Abercrombie and Fitch Faces Another Lawsuit Based on Religious Discrimination

Abercrombie and Fitch has been subjected to several lawsuits in the last few years based on the company’s appearance policy.  CEO Mike Jeffries was quoted in 2013 remarking that the company’s objective is to target “good looking people” which is why they “hire good looking people.”  The company has been accused of discrimination based on weight, physical disabilities, appearance, and religion.

On February 25, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning a previously filed EEOC complaint regarding one of Abercrombie and Fitch’s personal appearance policies.  A teenager who had applied for a sales position with the company was not hired because she was required to wear a head scarf as part of her religious beliefs.  This is similar to a lawsuit won against Abercrombie and Fitch in 2010 in which the plaintiff was fired for refusing to remove her religious head scarf while working on the floor.   A decision is expected by July.

Under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer cannot discriminate against employees for their religious practices and must reasonably accommodate their religious needs.  Furthermore, an employer may not fire an employee due to her religious beliefs or apply personal appearance rules to religious observers that are discriminatory and inconsistent with their beliefs.

In order to avoid lawsuits, the following summarizes what companies are obligated to do:

  • Employers have an obligation to make reasonable accommodations to the religious needs of employees.
  • Employers must give time off for the Sabbath or holy days except in an emergency.
  • If employees don’t come to work, employers may give them leave without pay, may require equivalent time to be made up, or may allow employees to charge the time against any other leave with pay, except sick pay.
  • Employers may not discriminatorily apply personal appearance rules to religious observers.
  • Employers may not fire workers as a result of their religious beliefs.

If you or a loved one believes that you have been fired or received poor treatment due to personal appearance practices required by your religious beliefs, you may have a legal claim. Contact an experienced New York Employment Attorney who will fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

Should You Be Compensated for Time Spent in Workplace Security Checkpoint?

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled that companies are not obliged to pay employees for the time they spend undergoing security checks at the end of their shifts.

The case presenting the issue of overtime pay involved the elite online marketplace Amazon.com and employees of a company in Nevada responsible for processing and shipping amazon purchases.

Specifically, the employees of the Nevada company had sued the company for back wages and overtime pay. They claimed that they should have been compensated for time spent in security screenings. While the employees claimed that such screenings, designed to prevent against theft, took up to 30-minutes, Amazon maintained, that the screening process is designed to take 90-seconds per employee.

In a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court determined that the employees could not claim compensation for time spent undergoing a 30-minute screening aimed at protecting against theft. Read more

United States Supreme Court to Take on Pregnancy in the Workplace

The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case (Young v. UPS, 12-1226) that has the potential to affect how pregnant workers are accommodated in the workplace.

The case involves popular package and parcel shipping company, UPS, and a female employee who had been working as a driver in Landover, Maryland. After becoming pregnant in 2006, the employee submitted a doctor’s note backing her request for a temporary assignment to avoid lifting heavy packages.

UPS declined to accommodate the employee and doctor’s request, reiterating its policy that drivers must be able to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. Unable to comply with the company’s policy, she left work and returned two months after having delivered her baby. During this two month period, consequently, the employee lost her health insurance, and couldn’t collect unemployment because she wasn’t fired.

Specifically, the question that the Supreme Court will address is whether UPS was required to accommodate its pregnant employee since it gave temporary assignments to other workers, including those who were injured on the job or had a condition that was covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read more

Are You Eligible for Overtime Pay in New York?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) automatically qualifies certain types of workers who meet overtime pay requirements for guaranteed overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a single week (or daily overtime limits set by New York overtime laws). If your work involves manual labor (such as construction worker, factory attendant, cashier, etc.) you most likely fall within the protections of overtime law.

Additionally, certain specific job positions such as first-responders, police, paramedics, and firefighters, are specifically offered overtime protection under the FLSA as well as practical nurses and paralegals, who would otherwise fall under the exempted category. These specific protections are in place because these particular professionals often endure long hours of work, and may be otherwise exploited or overworked by their employers.

Overtime Exemptions in New York State

Overtime laws in New York State are designed to prevent workers from being exploited by their employers. Hourly wage earners are the primary protected group. Because of the nature of the work environment and working hours required by certain careers, there are a wide variety of specific exemptions to New York overtime eligibility. Out of an estimated 120 million workers in America, almost 50 million are exempt from overtime laws, including:

  • Executives, administrators, and other professionals earning at least $455 per week do not have to be paid overtime under Section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • External salespeople (who often set their own hours) are also exempted from NY overtime requirements, as are some types of computer-related workers.
  • Independent contractors, who are not considered legal employees, are also exempt from overtime law.
  • Other exempt positions include some transportation workers, certain agricultural and farm workers, and some live-in employees such as housekeepers.

In order to determine if a job is exempt from overtime, the FLSA provides a series of tests to determine the overtime eligibility of an employee based on pay rate, working conditions, skill level, and other factors.

If your job position does not fall into one of the four main exemption categories to overtime law (executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales) your job is eligible for overtime protection under New York and Federal overtime law. Your employer is required by law to pay you an overtime premium for all qualifying overtime hours worked.

If your employer owes you overtime pay, or if you are unsure about your eligibility, an New York employment attorney will work with you to ensure you receive your fair wages for all hours worked. A skilled employment attorney can afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected.

Army Found to Have Unlawfully Discriminated Against Transgender Employee

In a recent groundbreaking decision announced on October 23, 2014, the United States Office of Special Council found that the United States Army discriminated against a transgender civilian worker who transitioned from male to female.

According to the report, the employee, a disabled vet, was working in the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (“AMRDEC”) in Redstone, Alabama, when she transitioned from male to female in 2010.

During that time, the Office of Special Council found that her employer engaged in a several discriminatory practices including, improperly restricting her restroom usage, referencing her with male pronouns, excessively monitoring her conversations with coworkers, and not giving her work. Read more

Employee or Independent Contractor? How Some Employers Are Committing Wage Theft

A September 1, 2014 report by the New York Times, revealed an increase in lawsuits across the nation, charging various employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws. Some of the allegations include erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips.

Both federal and state officials argue that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before.  Officials speculate that these violations are motivated by competition and higher profits. However, another argument supposes that the structure of these businesses essentially incentivizes wage theft due to their organizational structure.

For example, the labor department argues that the increased use of franchise operators, subcontractors, and temp agencies leads to more employers being squeezed on costs and more cutting corners. As a result, the companies on top can deny any knowledge of wage theft. Read more

LinkedIn to Pay Millions for Overtime Labor Violations

The popular professional social media networking service, LinkedIn, has recently agreed to pay almost $6 million in unpaid wages and damages to 359 current and former employees.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an investigation found LinkedIn Corp. in violation of overtime and record-keeping rules pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It said the violations occurred at company branches in California, Illinois, Nebraska and New York.

Federal law requires that hourly employees get paid 1.5 times their regular hourly rates for hours they work beyond 40 per week. The California based company expressed its intent to work closely with the DOL. Representatives for the company maintain that the violations stemmed from a smaller division of the company not having the right tools in place needed to track hours properly. LinkedIn further maintained that it had begun addressing the situation before the Department of Labor got involved. Read more

New Bill to Tighten Restrictions on Employer Inquiry into Applicant Criminal Record

A new NYC Council bill proposes barring employers from asking job candidates if they have a criminal record, or have ever been convicted of a crime, and is expected to become law in New York City very soon.

The ‘Ban the Box’ bill would will essentially prohibit the widely used “check boxes” on job applications that ask about past convictions. Furthermore, the new legislation would prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until a conditional job offer has been offered.

A number of states have similar laws. For example, New Jersey’s recently passed a box-banning law that applies to businesses with 15 or more workers. According to sources, New York City will adopt a similar proposal and the law will likely apply to business with four or more employees.

Currently, an employee can legally reject an applicant because of a past conviction.  However, they must go through a mechanical process that, if not properly followed, is likely to result in unlawful discrimination.  Read more

Paid Sick Leave Law Now In Effect for New York City

New York City has become the latest city to adopt a paid sick leave law that will guarantee paid time off for many NYC employees. The law is expected to affect up to 500,000 employees.

On March 20, 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law The NYC Paid Sick Leave Act. The new rules and regulations went into effect on July 30th 2014.

So how does the new paid leave law affect employees?

Essentially, the new law requires that employers with five or more employees provide all employees with up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.  Such paid sick leave may be earned by any employee who performs more than 80 hours of work in NYC in a calendar year. The law further stipulates that an employee must accrue at least one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked. Up to 40 hours of unused sick leave may carry over to the following calendar year, although employers are only required to allow use of up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. Read more

Victims of Unfair Wage and Benefit Practices See Increased Effort by State of New York

Already in the first half of this year (2014), the New York Department of Labor has recovered and dispersed over 16.4 million in wages, interest, and damages, on behalf of workers who were improperly subjected to unfair wages and insufficient benefits.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), officials have completed approximately 5000 cases in 6 months alone, representing a nearly 50% increase from the amount of cases completed within the same time frame last year. Furthermore, disbursements of monies and benefits that were found to be unfairly withheld have increased by 16%. Generally, these case investigations  centered around accusations of fraud, unpaid wages, misclassification of employees, unemployment benefits, insufficient pay, minimum wage violations and much more.   Read more