Understanding Wrongful Termination

Many circumstances can result in the termination of employment. A firing is often a traumatic and destabilizing event. While these unfortunate occurrences may seem untimely, unfair, and unsubstantiated; the termination may not always qualify as “wrongful.”

What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination refers to a fired employee’s claim that the firing breached an employment contract, policy or public law. As such, in order to prevail in a lawsuit against your employer for wrongful termination, you must prove that your firing violated your contract, company policy, or law. Read more

Rights of Pregnant Workers Clarified by the EEOC

In an effort to emphasize the fact that employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against workers because of past, present, or future pregnancies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently introduced new enforcement guidelines on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. This is the first time the guidelines have been updated since 1983.

Prompted by an increase in the filing of pregnancy discrimination complaints over the last decade, and the correspondingly high number of legal defeats dealt to employer defendants, the EEOC developed the new guidelines to provide clarification about the applicable rules pertaining to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read more

NY Attorney General Addresses Job Recruitment Discrimination

Discrimination at work can often manifest itself well before a job seeker has had the opportunity to even secure full- or part-time employment.

Recently, the Office of the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, came to a series of agreements with five New York City-based employment agencies in an effort to resolve allegations of unlawful discrimination and predatory business practices.

The five agencies — Sunset Employment Services, Rivera Employment Agency, Patricia Employment Agency, United Employment Agency and Excellent Employment Agency —  were charged with allegedly targeting Spanish-speaking job seekers whom they unlawfully steered away from high-paying jobs and unlawfully referred them to employment positions paying a mere $3.75 per hour. Furthermore, the agencies also allegedly charged job seekers excessive referral fees and failed to provide refunds of advance fees. Read more

Federal Bill Proposal Seeks To Raise Overtime Threshold

In a combined effort to ensure overtime protections for low- and mid-wage salaried workers, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with eight Senate officials, recently introduced the Restoring Overtime Pay for Working Americans Act.

Presently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guarantees a minimum wage and overtime pay for private-sector U.S. workers. However, many workers are considered “exempt” from the law, partly because of a salary threshold, $23,660 per year or $455 per week, which is specifically directed at managers and “professional” employees.

Essentially, salaried workers who earn at least that amount of money or more, along with other criteria, are not eligible for time-and-a-half for overtime.

If passed, the bill would ensure overtime protections by guaranteeing coverage to nearly 47 percent of salaried workers. Currently, only 12 percent of salaried workers enjoy such protections, representing a stark decline from the 67 percent mark in 1975.

Among its key provisions, the bill narrows the term “Primary Duty.” Primary duty previously referred to work which was performed the majority (more than 50%) of the time.  However, regulations issued in 2004 removed the majority requirement, thus allowing a worker to be exempt even if he or she spent only a few hours a week managing or performing other exempt duties.

More promisingly, the bill provides for a gradual overtime salary threshold increase for administrative and professional (EAP) workers from the current $455 a week level to $1,090 a week, essentially matching 1975 levels. In addition, the bill provides for a gradual increase for “highly-compensated employees,” by raising the threshold from $100,000- $125,000.

Simply stated, the Restoring Overtime Pay for Working Americans Act would make it more difficult for employers to declare a worker a managers they do not actually spend most their time managing. Indeed, as one sponsoring Senator noted, “Americans who work hard and play by the rules should be fairly compensated for a hard day’s work.”

Age Discrimination: L.I. Based Company Forced to Pay

A Melville insurance brokerage has agreed to pay $300,000 in back wages to settle a lawsuit accusing it of age-based harassment, discrimination and retaliation against three former employees. The suit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2013.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that the company’s management made discriminatory age-related comments and refused to promote one of the claimants based on her age. The agency also said that the employer terminated two employees based on their age and fired a third claimant within three days after an internal meeting with her about her discrimination complaint. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal to discriminate against those 40 and older. Retaliation against employees who file discrimination claims is also illegal.   Read more

New York City Employers Must Give Notice on Pregnancy Rights

At the start of the new year (2014), the Pregnancy Accommodation Law acted as a new amendment to the already-expansive New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The law took effect on January 30, 2014, for newly-hired employees and is about to take effect for existing and current employees on May 30th.

Read more

National Labor Relations Board Imposes Decertification Penalties

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) showed they meant business when they ruled that nine workers who decertified their union in 2012 still had to pay it another year’s worth of membership dues because they sent in some of the paperwork too early. The NLRB ruling sent out a warning by the Federal government message was loud and clear:  if you are a worker who is trying to exit your union, dot every “i,” cross every “t” and double- and triple-check everything you do. Otherwise, it may cost you a lot.

The case involved nine employees at a Brooklyn condo complex.  These workers voted unanimously, in 2012, to get rid of United Workers of America Local 621 as their bargaining representative. The following week, the workers individually sent the union letters announcing that they “elected to terminate any and all such membership obligations” with it. However the NLRB did not officially recognize the decertification vote until 10 days after the union received the workers’ letters on the basis of that Local 621 claimed it never received proper termination letters. The union (Local 621) was able to persuade the workers’ employer to continue to deduct membership dues from their paychecks for another full year after they voted to get rid of it.

The workers filed a complaint, and an administrative NLRB judge ruled in their favor in July 2012, finding that the letters should not have been invalidated just for being a few days early. But the NLRB overturned that ruling late in April 2014 stating: “Contrary to the judge, we find that premature revocations of dues check-off authorizations do not become valid upon certification of deauthorization election results.”

The case spotlights the technicalities employees face every day. If you or a loved one believe you have been victim of unfair labor and/or employment practices you have the right to fight back! Contact a skilled employment law attorney for the representation you deserve and to ensure your legal rights are protected.

Federal Whistleblower Suit Rejected

A former examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has claimed she was fired as a result of her complaints about practices at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. However, a federal district court in New York has dismissed the claim, stating the conduct alleged by the former examiner does not violate the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act.

According to the former employee, she was hired as a senior examiner in October 2011 and was immediately put to work examining Goldman Sachs’s conflicts of interest program. During her employment, she soon discovered that Goldman Sachs did not have a firm-wide conflict of interest program that met the requirements of the Federal Reserve Board’s Supervision and Regulation Letter 08-08. SR 08-08 applies generally to risk management procedures for all large banking organizations with complex risk profiles, sets minimum standards for detecting and addressing a number of types of risk, and explicitly includes conflicts of interest risks. Read more

Bed Bath & Beyond Fined for Discriminating Against Job Applicants

It is no surprise that individuals convicted of a crime experience hardships when looking for employment. However, can an employer deny an applicant simply based on the fact that the applicant is an ex-con? Earlier this April, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reminded mega-store Bed Bath & Beyond that those types of discriminatory hiring practices are illegal in New York.

During the investigation, Schneiderman’s office found Bed Bath & Beyond automatically disqualified job applicants with felony convictions without evaluating their criminal records individually, as required by state law. Under New York law, employers are barred from automatically disqualifying any prospective hire on the basis of a criminal record and require a more individualized assessment into the job applicant. A company must still look at the nature of a past crime and responsibilities of the particular job in considering an ex-offender. Read more

Steven Mitchell Sack Wins Settlement for Client in Sexual Harassment Case

Steven Mitchell Sack successfully reached a settlement on behalf of a dental hygienist who was allegedly sexually harassed by her boss. The woman was fired after she filed a sexual harassment complaint to the owner of the dental practice (and the alleged perpetrators) and told the owner that she would no longer tolerate her boss’ physical groping and sexual comments related to her body.

With Mr. Sack’s assistance, the woman filed a complaint against the dentist with the New York City Human Rights Commission. The settlement included money to compensate her for her emotional pain and suffering and loss of future wages.