|October 15, 2013||Appeals court determines award is subject to withholding||no comments|
|October 10, 2013||New laws restrict access to employee social media accounts||no comments|
|September 11, 2013||Supreme Court Ruling puts limits on employer liability in harassment cases||no comments|
|August 29, 2013||Obama NLRB Appointments Overturned by 3rd Appeals Court||no comments|
|August 27, 2013||How the Supreme Court’s Decision on DOMA Affects Employers||no comments|
|July 25, 2013||Warning Employers: New Equality Laws Coming Down the Pike||no comments|
|July 11, 2013||Sex discrimination can haunt you long after the fact||no comments|
|June 20, 2013||Hold on to your hats employers: Unemployment discrimination becomes illegal in New York City||no comments|
|June 06, 2013||Is your sexual harassment policy effective?||no comments|
|May 31, 2013||Warning: Your social media policies may get you in trouble with the NLRB||no comments|
In Noel v. New York State Office of Mental Health Central New York State Psychiatric Center, an employee sued his employer under Title VII and won a $318,217 judgment. Part of that judgment included $280,000 for back and front pay. The employer sent a check directly to the employee for the net amount after withholding of $139,582.
The employee returned to court and argued that he was entitled to the full award. Stating that since the settlement was a jury award the payment wasn’t wages subject to withholding because was a judgment against a liable party. The employer, argued that according to the tax code that the award was taxable wages—and the Internal Revenue Service took the employer’s side. The trial court ruled in favor of the employee and instructed the employer to repay the withheld taxes.
However, the federal appeals court reversed that decision and ruled that the award was wages and subject to withholding. Stating that Title VII awards for back and front pay are wages, and employers have a duty to withhold federal and state income taxes and FICA taxes.
This is a good illustration to employers who are involved in employment litigation. Ensure that your management and HR personnel know that back and front wages are subject to withholding and fully taxable. And settlement agreements should include language that clearly spells this out so there is no confusion regarding the taxability of payments.
Talk to an employment law attorney today
Whenever possible, it is preferable to avoid litigation with current and former employees. However, when you need to go to court an experienced NY employment law attorney be an invaluable resource. If you are facing an employment lawsuit or investigation or if you need help to avoid employment disputes contact us online or call 718-275-6700 to schedule a consultation today.
In 2012, state legislatures started introducing laws to restrict employers from obtaining user names and passwords to employees' personal and private social media accounts. As 2013 rolls forward, the trend is continuing with proposed legislation 26 states . Twelve states already have such laws in place enacted since the beginning of 2012.
Champions of keeping employers out of employee’s personal social media accounts site privacy as the issue and claim that employer’s concerns about protecting proprietary company information is already covered by other laws. Further they claim that employers screening social media accounts of job applicants are dancing dangerously close to discrimination issues, which is expressly illegal.
Businesses are fighting back and state that the new laws keeping them out of employee’s social media accounts provide a venue for employees to divulge proprietary information and inhibit their ability to investigate such matters. Some states, are trying to add amendments to allow companies to require access to personal digital accounts when investigating allegations that the employee has given away proprietary company information or has engaged in other forms of workplace misconduct In Colorado, employers can request access to their employees' personal accounts when investigating reported breaches of compliance, regulatory and securities laws; and company proprietary information or financial data
However, it is clear in the Colorado law that fishing expeditions are forbidden and the employer must have supporting information to pursue this avenue of investigation—and fines can be assessed against employers for violations.
The states and legal guidance
States with such laws already on the books include:
• New Mexico
States with pending legislation include:
• New Hampshire
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• North Dakota
• Rhode Island
• West Virginia
In Vance v. Ball State University, the Supreme Court considered the definition of supervisor to determine employers’ liability for workplace harassment . At the heart of the case was the issue of whether a supervisor was an employee with authority to direct and oversee work or, an employee who had the power to take employment actions such as hiring, firing, demotion, promotion, or discipline on a harassment victim.
The importance of the distinction
Making this distinction was important because under the Civil Rights Act, the position of the harasser affects the level of employer liability. For example, if the harasser is only the victim’s coworker, the employer is only liable if it failed to control working conditions. However, if the harasser is a supervisor and some action is taken against the victim, the employer is exposed to a higher level of liability.
Even when no definitive action is taken, the employer is still required to show that reasonable action was taken to prevent and quickly correct any harassment. Further, the employer would also need to show that the harassed employee failed to avail themselves of preventive or corrective opportunities the employer provided.
In the Vance case, a female employee filed a suit against her employer, alleging that another employee created a racially hostile work environment. In both the district court and the appeals court, the employer was found not liable because the harassing employee was not a supervisor.
The plaintive took the case to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 vote the high court ruled that, for the purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII, an employee is a supervisor only if they have the authority to take tangible employment actions against the victim.
Talk to a NY Employment Law Attorney About Your Harassment Policies
A harassment lawsuit against your company can have devastating effects. A NY employment law attorney can provide advice and guidance on how to best craft your harassment policies so your company is protected. Stephen D. Hans & Associates has helped New York employers develop company policies that protect them against lawsuits for 34 years. To discuss your harassment policies or other employment law matters, contact our office or call (718)275-6700 to schedule an appointment.
On July 17th the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA became the third court to rule that President Obama’s recess appointments of National Labor Review Board members last year was unlawful.
In the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Clyde Hamilton wrote: “We conclude that the president’s three Jan. 4, 2012, appointments to the board are constitutionally infirm, because the appointments were not made during ‘the recess of the Senate.’”
In 2012, appeals courts both in Washington and Philadelphia had also ruled that the appointments violated the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause, which threw hundreds of previous NLRB decisions into question after the rulings.
Employers win because of the court’s ruling
The latest ruling by the Virginia court canceled NLRB decisions against two employers who contended that the board lacked a legally appointed quorum.
The Richmond case is National Labor Relations Board v. Enterprise Leasing Co.-Southeast LLC, 12-01514, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Richmond). The Washington case is Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board, 12-01115, 12-01153, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).
Contact an Employment Law Attorney
If the trend continues in the courts and ultimately in the Supreme Court, where the Obama Administration intends to be heard on the matter, many employers could benefit by having NLRB rulings overturned. Employers who have pending cases before the board or anticipate other dealings before the NLRB are advised to discuss the matter with an experienced employment law attorney. Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C., have advocated for New York employer for 34 years. To discuss your NLRB or other employment law matter, contact our office or call 718-275-6700 to schedule an appointment.
On June 26th the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA's exclusion of state-sanctioned, same-sex marriages from the federal definition of marriage is unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor. This decision has now changed the rules on how employers administer health and benefits in states that recognize same-sex marriage.
Though only thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently permit same-sex marriage, employers may want to consider making changes to their benefit plans anyway. It is possible that in the near future, other states will sanction same-sex marriages and getting ahead of the trend could in the long run, create improved employee relations, and provide administrative simplicity.
Changes in benefits in states that recognize same-sex marriage
Before Windsor, offering special enrollment under HIPAA to a same-sex spouse was the employer’s decision, now employers are required to offer special enrollment to a same-sex spouse who is eligible for HIPAA coverage.
Before Windsor, employers were not required to offer COBRA to an employee's same-sex spouse or the children of a same-sex spouse enrolled in coverage under group health plans. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, however, employers are required to offer an employee's same-sex spouse and children independent COBRA election rights to continue coverage under group health plans.
Other plans and benefits that are affected by the recent decision include health savings accounts and dependent care assistance. Cafeteria plans, however, for the time being remain intact and are not subject to changes at this time.
Discuss your healthcare and benefit plans with a NY employment law attorney
Landmark legal decisions have a huge impact on society and also often greatly affect how a company does business. If you operate a business in a state that sanctions same-sex marriage, you should speak to an employment law attorney to determine how best to proceed in light of the Windsor decision. For 34 years, Stephen D. Hans & Associates has helped New York employers navigate the legal system and he can help you. To discuss your health plan and benefit programs or other employment law matters, contact our office or call 718-275-6700 to schedule an appointment.
Early in April of this year, a multitude of corruption and sexual harassment scandals erupted out of our state capital. I applaud those bringing the offenders to justice as those who prey on others and break the law should be punished.
However, as a result of these revelations, advocates and other officials are leveraging the troubles to enact reforms and new laws before the end of the legislative session in June.
Governor Cuomo’s response to the rash of scandals was: “There’s been bad publicity. You know how you counter bad publicity? Good publicity…” “You know how you get good publicity? Do something. Pass bills that help the people of the state of New York.”
Chief among the new bills is a favorite of the governor, the 10-point “Women’s Equality Agenda”.
How does this affect employers?
The 10-point plan covers several issues that will have a direct impact on employers, their hiring and firing practices, and their sexual harassment policies. In brief the points are:
1. Protect reproductive health and choice
2. Achieve pay equity
3. Stop sexual harassment in all workplaces
4. Allow for attorneys’ fees in employment, lending and credit discrimination cases
5. Strengthen human trafficking laws
6. End family status discrimination
7. Stop source-of-income discrimination
8. Stop housing discrimination for victims of domestic violence
9. Stop pregnancy discrimination once and for all
10. Protect victims of domestic violence by strengthening order-of-protection laws
In reviewing the list above you can see that several of these points will directly affect you as an employer. Even property owners who own rental property will be affected. So yet again, there will be more regulations, laws and rules that you will be required to comply with.
A New York employment attorney can help you stay in compliance
Scandals come and go but once something becomes law, it is usually here to stay. To learn how we can help you protect yourself and your company, contact us online or call (718)275-6700 today to schedule an appointment. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Julie Hermann, who was recently hired by Rutgers University to forge a new path for their athletics program has become the center of a storm which could turn out to be yet another Rutgers controversy. The issue is two-fold: Accusations of her misconduct in a coaching job she held in the 90s and; A 2008 sex discrimination lawsuit at Louisville when she was a senior athletics administrator.
In the 2008 case, an assistant track and field coach said she complained to Hermann about sexist behavior and discriminatory treatment by the head coach. Three weeks after taking her complaint to the human resources department, the assistant coach, Mary Banker, was fired.
The revelation of Banker’s lawsuit which holds Hermann largely responsible for Banker being fired, will probably only intensify the roiling dispute at Rutgers over the hiring of Hermann in the wake of the Mike Rice abuse case. Rice, the former men’s basketball coach, was seen berating players at practice in a video broadcast by ESPN. The video led to Rice being fired and Tim Pernetti, the athletic director resigning after Rutgers officials were criticized for suspending Rice instead of firing him when they learned of the video.
State legislators, private donors, and other critics have been very vocal about Hermann’s hire. In fact, some have asked her to resign.
Perception can be reality in discrimination cases
In the 2008 lawsuit, Banker was awarded $300,000 for mental and emotional distress, $71,875 in lost wages and $149,325 in attorney fees by the jury. However, a Kentucky appeals court overturned the verdict. Banker’s attorney is now asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to hear the case. But whether this case is ultimately decided in or against Hermann’s favor, it is likely she will always be haunted by the alleged discrimination and it will follow her wherever she goes.
Avoid the pitfalls of missteps with a NY employment lawyer’s help
No one sets out to get embroiled in employment discrimination lawsuits but it happens. An experienced NY employment defense lawyer can help you understand the potential pitfalls of handling employees and offer guidance on how to avoid mistakes. To discuss your employment policies and issues, contact us online or call 718-275-6700 today to schedule an appointment.
As of, June 11, 2013, a new law went into effect that makes discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed a violation of human rights. Violations of this law will be punished the same way that discriminating against job applicants based on race, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any other category protected by the NYC human rights law.
With the new law in place, people who believe they have been discriminated against because of their unemployment status can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or can sue you in court. Employers found in violation of the law can be found liable for:
The new discrimination law is applicable to employment agencies, employers with four or more employees and includes independent contractors who do not have their own employees.
The new law prohibits you from:
However, employers may still consider job-related qualifications including:
Steps you can take to protect your company
One of the most difficult things for employers is navigating the many new regulations and laws that go into effect, often without notice. And navigating this new job discrimination law may require the assistance of a skilled NYC employment law attorney. However you can take a few steps right now that may help, such as:
Talk to an employment law attorney today
Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. can answer your questions regarding the new human rights law. We can help you craft and change your policies so you are in compliance with the new law and other employment law compliance issues.
In our politically correct and litigious world, employers need to establish strong and specific policies regarding sexual harassment. Not only is this behavior against the law but if a sexual harassment case is proved it can affect your reputation, finances, and even the future of your company.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that it is “unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.” And sexual harassment can manifest as: unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical actions that are sexual in nature. Even offensive remarks about a person’s gender can constitute sexual harassment.
As an employer, you can be held liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. You can also be held liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom you have control such as independent contractors or customers on the premises. If the accuser can show that you knew or should have known about the situation and failed to take quick and appropriate action you may find yourself paying fines, settlements or defending employees in criminal and civil court.
The risk of EEOC complaints, civil lawsuits, hefty legal fees, and settlements of hundreds of thousands of dollars inspires the need to create a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment for your company. An experienced NY employment law attorney can help you determine the appropriate policies and steps you need to take to prevent and correct sexual harassment within your company. If you have questions about your company’s sexual harassment policies contact us online or call 718-275-6700 today to schedule an appointment.
As social media becomes the norm in everyday life, federal regulators are getting touchy about employers creating policies that limit what employees can say online.
In the past, employers have discouraged employees from making negative comments about the company or staff such as:
And if an employee was found in violation of the above, often termination occurred.
However, recent rulings have made such general restrictions illegal. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has said employees have the right to freely discuss work conditions without fear of retaliation – whether online or off line.
These actions by the NLRB have upset many companies because it is taking a law enacted during the industrial area meant to protect workers’ rights to unionize and is applying it to Internet activities of most private-sector workers.
However the NLRB claims they are merely adapting the National Labor Relations Act, to the modern day workplace.
Protect your company by modifying your social media policies
One of the best ways you can protect your company is by adopting social media policies that are focused and specific. For example: Rather than telling employees not to disclose confidential information, specify that they should not disclose, trade secrets, proprietary information, product release dates or private client details.
Even if you believe you are following the NLRB rules, putting clear limits on social media postings without crossing the line can still be tough. However, employers are still entitled to enforce workplace policies including the prohibition of:
And you can still limit the use of social media at work, during work hours, and on company equipment.
Discuss your social media policies with an employment attorney
Considering the current trend of increased regulation and oversight, it may be wise to review your current social media policies. An employment attorney can offer advice on how best to craft your policies so you remain compliant with NLRB rules and regulations. To schedule an appointment, contact our office online or call us at (718) 275-6700 today.