Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Since their integration into the workplace, women have become an important part of today’s labor force. In recent years, working women have made strides to become a critical part of the labor force while simultaneously raising and supporting their families. According to Pew Research Center, mothers serve as the sole or primary provider in 40 percent of households with children. Despite this progress, women have faced a variety of obstacles in the workplace, including one of the most prominent issues: pregnancy discrimination.

A recent survey of 500 managers revealed that 40 percent of them would rather hire a man aged 20 to 30 than a woman of the same age for fear that they would have to grant her maternity leave if she were to become pregnant. A similar number of managers surveyed stated that they would be wary of hiring a woman who has already had a child or hiring a mother for a senior role. As many as 44 percent of the managers stated that the financial cost of maternity leave for employees poses a significant burden on the business.

Pregnancy discrimination extends beyond the pre-hiring stages, as many women who become pregnant while working face negative or discriminatory behavior from their employers. A report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee estimates that 53,000 women each year are being discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employers, despite the fact that permanent employees are granted the right to time off for crucial check-ups.

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), it is illegal to treat someone unfairly, whether an applicant or employee, due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The law forbids pregnancy discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, training, pay, job assignments, layoffs, firing, or benefits, among other terms or conditions of employment. Women employees may also be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor.

If you or a loved one has faced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, contact an experienced New York employment lawyer. For the past three decades, “The Employee’s Lawyer” Steven Sack has successfully represented clients in employment discrimination cases, including a pregnancy discrimination case that resulted in obtaining a $6.2 million jury verdict on behalf of his clients. To schedule a consultation, call (917) 317-8000.

Discount Store Employee Says Boss’ Violent Temper Caused Her to Suffer from PTSD

A discount store employee from Virginia is seeking $1 million in damages, claiming that she began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after her male boss flew into a rage and began to verbally and physically assault her, according to Courthouse News Service.

On March 4, 2016, Patricia Morgan, an employee at Roses discount store in Chesapeake City, Virginia, was called by her general manager, John Brophy, to fix a computer problem caused by the office manager. Ms. Morgan told Mr. Brophy that she did not know how to fix it so she had to call over a co-worker. Mr. Brophy allegedly began to verbally abuse her, adding that, after he speaks to the corporate office about this, “there will be hell to pay.”

After the computer problem was fixed, according to Ms. Morgan, Mr. Brophy continued his profanity-laced tirade towards her. Fearing for her safety, she positioned herself between a stairwell and a hand truck loaded with boxes. Mr. Brophy continued to curse and yell at Ms. Morgan and started to push the boxes and hand truck onto her, pinning her legs and abdomen against the staircase.

Despite her pleas to stop, Mr. Brophy allegedly continued to push the boxes against her. Ms. Morgan says she told him, “What are you doing? You’re hurting me!” In response, he punched into the boxes. During the incident, she says a co-worker saw this occur but did not attempt to stop what Mr. Brophy was doing. According to Ms. Morgan, the assault ended only after Mr. Brophy’s arms got stuck in the boxes.

On May 26, 2016, Ms. Morgan filed a complaint, stating that, after the incident, she went into the store’s restroom to compose herself, then became physically ill. She waited until he left the store to go home. The complaint also states that Mr. Brophy came up to Ms. Morgan the next day to apologize, only to fly into a rage again. This time, the incident was caught on the store’s surveillance cameras.

As a result of the incident, according to the complaint, Ms. Morgan has experienced severe panic attacks and headaches, loss of appetite and stopped visiting friends and colleagues. She has also been diagnosed with acute PTSD.

An incident such as this constitutes workplace bullying. The first sign of workplace bullying is that one employee is being verbally and/or physically abused by their supervisor while that person’s co-workers are not subjected to the same treatment.

Those who are bullied should know it is not their fault and did nothing to bring it upon themselves. If they are constantly victimized at work and all their options to resolve this problem have been exhausted, they should immediately consult a lawyer. If you have concerns regarding employment law issues, contact an experienced New York employment law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at

Fired African-American Car Salesman’s Lawsuit Can Proceed

An African-American who claims he was subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment — only to be fired — has been allowed by a U.S. District Court to pursue a lawsuit against his former manager and the dealership where he worked.

John Pendleton, who worked as a salesman at Bob Frensley Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee from February 26, 2014 to April 26, 2014, claimed his manager, Thomas Mowell, made “racially inappropriate comments every day,” according to an article from Automotive News. Mr. Pendleton said “it was sickening just having to work there” and to “be around” Mr. Mowell. Mr. Pendleton’s lawsuit also alleges that he complained to Mr. Mowell and another manager about the treatment he received, but neither manager resolved the issue, nor did they report the complaint to the dealership’s owner.

Mr. Pendleton claims he was fired when we got into an argument with two white salesmen who he accused of taking a possible sale from him. During the argument, one of the salesmen allegedly punched Mr. Pendleton. Those two salesmen were neither fired nor suspended, but the one who assaulted Mr. Pendleton received only an “employee warning.” It was later learned that one of the white salesmen was also involved in an incident involving another African-American employee, who, like Mr. Pendleton, was terminated after the incident, but the white salesman faced no such disciplinary action.

Mr. Mowell, who was fired in December 2014, and the dealership claim the allegations are false and that Mr. Pendleton was “administratively discharged” for failing to return to work after the incident.

The Court ruled that there was enough evidence of racial discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation for the lawsuit to proceed and allowed Mr. Pendleton to seek punitive damages. The trial is scheduled to begin on September 12.

If you believe you have faced racial discrimination or harassment by your employer or have been wrongfully terminated, contact an experienced New York employment law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at


Fox News Host Files Sexual Harassment Suit Against Television Executive

Fox News Channel host Gretchen Carlson recently filed a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit against the network’s chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, after she refused his alleged sexual advances towards her. On July 6, Ms. Carlson filed a complaint against Mr. Ailes with the Superior Court of New Jersey in Bergen County, stating that, after she refused Mr. Ailes’ sexual advances towards her and complained about his behavior, he unlawfully retaliated against her. Ms. Carlson was terminated from her position as the host of the network’s afternoon program The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on June 23. Prior to this role, Ms. Carlson was the co-host of Fox and Friends until 2013.

According to Ms. Carlson, Mr. Ailes had consistently made sexual and/or sexist remarks towards her, and made “sexual advances by various means,” including an instance that occurred last September in which he allegedly stated that he and Ms. Carlson “should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago” and implied that her problems would be “easier to solve” if she did. After she refused his sexual advances, Ms. Carlson stated that Mr. Ailes retaliated against her by denying her career opportunities, cutting her wages, ostracizing and shunning her publicly and privately, and “decreed that her contract not be renewed.”

Under federal law, harassment is defined as the unwanted conduct based on gender (including pregnancy), ethnicity, race, age, disability or genetic information. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), one-third of the 90,000 charges the EEOC receives each year includes an allegation of workplace harassment. An employer may be held liable for harassment by a workplace supervisor that results in an employee’s termination, inability to hire or promote and/or the loss of wages and, therefore, may result in a hostile work environment.

If you have concerns regarding employment law issues, contact an experienced New York employment law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Seattle’s Minimum Wage Law to Stand

The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down a challenge by business groups in the Seattle area to the city’s law that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This also affirms a lower court ruling, which also supported the law.

The law went into effect on April 2015, requiring businesses with more than 500 employees nationwide to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. Smaller businesses with 500 workers or less have three more years than their larger-business counterparts to do so. Seattle was the first city to implement the $15 minimum wage, thanks to the backing of Working Washington, a coalition of labor and nonprofit groups.

The International Franchise Association filed a lawsuit in 2014 to “level the playing field” for the 600 franchise businesses that employ 19,000 people in the city, but, on March 2015, a federal judge in Seattle ruled in favor of the city. The case went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the judge’s decision. The business group brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 2, 2016, the highest court sided with the city.

The decision means that cities and states with similar minimum wage laws must treat the franchises as offshoots of its parent companies instead of independent small businesses. The International Franchise Association argued that the city should have not excluded local franchises of companies such as Burger King and McDonald’s from the small business aspect of the law.

Since the law passed, other cities such as San Francisco and states such as New York and California have passed similar legislation. In New York State, the current minimum wage is $9 an hour. Under the new law, it will increase statewide to $10.75 by the end of this year. It will increase by $1 a year for the next three years, reaching $13.75 by 2019. By 2020, it will be $14.50 and will reach $15 by 2021. For New York City, it will be different: the minimum wage will be $12 by the end of 2016 and will increase to $13.50 next year and $15 the year after that.

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires that your employer pay you at least the minimum wage in addition to overtime. If you believe that you have not been compensated fairly as an employee, contact an experienced New York Employment Attorney attorney who will fight for your right to a fair wage. Contact Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000.

New York Times Top Executives Face Lawsuit For Racial, Age and Sexual Discrimination towards Employees

The top executives at The New York Times have come under a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit for creating “a culture of discrimination” at the company based on age, gender and race. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two African-American female employees in their 60s who worked in the paper’s advertising department. The two women alleged that they were paid less than younger, white employees and were overlooked for promotions within the Times.

On April 28 the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan against the newspaper, President, Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson and Executive Vice President, Chief Revenue Officer Meredith Levien. According to the suit, The Times’ older advertising directors of mixed races and color were pushed out through buyouts or terminated and their positions were quickly filled with younger, Caucasian hires.

The plaintiffs — 62-year-old Ernestine Grant and 61-year-old Marjorie Walker — claimed that, since Thompson came on as chief executive, the company has “gotten considerably younger and whiter.” They have also alleged that the paper pays its “younger white individuals” more than its minority counterparts. They argued that its “younger white” employees were permitted to leave the office early on Fridays during the summer, while they were not.

The suit also brought to light Mr. Thompson’s past discriminatory practices during his employment as director-general at The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Mr. Thompson had been caught in a series of highly damaging situations involving the age and gender of newscaster Moira Stuart, former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillip and Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly. Ms. O’Reilly brought an age discrimination employment tribunal against Mr. Thompson, and won in 2011.

Mr. Thompson is not the only one who has come under the media scope for sexist and ageist remarks towards employees. Ms. Levien has allegedly made it clear in speeches to her staff that her ideal workforce was to include “fresh faces” populated by “people who look like the people we are selling to.” It has been claimed that Ms. Levien has made racially charged innuendos to the advertising staff that comprised primarily of older, African-American females.

If you have concerns regarding employment law issues, contact an experienced New York employment law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected.  Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at

New York Audition Notices Spark Employment Law Concerns

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on discrimination in casting calls for the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” Although specifying race, age, and gender is legal in audition calls, the Actors’ Equity Association, a union organization, generally checks the audition notices before going out. The notices for Hamilton, which posted from late 2015, were not reviewed by Actors’ Equity. They have sparked discussion over the formalities and procedures to avoiding discrimination in audition calls.

Firstly, because musicals and theatre have specific roles to fill, seeking “nonwhite men and women,” and then specifying ages, is legal for companies to do. The legal principle of “bona fide occupation qualification” was cited in the article. This principle allows casting producers and directors to consider specific characteristics as factors for who is hired for specific positions.

Although having qualifications for auditions was appropriate, what was not included in the audition notices became a big concern. Typically, an audition notice will follow procedures, including a call to all ethnicities and racial backgrounds. The article states that audition notices usually include a line such as, “Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to attend.” The production of Hamilton did not have this caveat in its notices, and so many felt it was discriminatory.

If you have questions or concerns about discrimination in the workplace, or other employment law concerns, please contact employment attorney Steven Mitchell Sack at 917-371-8000.

Bloomberg Settles Overtime Wages Case in New York

Recently, the New York Post reported that Bloomberg, a financial media company, has agreed to pay $3.2 million in a settlement for overtime wages.  The Manhattan federal class-action lawsuit was initiated by customer service employees who claimed they were not compensated for overtime.

It was reported that Bloomberg has a “notoriously demanding work culture.” This is exemplified by the accessibility through technology for one employee to know if another employee is in their terminal and logged in through their cell phone. The same technology shows who has entered and exited the building at any given time.

In furtherance of this demanding environment, salaried employees communicated that they felt pressured to come in early, work through lunch, stay late, and then take work home. Bloomberg denied some of the allegations made by employees, and stated that even if a specific employee worked overtime, they were not entitled to extra pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York labor laws. In the end, Bloomberg chose to settle the case before it reached the trial stage.

If you are in a dispute over wages, contact an experienced employment attorney who will work to ensure that your rights are protected.  Contact an experienced New York Employment Attorney who will get you the compensation you deserve.  Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at

Significant Employee versus Independent Contractor Developments

All companies must now be familiar with the Labor Department’s new rules defining independent contractor versus employee status for several reasons.  In addition to working for principals as an independent worker, many rep firms hire employees to assist in their businesses.  When are workers employees? When are they contractors?  These are differences in definitions that have huge legal implications.

In light of recent cases involving Uber drivers, and a push to recover more revenue (e.g., last year the Labor Department forced companies to pay tens of millions of dollars in back wages to more than 100,000 workers in the janitorial, temporary help, food services, day care, and hotel industries), the Labor Department recently issued new guidelines intended to help companies answer that increasingly complicated question.  The shift is to classify workers as employees, so EORA employers must be more careful because they owe a higher duty to employees than they do to independent contractors.  Additionally, contractors aren’t eligible for overtime pay, unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation. They typically pay all their Social Security taxes compared to employees, who split their cost with employers.

The new standard is broader than guidelines previously followed by many states and the IRS.  Now, a worker who is “economically dependent” on the employer should be treated as an employee; by contrast, a worker must be in business for themselves to be an independent contractor.  No longer is the focus primarily on how much control the employer has over the worker.

Thus, businesses who utilize independent sales personnel or contractors who supply administrative, supervisory, or managerial duties should speak to their accountants about whether they should modify the arrangement to make them employees.  Paying workers as employees could possibly minimize legal and tax exposure.  If both parties still desire independent status, preparing a simple document reflecting this could help the parties clearly understand the legal relationship.

If you need guidance on the legal consequences of employee versus independent contractor status, contact an experienced employment attorney who will help ensure that your rights are protected.  Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000.

Beware of Signing Employment Contracts with Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive covenants are provisions in employment agreements that prohibit a person from working for a competitor after leaving his or her employer. The effect of such clauses varies greatly. In addition from limiting a former employee’s job opportunities, a restrictive covenant allows an employer to restrict the former employee from starting a business or forming a venture with others that competes against the former employer; contacting or soliciting former or current customers or employees of the former employer; and using confidential knowledge, trade secrets and other privileged information learned while working for the former employer. Many employers also place time and geographical restrictions in these covenants.

Believe it or not, such restrictive clauses are not always enforceable. Although every case is different, judges have been taking dimmer views of such attempts to restrict an employee’s livelihood. Whether or not such covenants are legal, defending lawsuits involving restrictive covenants is time-consuming and expensive, so employers should avoid placing such clauses in an employment contract. Many employers have a better chance of having their covenants enforced with a shorter geographic restriction, when such customers were procured by the company (not the employee) and when the prohibition period is no longer than 6-12 months.

Many employers have a tendency to “hang” such a clause over the individual’s head by threatening to institute legal action after a person’s resignation or termination. This can discourage employees from contacting prospective employers and customers in their industry. In many states, a covenant is not enforceable if it restricts a person’s right to work (especially if their trade is the only means of support); when the covenant is used by the company solely to protect its turf; when trade secrets are not involved; or if the person must work to support a family member with special needs or if their spouse is seriously ill. If your ex-employer threatens to sue you in order to enforce the covenant, be sure to contact an employment attorney immediately. During the trial, judges tend to be more sympathetic to the employees, so it wouldn’t be wise to badmouth your former employer in court.

Before an employee starts a job, they should carefully review and resist signing contracts with restrictive covenants, especially those that contain a liquidated damages provision (meaning that the company will ask the former employee to return part of their compensation or forfeit their benefits in the event they violate the agreement). They should also read what the covenant entails. If they feel the time restriction is excessive (i.e., two years), they should negotiate for a shorter timeframe (such as three months) and insist on the right to receive continued salary and other benefits while the restrictive covenant is in effect. Everything is negotiable before you sign on the dotted line.

Once your signature is on the contract, you may be bound by its terms. Also, be sure to obtain a copy of the agreement, then put it in a safe place. This saves you time and legal fees in trying to find it when you resign or are terminated.

If you are asked to sign an employment contract that contains a restrictive covenant, please contact an experienced employment law attorney first. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000.