Stephen Hans Blog by cjleclaire
Employment and Labor Law Attorneys
Jan 16, 2013 | 14419 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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NYC Employment Law — Pre-tax Transit Benefits
by cjleclaire
Dec 17, 2014 | 568 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

As employers, sometimes it is difficult to keep with the employment law changes, which is why you should consult periodically with an employment defense lawyer and stay apprised of new laws.

At the end of October 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Affordable Transit Act  into law. Under the new law, NYC companies with 20 or more full-time employees must offer their employees pre-tax transit benefits. The new act follows the limits already established by the IRS , which allows a $130 pre-tax benefit that can be deducted from salaries for mass transit expenses. Advantages the new law offer for employers and employees are:

  • Employees can opt into the new program and save over $400 a year on Metro Card expenses
  • Employers save more than $100 a year per employee in tax liability
  • An estimated 450,000 New Yorkers not currently offered pre-tax transit benefits now have access to them

The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2016. Employers violating the law are subject to civil penalties but have 90 days to correct a violation before having the penalty imposed. Also businesses have a grace period until July 1, 2016 to adjust to the law and are not subject to penalties occurring prior to that date.

The intent of the new law is to make mass transit more affordable for New Yorkers, and it is also an initiative aligned with deal with climate changes.

Stay on top of legal changes by consulting with skilled lawyers. Our employment defense attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates offer employers decades of legal experience that helps protect their rights along with their bottom lines.

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Wage and Hour Regulation Pitfalls
by cjleclaire
Dec 10, 2014 | 2034 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Business owners can get themselves into trouble when not understanding wage and hours laws. What appears to be a bright idea that cuts corners and saves money is sometimes a violation that leads to costly consequences.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wages and standards for overtime pay, and federal enforcement falls under the United States Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

Some common wage and hour pitfalls that a NY employment litigation lawyer can help you avoid include:

  • Voluntary work hours. Even though employees work off the clock voluntarily past their scheduled work hours, they must receive overtime compensation for that work done. Documenting all employee work is necessary to protect your rights as an employer, and any work exceeding 40 hours, even though not at the employer's request, must be paid.
  • Travel time. When your employees travel as part of the job, calculating work time and overtime pay can be challenging. By consulting with an experienced employment litigation lawyer, you can receive legal advice about travel policies that comply with wage and hours law.
  • Employee misclassification. Business owners must classify employees based on their job duties and hourly wages or salaries. Salaried employees generally do not receive overtime pay, whereas hourly employees do. The types of duties the employees perform are the basis for classifying an employee and in particular whether the duties include management. Classifying an hourly employee as a manager when the employee has no management responsibilities is misclassification, which can be subject to disputes and claims or lawsuits. Our attorneys can help you ensure your employees' classifications fall within the letter of the law.

Stephan Hans & Associates can help you comply with wage and hour laws for your business in the New York City area, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester.

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Are You Staying on Top of Regulations that Affect Your Restaurant?
by cjleclaire
Dec 04, 2014 | 2983 views | 0 0 comments | 97 97 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A recent change in regulations predicted to arrive soon is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will release a national menu labeling standard for chain restaurants. The standard will address calorie and nutritional information required on menus and at point of sale.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) explains the relevance of the new standard for restaurant owners. The new menu label standard is covered by the 2010 health care law. This federal law takes priority over state and local rules and limits a restaurant's legal liability. The new standard will only apply to chain restaurants operating in 20 or more locations under the same brand name. Restaurants the new standards apply to will have a six month grace period once the standard is officially released before having to comply.

The NRA has worked closely in collaboration with regulators to protect restaurant owners who are making good-faith efforts to comply so they are not subjected to penalties for human errors or reasonable fluctuations in ingredients or service sizes. Also, restaurants are allowed the freedom to present easily understood nutritional information to consumers in their own way.

Through a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Department of Health Policy, the NRA indicates restaurant chains have reduced calories in many of their menu items, providing consumers with healthier choices. The study reviewed more than 60 large chain restaurants. Statistics showed a 12 percent drop in calories in 2013 menu items over 2012 menu items. These efforts on the part of restaurants show a willingness to comply with regulations that promote health and wellness, which is also the purpose in the upcoming menu standards for consumer nutritional information.

Do you have questions about meeting restaurant regulatory rules? Stephan Hans & Associates advises businesses and helps them implement regulations. The firm also represents employers in disputes with regulatory agencies. We are a well-established employment litigation firm located in Long Island City, Queens and our employment litigation experience dates back to 1979.
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What about Wellness Programs as Part of Health Coverage?
by cjleclaire
Nov 28, 2014 | 3955 views | 0 0 comments | 148 148 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Today many companies offering health insurance also provide wellness programs, which are a preventative medicine approach to health. Today, 94 percent of employers with more than 400 employees and 63 percent of smaller companies offer some type of wellness program, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

In a recent case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Flambeau, Inc., a Wisconsin based company, the court found that the company was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Flambeau required employees to submit to biometric testing and a health assessment as part of its wellness program. Failure to do so resulted in canceling the employee’s medical insurance and unspecified disciplinary action.

The court had no disagreement with voluntary wellness programs, but the program Flambeau offered was anything but voluntary since it could result in penalizing an employee who refused testing and assessment by making that employee pay 100 percent for health coverage premium costs. Also, Flambeau’s biometric testing and assessment of disabilities were not job related and they violated the ADA, which prohibits making disability-related inquiries.

If you already have an existing wellness program or are considering incorporating one, it is wise to discuss the matter with your lawyer beforehand to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.

Stephan Hans & Associates has provided employers with effective legal advice and representation for more than thirty years. If your business is in the New York City area, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester, we are glad to provide you with trustworthy legal assistance.

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What Is the Professional Exception to Employment At-Will Termination?
by cjleclaire
Nov 04, 2014 | 7079 views | 0 0 comments | 280 280 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Author: Stephen D. Hans

As described in our earlier blog article, there are exceptions to at-will employment terminations, making them unlawful, and termination based on discrimination is one of them. Another unlawful reason for termination under New York case law is the professional exception.

The New York State Bar published an article that explains the professional exception. In the case Wieder v. Skala, Wieder was a civil litigation attorney associated with the Skala law firm (defendant in the case). Wieder discovered that one of the firm’s partners made a mistake in a real estate transaction and covered it up. When he confronted the partner, the partner admitted he had “lied about the real estate transaction and later admitted in writing that he had committed several acts of legal malpractice and fraud and deceit.” Weidner reported the misconduct to the Appellate Division Disciplinary Committee as required by the Code of Professional Responsibility under the New York State Bar. The firm fired him for reporting the misconduct and Wieder sued for wrongful termination. The court ruled in favor of Wieder, finding that there was a professional exception to the at-will employment rule based on the New York Bar’s Code of Professional Responsibility. However, in cases that did not involve members of the New York Bar, the court did not find that a professional exception applied. It ruled that in these other types of cases, such instances are best left to the New York Legislature. The legislature has not passed any laws to clarify this point and subsequently, there is no legal recourse to being fired for reporting illegal activities in most employment situations.

If you are a business owner and have questions or unsure about whether an employee termination is legal, it is wise to consult with an experienced employment litigation lawyer.

Stephan Hans & Associates is a well-established employment litigation firm located in Long Island City, Queens and our employment litigation experience dates back to 1979.

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What Employers Should Understand about Disability Discrimination
by cjleclaire
Oct 16, 2014 | 5834 views | 0 0 comments | 220 220 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Business owners typically look from an employer’s perspective and fire employees who cannot do the job. For the most part, this line of reasoning is valid and especially if you have at-will employment, where the employer has the right to terminate an employee for any reason whatsoever. However, there are legal exceptions to the “whatsoever” conditions of at-will employment, and discrimination underpins the majority of these exceptions.

Firing an employee or not hiring an employee because of disability is a form of discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide:

  • Equal opportunity in selecting, testing and hiring qualified applicants with disabilities
  • Job accommodation for applicants and workers with disabilities when such accommodations would not impose “undue hardship”
  • Equal opportunity in promotions and benefits

Certainly, accommodating a worker who has a disability is harder than managing an employee who has no disability. Even so, this fact does not constitute undue hardship.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is bringing a lawsuit against Harrison Poultry and this lawsuit serves as a recent example of disability discrimination. The EEOC determined that Harrison Poultry discriminated against an employee with a disability who was on an approved leave. A physician diagnosed the employee with emphysema. Instead of granting an accommodation to the employee who requested a 12 day extension to his vacation so he could comply with doctor’s orders, the company fired him.

On behalf of the worker, the EEOC first attempted to settle with Harrison Poultry, but when unable to reach a settlement, the EEOC filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief to prevent future disability discrimination. The EEOC alleges that granting the extension would not have resulted in undue hardship on the company. In fact, as it turned out, the employee’s position was not filled again until three months later.

Litigation often makes time consuming demands on business owners. Understanding discrimination laws and consulting with an experienced employment litigation attorney can help employers avoid costly lawsuits and the lost production time involved with them. Stephen Hans & Associates brings decades of experience to every legal matter involving employment disputes.

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Importance of Educating Your Managers about Religious Discrimination Laws
by cjleclaire
Oct 01, 2014 | 8960 views | 0 0 comments | 209 209 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Author: Stephen D. Hans & Associates

Restaurant owners must ensure their managers understand employment laws and put policies in place that protect their business against discrimination lawsuits. Providing a non-hostile work environment to employees is an essential guarantee of their civil rights.

Recently, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) brought a lawsuit against Food Lion, based on religious discrimination. Food Lion is a supermarket chain, headquartered in North Carolina that employs an estimated 73,000 workers. The store cited in the claim was located in Winston Salem, N.C. The manager hired an employee, Victaurius L. Bailey to work as a meat cutter. Bailey was also a Jehovah's Witness minister and elder. Based on his faith, terms of his employment schedule allowed the employee to attend church services on Sundays and church related meetings on Thursday evenings. The store manager who hired him agreed not to schedule him for work on Sundays and Thursday evenings. When the company transferred Bailey to a different store in Winston Salem, the manager at the new store told him he did not see how it was possible to keep him if he could not work on Sundays. He was fired in 2011 due to his unavailability for Sunday work.

However, this decision to fire him violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations based on an employee's religious beliefs unless it causes undue hardship for the company. The EEOC sued on behalf of the worker and sought back pay, along with past and future monetary losses, compensatory damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief.

An experienced employment law attorney can help you avoid terminations that violate civil rights laws and can potentially result in discrimination cases. Stephan Hans & Associates is a well-established employment litigation firm located in Long Island City, Queens and our employment litigation experience dates back to 1979.

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How Can Employers Avoid Litigation with the EEOC?
by cjleclaire
Sep 16, 2014 | 7873 views | 0 0 comments | 307 307 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can bring litigation against employers on behalf of workers who file discrimination or harassment claims with the EEOC. Because the EEOC is selective about filing lawsuits it litigates only in a limited number of cases where the grievance is substantial and it deems a lawsuit is warranted. However, by working with an experienced employment lawyer, employers can receive effective legal guidance that often helps them settle and avoid litigation.

A recent case in point where the EEOC decided to litigate involved a restaurant in Fresno, California called Sal's Mexican restaurant. In the lawsuit, the EEOC claimed allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, asserting that a male supervisor sexually harassed a hostess in 2009. She was a teenager at the time and the supervisor's harassment involved unwanted sexual advances, propositions, grabbing her body parts and attempting to kiss her. As a condition for employment the supervisor also made her give him hugs and back rubs. She complained to management repeatedly but management did not handle her complaints. The sexual harassment continued until her resignation from the hostess position in 2010.

Although the restaurant never admitted liability, the owner avoided litigation by entering into a two year conciliation agreement with the EEOC and former hostess. Actions taken in the conciliation included:

  • Hiring a third party employment consultant for assistance with drafting and implementing policies and procedures to address and prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Providing all employees with training about their rights and responsibilities regarding workplace discrimination and harassment
  • Monetary relief of $15,000
  • Agreeing to establish a record keeping system to track and monitor complaints  

If you face discrimination or harassment allegations, consult with an experienced employment litigation attorney as soon as possible. For more than three decades, Stephan Hans & Associates has provided effective legal advice and representation to employers in the New York City area, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester.

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Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Homecare Union Dues Requirement
by cjleclaire
Sep 11, 2014 | 1890 views | 0 0 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Business Employment Attorney in Queens, NY

Many employers are interested to know about cases that affect the power of unions. For decades, unions have challenged employers through disputes or ongoing negotiations over employment terms and other issues.

This summer the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a particular case may influence how unions operate nationwide, potentially limiting their ability to gather revenue from certain non-union members.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Harris v. Quinn on June 30, by a narrow five to four decision, that the union could not deduct union fees from government checks that provided for homecare by personal assistants.

Factors in the Harris v. Quinn case involved the role of Medicaid recipients and the State of Illinois, which shared a joint role in determining the employment relationship of personal assistants (PAs). PAs are workers who provide homecare services for recipients in need of institutional care. The State compensates PAs, and customers propose a Service Plan that establishes guidelines for the PA’s duties. PAs were allowed under executive order to join a labor union that would engage in collective bargaining on their behalves under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois & Indiana (SEIU-HII) became the exclusive union for rehabilitation program employees. The issue in the case was that the SEIU-HII required all workers who did not wish to join the union to pay a union fee. A group of Rehabilitation Program PA’s brought a class action lawsuit against the SEIU-HII, alleging that the required fee violated their First Amendment rights.

In many instances, the individuals providing homecare were relatives who had taken in a loved one to live with them so the loved one could avoid entering an institution.

If as an employer, you face issues with a union, it is wise to consult with an experienced employment litigation and labor law attorney. Since the founding of the firm in 1979, Stephen Hans & Associates has offered effective legal assistance to business owners facing labor law issues.

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An Intern's Right to Sue for Discrimination in New York
by cjleclaire
Sep 03, 2014 | 7710 views | 0 0 comments | 308 308 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Legal loopholes sometimes exist that preclude bringing a lawsuit because the letter of the law does not protect an individual's rights. In the past, this may have been the case with interns, who because they did not receive any pay for their work could not be considered employees and therefore did not receive protection under employment discrimination laws.

However, this fact changed on July 22, 2014, when the Governor of New York signed into law an amendment providing civil rights protections for interns. Under this amendment to NY civil rights law, the definition of an intern is an individual who performs work for an employer for the purpose of training and:

  • The employee is not committed to hire the person performing the work at the conclusion of the training period
  • The employer and person performing the work agree that the person is not entitled to wages for the work performed
  • The work performed provides or supplements training that may enhance the intern's employability, provides the intern with beneficial experience, does not displace regular employees and is performed under the close supervision of existing staff

Interns have the right to freedom from discrimination based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status or domestic violence victim status.

For employers, an integral aspect of running a successful business involves staying apprised of legal and regulatory changes. An experienced employment litigation attorney can work with you to ensure your business policies and operating procedures comply with new employment laws.

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our attorneys offer business owners valuable legal assistance and representation in cases involving disputed employment or labor law issues.

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