expenses like overtime, reimbursements for gas and workers’ compensation.

The class action complaint, which was filed on Jan. 9th but has not been previously reported, describes Instacart’s business practices as “unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous” and seeks damages for anyone who has worked as a “shopper delivery person” for the company since 2012.

The complaint, which contains allegations similar to those in two ongoing lawsuits also pending in California’s Northern District Court against ride-app companies Uber and Lyft, is the latest potential legal hurdle for the surging on-demand economy.

“Instacart does all it can to distance itself from the employer-employee relationship,” says Bob Arns, whose San Francisco-based Arns Law Firm brought the suit on behalf of workers including Dominic Cobarruviaz, who was injured in an accident while delivering groceries for Instacart. “Why does a company want to do that? It’s to keep the bottom line lower, to unfairly compete against other companies. That’s the crux of our case.”

The suit contends that Instacart, which is two-and-a-half years old and operates in 15 markets around the U.S., has violated labor laws due to the workers’ “misclassification, unpaid workers’ compensation insurance, unpaid tax contributions, unreimbursed expenses, and related misconduct.” The complaint also claims that the company has committed fraud, knowing workers should be classified as employees, and used unfair business practices.

“[There is] this narrative that I think companies like Instacart and Uber and Lyft want to become more mainstream,” says Jonathan Davis, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, “that somehow these antiquated laws don’t apply to these types of work relationships. And frankly it’s ludicrous. Just because a worker is directed and controlled by an algorithm that comes through a phone as opposed to a foreman doesn’t do anything to change the fundamental relationship of employment.”

Instacart has not responded to requests for comment. The case names the company as Maplebear Inc., which does business as Instacart.

Instacart customers order groceries through a smartphone app, choosing items they want from their preferred store. The app then relays grocery orders to workers, who shop for the products and deliver them using their own vehicles in as little as an hour or two. The company takes a cut from a delivery fee and gets an undisclosed amount from retailers that customers buy groceries from through the app.

In late February, the case was assigned to District Judge Edward Chen, who is also hearing the Uber case, which claims that Uber drivers are employees rather than independent contractors and should be reimbursed for expenses like gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance. On March 11, Chen denied Uber’s request for a summary judgment ruling that drivers are independent contractors, saying that a jury would have to decide whether the drivers are employees or “partners,” as the company calls them. In his ruling, the judge said Uber’s claim that it is a “technology company” and not a “transportation company” is “fatally flawed.”

Instacart’s CEO Apoorva Mehta has likewise said that Instacart is a software company, not a grocery delivery company.

Arns believes that the terms the company sets out, which customers must agree to, could pass liability along to the person ordering groceries. If Instacart is “solely a communication platform” for facilitating a connection between the customer and the shopper, he says, damages from an accident or injury like the one Corbarruviaz had could be the responsibility of the customer who started the communication.

The suit rejects the idea that Instacart is simply a middle man, claiming that the company “is in the business of providing online grocery shopping and delivery service.” The suit seeks to define the class as everyone who “performed grocery delivery service” for Instacart from Jan. 1, 2012 to the present. As of June 2014, about 1,000 people were reportedly registered to shop and deliver groceries for the company. Arns estimates that the size of the class could be 10,000.

The growing independent-contractor workforce is a key reason that companies like Instacart and Uber have been able to grow so quickly. In January, Forbes put Instacart at the top of its “America’s Most Promising Companies” list. The cost of organizing independent contractors is much less than hiring employees. The companies who operate this way don’t have to pay unemployment tax or overtime, or ensure that workers are making at least minimum wage. They don’t have to pay for their own fleet of vehicles or costs associated with operating them since the workers use their personal cars. In many cases, they don’t have to pay for the smartphones or data plans workers need to do the jobs.

Arns and Davis say that after the costs of being a worker for Instacart are added up, many of them are not making minimum wage. Unlike drivers on platforms like Uber and Lyft, who can log in to work and log out at any time, personal shoppers for Instacart set their own hours in advance and work in shifts.

“We can’t sacrifice the gains that have been made over time in this country to create good, solid middle-class jobs simply at the altar of expediency and technology,” Davis says. They contend that the lawsuit is beneficial for companies in the sharing economy in the long run, even if it ends up costing them millions. “We want to see Instacart succeed,” says Arns, “and it can succeed by complying with the law.”

Corbarruviaz v. Maplebear, Inc.

Read next: This Is Where Starbucks Will Test Its Delivery Service

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Business

Can These Common Office Habits Slowly Kill You?

office-chair
Getty Images

We’re dying by making a living at our desk job

Warning: this article will get you jumping out of your seat.

If it doesn’t, we have a problem. New research suggests that sitting is as bad as smoking.

Needless to say, I’m scared sitless. After all, how else am I supposed to watch House of Cards at my desk now…er, I mean get all that important paperwork done?

It’s time to take a stand. Literally. In this week’s TL;DR, we’ll discuss:

  • Why sitting more can hurt our health, even if we exercise
  • How we can sit less without killing our routine or buying expensive treadmill desks
  • How we can secretly exercise at our desks without looking awkward

1) Sitting Is The New Smoking — Even For Runners

Author: Selene Yeager

TL;DR: We’re dying by making a living at our desk job. And no one is safe (including you, Soul Cyclers). Just look at the stats:

  • In a 12-year study of 17,000+ Canadians, researchers found that people who sat for longer died younger — regardless of age, body weight, or how much they exercised.
  • A 2013 survey of nearly 30,000 women found that those who sat over nine hours a day were more depressed than those who sat fewer than six hours a day. The reason? Prolonged sitting reduces circulation, causing fewer feel-good hormones to reach your brain.
  • “Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right,” says Neville Owen, Ph.D. Not to mention, according to Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care, inactivity is linked to 49,000 cases of breast cancer, 43,000 cases of colon cancer, 37,200 cases of lung cancer, and 30,600 cases of prostate cancer a year.

Okay, we get it. Sitting is bad. But it’s not our fault. While our ancestors worked the farms, we’re at work playing FarmVille. It begs the question: how do we sit less without killing our routines?

2) Why Sitting Is Killing You & 9 Things You Can Do About It

Author: Dr. Jordan Metzl

TL;DR: Fellow sloths of the world, rejoice. Here are some ways to fight the war on sitting:

  • Now walk it out. Finally, I understand that Soulja Boy song. An easy way to sit less is to take more walking meetings. Whether you go around the block or down the hallway, you’ll keep yourself more active and spark better idea flow.
  • Get the worst parking spot. A few extra minutes of walking to your office each day will add up. Park further away next time to burn a few more calories.
  • Miss your bus stop. On purpose, of course. Get off further away from your office to burn a few extra calories each day.

But what if you want to stay active right at your desk? And do it without being awkward?

3) Deskercise! 33 Smart Ways to Exercise at Work

Author: Emily Milam

TL;DR: I’ll admit it. I don’t recommend all 33 exercises. I’ve tried each at my desk and only included the ones where my co-workers didn’t think I was a weirdo (full disclosure: there are other reasons my co-workers think I’m a weirdo):

  • Seated Leg Raiser: While seated, straighten one leg and hold in place for five seconds. Then lower the leg back to the ground without letting the feet touch the floor. Alternate legs and repeat for 15 reps. For a deeper burn: loop a purse or briefcase strap over the ankle for added weight.
  • The Pencil Pinch: Roll back your shoulders until the shoulder blades are pinched together, like you’re pinching a pencil. Hold for 5-10 seconds, release, and repeat for 15 reps.
  • The Ab Squeeze: Take a deep breath and tighten your abs, bringing them in towards the spine as you exhale. Stay squeezed for 5-10 seconds and release. Repeat for 15 reps.

Want more? Join 400,000 readers by subscribing to Every Vowel, the home for unconventional career ideas, stories & advice.

This article originally appeared on Every Vowel.

Read next: A Workout You Can Do Anywhere

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Watch Ikea’s Hilarious New ‘Shelf-Help’ Ad

“Begin your journey of shelf-discovery"

Furniture giant Ikea has done it again and launched a hilarious new advert — remember the bookbook? — this time in the shape of a “shelf-help” video for fixing a floundering relationship.

In the ad, a couple are having problems in the bedroom, “I just wish you knew what to do with your junk,” says the woman as the camera pans down past her partner’s midriff to a floor strewn with clothes.

But thanks to a Swedish, turtleneck wearing “shelf-help guru” called Fille Güte (geddit?) who advises the couple to have more space, they are able to get over their storage woes as their room transforms into an Ikea haven.

“Always believe in your shelf,” says a very punny guru.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com