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Rhea Lana Riner honored for defending business

Posted: November 15, 2013 - 5:22pm
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SUBMITTED PHOTO   Rhea Lana Riner was recently recognized by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
SUBMITTED PHOTO Rhea Lana Riner was recently recognized by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Conway’s Rhea Lana Riner, president of Rhea Lana’s, Inc. children consignment events, has been recognized by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business for defending her business model against government allegations of labor law violations.

Rhea Lana’s was originally audited by the Arkansas Department of Labor in January 2012 for unpaid labor.

The ADL concluded that consignors who volunteer to set up the large-scale children’s consignment events are not classified as employees within the definition of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act.

However, the U.S. Department of Labor found Riner’s company to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, concluding that moms and families who volunteer up to 15 hours for an early shopping pass are classified as employees and should be paid a minimum wage.

Riner said her customers are outraged, and there have been no complaints about her events.

“They are discouraged that the government would step in and over regulate an industry that is doing nothing but good,” she said. “Moms only volunteer if they want to.”

Riner was a finalist in the Maverick of the Year category of the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. November 8, she was named a silver award recipient in a ceremony in New York City.

A maverick by definition is “an unorthodox or independent-minded person; a person who refuses to conform to a particular party or group.”

Riner is living up to her title by defending the way she’s done business for the past 15 years.

“We’re at a place with our company and our industry where we have to protect the way we’ve held consignment events,” Riner said.

In a column published this summer in USA Today, Riner said the Fair Labor Standards Act is archaic, holding back innovative businesses models like hers.

She compared the labor department’s findings to a hypothetical investigation into child labor laws applying to Build-a-Bear Workshop because young customers assemble their own teddy bears.

January 2012, Riner signed a consent agreement with the ADL to solely use consignment sellers or paid staff to set up and work her events.

Within the parameters of the agreement, Rhea Lana’s consented to pay 40 Arkansas employees nearly $6,400 in minimum wage and overtime back wages.

“That was the end of it as far as we’re concerned,” said Denise Oxley, general counsel for the Arkansas Department of Labor.

Despite her feelings about the results of the investigation, Riner said she still believes the law is on her side, and that’s why she is working with the state to protect her business.

November 6, Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. John Boozman introduced the Children’s Consignment Event Recognition Act or S. 1656 to the Senate “to clarify that volunteers at a children’s consignment event are not employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.”

“Arkansas parents looking to provide for their children are being unfairly targeted by the Department of Labor. This commonsense legislation preserves an innovative business model for consignment events and protects parents from unfair federal regulations,” Boozman said.

The bill is currently in committee.

Riner said passing the bill will be an uphill battle, and the reality of it being passed is very challenging.

Oxley said any pending Senate bill would not affect state law.

Riner said any added expenses would have to be passed on to the moms and families who participate in the consignment events.

Rhea Lana’s currently gives back a 70 percent cut of each sale to consignors. Riner said she’s not ready to disclose how her business model is being affected, but she’s beginning to research the costs.

“If we have to carry an extra burden, we’re left with the only option of passing it on,” she said. “In the end everyone loses.”

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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lachowsj
5491
Points
lachowsj 11/15/13 - 09:01 pm
2
2
Follow the law

I have an innovative business plan. I'll get a McDonald's franchise and, instead of employees, I'll get volunteers who will work for the opportunity to take home free burgers at the end of their volunteer shift. After all, if I have to pay the volunteers I will be carrying an extra burden and the only option will be to pass it on to the customers.

The "extra burden" Ms. Riner will have to carry is the burden of following the law. I fail to see how that puts her at a disadvantage, since competitors have to also follow the law. "In the end everyone loses, " she says. Everyone, that is, except the people getting paid minimum wage for the work they are doing.

Voter
286
Points
Voter 11/15/13 - 10:20 pm
1
2
Great

Good for Rhea Lana ! congratulations. Keep up the good work. !

Voter
286
Points
Voter 11/15/13 - 10:20 pm
1
2
Great

Good for Rhea Lana ! congratulations. Keep up the good work. !

richweav
111
Points
richweav 11/16/13 - 09:17 am
2
2
innovative business plan.

Great for Rhea Lana. Business is under attack by the government who mistakenly believe that they are the creators of jobs and the arbiter of fairness. The first comment on this thread is obviously by someone who doesn't own a business or work in the private sector; very likely a government employee who couldn't think of an innovative business plan if it rear ended him/her. Care to respond?

lachowsj
5491
Points
lachowsj 11/16/13 - 01:33 pm
2
2
You sir/madam

You are no doubt one of those tea party "best government is no government" people who would repeal socialist programs like social security and medicare and go back to the days of no minimum wage, child labor and no food safety laws. FYI, I've worked in plenty of private business starting at age 13, working 12-hour summer days in the blazing heat, later landing a factory job to work my way through college. I was fortunate that I happened to live in a college town and could stay with my parents to save on costs until I could afford my own place. I finally graduating to a low paying job in social services where I was paid less than a factory welder or a bank teller. I did it because I was conscious of the plight of those less fortunate and always conscious of the saying, "There but for the grace of you go I." My father put in 30 years at International Shoe Co., where he got the starting salary of $1.25 only because that was the minimum wage at the time. Upon retirement he was paid the generous pension of $60/month or $2/month for every year he worked. I guess the burden of paying him that salary caused the factory to close, moving the jobs overseas where children could be hired for pennies a day. In retirement he supplemented his and my mother's diet by what he could grow and what he could pull out of (now polluted) Lake Conway.

Any more questions?

DanCDaves
2794
Points
DanCDaves 11/16/13 - 02:32 pm
2
2
God bless

Hyperbole much? You do realize by raising the minimum wage, it'll still be, in the political narrative that relates to this discussion, the minimum wage, whether it's $7.25, $8.50, or $10.00. What's enough in your opinion and what law should be created to force businesses to keep workers on at those wages, regardless of inflation or the rising cost of resources and expenses like, oh, oil? They'll lose their jobs and then have plenty of time to spend with their kids and grow a locally grown organically fresh garden and self-sustain without our ever-encroaching seedy version of capitalism since they can't afford the high cost of Whole Foods or whatever.

Since you're reaching for a personal appeal, I worked my first job in the summer of 2001 as a lifeguard, lived at home, and made $6.00/hr because I accepted the title of 'head lifeguard' at age 16, meaning I made the schedule and kept up with inventory. That's right, I accepted some responsibility and was compensated for it. I saved about $3000 that summer and bought gas, which was around $1.09, and whatever else 16 year old's do for fun. I didn't do it for the honor of it, I did it for the pay and it was an easy gig. Nowadays, I still work for the money and the insurance. That's all jobs are for - paying the bills, otherwise people would stay home and be with their families and take care of themselves without intrusive programs and laws at every corner.

Fact is, in this case, the people are CHOOSING to do it. Can you get over that for like a second?

Voter
286
Points
Voter 11/16/13 - 10:07 am
1
2
Agree

The first comment was decidedly off the wall

GM
345
Points
GM 11/16/13 - 11:21 am
1
0
lachowsj's analogy is an

lachowsj's analogy is an interesting one. Everyone would love to have a business where they didn't have to pay the labor necessary to operate the business.

I suppose one could argue that the benefit conveyed to a "volunteer" of getting to shop early has some value. (It must or they wouldn't do it.) Whether that value equates to the equivalent of the hours worked x minimum wage is debatable.

The law has always provided that certain positions are not covered by minimum wage requirements ,i.e. "exempt employees," such as salaried professionals. Perhaps short term "volunteers" at clothes consignment sales will be added to the list. Or perhaps they will be defined as not being employees at all.

academically, it is very interesting.

sailaway
875
Points
sailaway 11/16/13 - 11:36 am
0
3
good

job

sailaway
875
Points
sailaway 11/16/13 - 04:27 pm
0
2
Great

Job

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