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.

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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.

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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.

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Supreme Court Rules Severance Pay Can Be Taxed Under FICA

The Supreme Court recently ruled that lump sum severance payments made to laid-off employees can be subject to FICA taxes. This overrules a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court, which ruled that such payments did not have to be taxed.

In the case of U.S. v. Quality Stores, the store claimed $1 million in FICA tax refunds when it laid off thousands of employees after entering bankruptcy in 2001. In the fall of 2012, the Sixth Circuit ruled that the severance was not subject to FICA taxes.

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Former Employee Loses Job After Reporting Discrimination

As an employee, you spend much of your time and energy dedicated to your work and career. In return, you expect compensation but you also expect to be treated fairly, honestly and with respect. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination occurs all too often around the country and it acts a reminder of the difficulties many employees have to face.

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NYC Pregnancy Protections in Effect; Federal Law Still Stalled

Although it may seem to be a primitive concept to many, that pregnant women deserve the same protections that other groups receive regarding employment laws, it is not the case. While there have been some small and local victories, a national victory has yet to be gained.

Despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978’s bar on discrimination toward pregnant employees, many American women are forced out of their jobs or denied accommodations that would allow them to continue working once they become pregnant.

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Golf Course Accused of Age Discrimination by Former Employee

Ramon Alcantara, a former employee of Pebble Beach Co. for over 20 years, alleges he was fired as a result of age discrimination late in 2013. According to the complaint, Alcantara, who is over 55 years of age, injured his back while replacing a 50-pound pump motor at the beach and tennis club.

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Haitian Nurse Sues New York Hospital for Racial Discrimination

Diana St Gerard, 64, a nurse in the mental health unit at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, Long Island claims that she was mocked by colleagues who said her Haitian accent was “irritating.” More importantly, Ms. St Gerard alleges that she was fired after complaining that several white staffers discriminated against her, minority patients and their families. She went on to explain that a co-worker even mocked her with a voodoo doll because of her nationality.

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Changes to New York Unemployment Insurance Law

By now every employer, employee and individual is aware of the U.S. recession. Although the nation is in recovery, there are still consequences of the protracted recession.  Due to the recession, employer contributions to the New York State Unemployment Insurance Fund have been insufficient to cover the benefits paid out to individuals. As a result, the Unemployment Insurance Fund is grossly underfunded, which has required New York to borrow $3.5 billion from the federal government. In order to repay this loan and avoid significant interest charges, New York has recently enacted a number of “reforms” that are expected to save the state $200 million.

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New Jersey Limits Employer Access to Employees’ Social Media Accounts

A new law which took effect on December 1, 2013 makes New Jersey the latest of a growing number of states – including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington – that prohibit employers from requesting access to the social media accounts of current or prospective employees. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against any such individual who either refuses to provide such access or who complains about what he or she believes to be a violation of the law.

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