The New York State Department of Human Rights (NYSDHR) has announced that it has stopped the policy of discontinuing complaints about labor and employment violations after the parties have reached a private settlement. Supporters of the change say that it will help to prevent future labor and employment abuses. However, critics of the new policy say that it will harm people’s ability to obtain private settlements, dragging out cases for months or years and encouraging more employers to go to trial.
What is a Private Settlement?
Typically speaking, a complaint by an employee against their employer will involve both a public complaint made to a government authority (such as the NYSDHR) and a private lawsuit against the employer. While the government agency commences its inquiry into the activities of the employer, the employer and the employee will typically negotiate some kind of deal, known as a private settlement. This settlement typically involves the employee accepting some portion of the damages they sought against their employer, in exchange for dropping the lawsuit, thereby avoiding a trial.
What is This New Policy About?
Until now, it was considered customary for the employer and employee, upon reaching a private settlement, to ask for a discontinuance of the public complaint. Once the complaint is discontinued, it is considered over, as far as the government agency is concerned. According to the new announcement, however, the NYSDHR will no longer agree to any request for a discontinuance of a complaint in any case where the discontinuance is due to a private settlement between the parties.
Why Make This Change?
According to the NYSDHR, the reason behind this change was that these private settlements allow companies to escape accountability for their actions. The terms of private settlements, in addition to requesting a discontinuance of the public complaint, also typically leave no public record of the employer’s misconduct, and absolve the employer from accepting accountability for any harm the employee suffered. This allows abusive employers to walk away with no legal consequences other than the money they must pay for the settlement.
What Do People Think of This Change?
Opinions are mixed about this proposed change. On the one hand, it could allow the government to better hold abusive employers accountable by preventing them from using private settlements to shield themselves. On the other hand, some fear this will stop employers from seeking settlements, since they know they will continue to face legal troubles even after settling with an employee. Still, it is important for employees who suffer from abuse at the hands of their employer to seek a lawyer as soon as possible.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 40 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000 or visit his contact page.