Stephen Hans Blog by cjleclaire
Employment and Labor Law Attorneys
Jan 16, 2013 | 105081 views | 0 0 comments | 98 98 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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More About Women’s Rights in the News — the ERA
by cjleclaire
Sep 16, 2016 | 2237 views | 0 0 comments | 107 107 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

As an employment defense litigation lawyer, I pay attention to civil rights issues, and lately women’s rights issues have gained attention from the media.

Actress Patricia Arquette has actively worked toward passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), notable in her Oscar acceptance speech in 2015 and also in her recent testimony in June 2016 at a DNC Platform Committee hearing in Phoenix. There she urged the party to make ERA a priority. Even more recently, her letter to the editor appeared in The New York Times in support of the ERA.

Arquette is quoted as saying, “All of the things we want for women, including equal pay and effective legal recourse for gender-based violence, are in the ERA.” Arquette says, “… Polling shows the country is with us—we need Congress to catch up.”

In 2015, the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality conducted an online poll to survey a nationally representative sample of 1,107 people. The poll showed that a large percentage of men and women, 94 percent, agree that the ERA should be added to the Constitution.

Facts about the Equal Rights Amendment

The ERA has had a long run at trying to get ratified as an amendment. It was first introduced in 1923, now almost 100 years ago. The amendment was passed by Congress in 1972: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

At first, a seven-year deadline existed for states to ratify the amendment so it could become a part of the Constitution. Then, the deadline was extended to 10 years. Thirty-five states ratified the amendment by 1982. However, the required ratification by 38 states to add the amendment to the Constitution never occurred. Since that time, even though the ERA is introduced to Congress every session, it has been 30 years since Congress has voted on it.

With enough political pressure, the amendment may finally be considered again, pass and get ratified. Its ratification would affect how companies do business.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment litigation firm that defends small and medium sized businesses in discrimination, labor law and other employment related matters.

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Equal Pay for Women Issues
by cjleclaire
Aug 25, 2016 | 3769 views | 0 0 comments | 237 237 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Author: Stephen Hans

Long Island City, Queens & NYC Employment Defense Attorney

From an employer’s standpoint, if you are following similar pay practices to other businesses, it may seem like safety exists in numbers. You may believe that perhaps doing what other companies do is a safe standard as far as equal pay for women issues are concerned.

Facts about Unequal Pay

However, equal pay is not the norm, according to statistics reported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW):

  • In 1974, women across the United States made 59% of what men doing comparable jobs made.
  • By 2014, women made 79% of what men made.
  • Women with higher degrees have a higher gender pay gap than women with less education.
  • Women of color (Hispanic, African American, American Indian and Native Hawaiian women) have a greater gender pay gap than Asian and white American women.
  • Women typically earn 90% of what men earn until hitting age 35, at which point they begin earning 76-81% of what men are paid.

When company employees file claims, a company is singled out and at risk for damages. The fact that other companies are also violating the Equal Pay Act is not an excuse in the eyes of the law.

Sealed Air Sued By EEOC for Sex-Based Pay and National Origin Discrimination

Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a case against Sealed Air Attempts were unsuccessful during a pre-litigation conciliation process to reach a settlement.

Here were the facts alleged in the case:

  • A paid female production supervisor was paid lower wages than her male counterpart doing substantially the same work.
  • The company imposed a restrictive language policy on the employee by prohibiting her to use Spanish in the workplace.

The lawsuit seeks damages for lost wages, liquidated damages, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Equal Pay Act violations.

Do You Have Concerns about Equal Pay Issues?

Consult with an experienced employment litigation lawyer and put policies in place to protect your business. Stephen Hans & Associates provides seasoned legal advice and representation based on more than two decades of legal experience in employment law.

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New York City Affirms Rights to Use Bathrooms Consistent with Gender Identity
by cjleclaire
Aug 17, 2016 | 3828 views | 0 0 comments | 176 176 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Author:Stephen Hans & Associates

Media outlets across the country are addressing controversial laws passed recently in certain states that prohibit transgender individuals from using bathrooms consistent with their identity. New state laws require them to use a restroom consistent with the sexual identity on their birth certificates.

New York City has taken its own stand on this issue

Employers should take note that NYC is the first city in the nation to launch a campaign that grants people in NYC the right to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity — as opposed to genders indicated on birth certificates.

Ads are appearing all over the city in subway cars, bus shelters, phone booths and newspapers along with digital ads across social media. The ads are appearing in multiple languages, including Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Russian and Bengali. They state, “Use the Restroom Consistent with Who You Are” and “Look Past the Pink and Blue.”

This restriction on restroom use is a new type of discrimination is loosely described as bathroom discrimination.

NY has long been at the forefront against transgender and other discrimination issues

NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was the first executive in the nation to issue statewide regulations that prohibited transgender discrimination. The regulations went into effect on January 20.2015. New York has long been a champion of human rights and was also the first U.S. state to enact a general anti-discrimination law in 1945.

Under New York law, human rights violations can carry penalties and civil fines up to $50,000. If “willful, wanton or malicious” discrimination fines and penalties may go up to $100,000 and have no caps on compensatory damages awarded to individuals.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment litigation firm that defends small and medium sized businesses in discrimination, labor law and other employment related matters.

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DOL Sets Overtime Rules Affecting the Restaurant Industry
by cjleclaire
Jul 20, 2016 | 6232 views | 0 0 comments | 230 230 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Author: Stephen D.Hans & Associates

DOL Sets Overtime Rules Affecting the Restaurant Industry

Whether you own a fast food restaurant or a fine dining establishment, you must now pay your salaried workers overtime if they meet new qualifications set by the Department of Labor (DOL).

This means fast food restaurant managers, head cooks, sous chefs, pastry chefs and sommeliers working a salaried job that pays $47,476 or less, now qualify for overtime pay. They receive time and a half for hours that exceed 40 a week. The exemptions for salaried employees have new limits and regardless of whether the employee is hourly or salaried, overtime rules apply.

How Does the New DOL Overtime Rule Compare with Past Rules?

The DOL released the new rule in May 2016. The limit on salaried workers who could collect overtime had stayed at $23,660 since 2004. Here are some relevant facts for owners in the restaurant industry:

  • Average wages in the U.S. for chefs, head cooks and pastry chefs are $45,920
  • Bakers’ wages average is around $26,270
  • Culinary Journalists’ mean wage is $46,560
  • The majority of these employees work 50 or more hours per week

(Information from Eatery.com)

Restaurant Worker overtime pay

Most Common Ways for Employers to Deal with the New Law

To continue to cover costs and also deal with additional overtime pay, employers will most likely do one or more of the following:

  • Pay higher salaries
  • Cut work hours to no more than 40 per week
  • Raise menu prices

When Does the Overtime Rule Go into Effect?

The rule goes into effect December 1, 2016. Every three years, beginning in 2020 the DOL will modify the overtime threshold to match the 40th percentile income of the country’s lowest income area, which is the Southeast.

Stay on Top of Changing Laws as an Employer

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our firm helps small and middle sized business owners deal with legal changes. We understand how difficult it is to stay apprised of new laws while managing in the daily demands of running a restaurant.

We do not just keep you informed. We also provide legal guidance and representation to help you protect your rights and assist you with policies that avoid liability.

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New York City, Queens, Employment Defense Lawyers
by cjleclaire
Jul 08, 2016 | 6965 views | 0 0 comments | 279 279 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Salient Points about the Carlson-Ailes Sexual Discrimination Lawsuit

The media is full of reports about the lawsuit Gretchen Carlson, former Fox anchor woman and television host brought against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.

Ms. Carlson claims that the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes terminated her employment because she refused to go along with his sexual advances. After she complained about being discriminated against as an anchorwoman in the newsroom, she alleges that he demoted her to a less prestigious position, reduced her salary, curtailed her on-air appearances and declined to renew her contract last month. She is seeking compensatory damages for sexual harassment and retaliation.

According to The New York Times , Ms. Carlson described Mr. Ailes as a serial sexual harasser and the network as a boy’s club environment.

What Makes This Case Stand Out from Other Discrimination Cases

What sets this case apart from other cases is the fact that Mr. Ailes holds such a prominent position in the media. He claims the allegations are false, are a retaliatory action for not renewing Ms. Carlson’s contract and called the lawsuit defamatory. Ailes’ corporate boss, Rupert Murdoch supports him in the defense against the allegations.

The lawsuit names Mr. Ailes as the sole defendant and not Fox News network.

Tactics Being Used in the Case

Ms. Carlton’s legal team has employed various strategies in handling the case, notwithstanding the use of the media to do the following:

  • Distribute copies of the complaint to reporters across a variety of disciplines
  • Twitter thanks offered by Ms. Carlson for outpouring support
  • Hashtag: #StandWith Gretchen
  • Prominently post information about the lawsuit on Gretchen’s personal website

It will be interesting to see how the case plays out in the media and the courtroom.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment litigation firm that defends small and medium sized businesses in discrimination, labor law and other employment related matters.

New York City, Queens, Employment Defense Lawyers

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Dominoes Pizza Sued for Wage and Hour Violations
by cjleclaire
Jun 14, 2016 | 7248 views | 0 0 comments | 289 289 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Recently New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza for underpaying staff.

According to Legal Reader, last year the Attorney General’s Office settled for $1.5 million with 12 Domino’s franchisees found to be underpaying workers. This is the second lawsuit the Attorney General has brought against Dominoes Pizza, and the current lawsuit includes the following allegations:

  • Failure to pay overtime
  • Failure to reimburse delivery staff for gas miles
  • Failure to reimburse delivery staff for wear and tear on bicycles

Are Wage and Hour Violations the Franchisee’s or Franchisor’s Liability?

The Dominoes Pizza parent company (franchisor) argues that wage and hour violations are the individual franchise owner’s (franchisee) liability and not the Dominoes parent company’s liability. Yet, the Attorney General names both as parties in the case. Typically wage and hour lawsuits exclude franchisors and only target franchisees. However, a landmark case where the National Labor Relations Board is suing McDonald’s may set a precedent that makes franchisors jointly liable for a franchisee’s violations.

Dominoes claimed that for more than three years it had collaborated with franchisees to bring them into compliance with wage and hour laws but that it is not obligated to do so.

Details of the Lawsuit

Because the parent company instructs franchisees to use its computerized payroll system, Schneiderman alleges that the parent company bares equal liability for underpaying workers.

He also stated that his office discovered that Dominoes Pizza headquarters was extensively involved in with franchises and how they operated and actually caused many of the pay violations.

Rely on Experienced Legal Counsel

Small and large businesses alike should consult with experienced legal counsel to limit liability and ensure compliance with labor and employment laws.

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our Queens, NYC employment defense firm brings decades of legal experience to the table. We can help you protect your rights and put policies in place to avoid liability.

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Restaurants Can Throw Dog Lovers a Bone
by cjleclaire
May 24, 2016 | 9335 views | 0 0 comments | 376 376 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

NYC Employment Defense Attorney

“I’m so pleased that the city Department of Health threw dog lovers a bone,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) was quoted as saying by The New York Daily News. She sponsored the NYC law that allows dining with dogs.

Restaurant owners already have many regulations to abide by and under the previous law, restaurants were required to verify the dog owner’s licensing and vaccination documents before allowing the dog owner and dog in outdoor restaurant areas. Despite the fact that laws allowed dogs in outdoor areas, this strict requirement kept dog lovers away.

As a restaurant owner, did you know…?

Under new changes in the law, now restaurants simply must post signs that dogs accompanying their owners must be licensed and vaccinated for rabies.

The objective of the legal change was to create a balance that gave dog lovers greater freedoms and still protected other diners at the same time. Restaurant owners are still obligated by law to keep the outdoor dining area separate from pedestrians and dogs on the sidewalk. Also, dogs cannot touch dining table surfaces or obstruct aisle space.

It’s difficult to keep up with regulatory and legal changes. This change is good news for restaurants that allow dogs because it will help them attract more business.

Anymore, the responsibilities of running a business include being legally savvy to protect your rights and interests. Through effective legal guidance, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates can keep you informed and help you protect your rights as a business owner.

 
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EEOC Alleges Discrimination Based on Applications Requiring Medical History
by cjleclaire
May 11, 2016 | 8211 views | 0 0 comments | 228 228 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Queens, New York City Employment Defense Firm

As employers, when you ask for medical information on a job application, you raise a red flag for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and set yourself up for a lawsuit. No matter how reasonable it seems to ask an applicant about medical history, simply refrain from doing it.

EEOC vs. Grisham Farm Products

Recently the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Grisham Farm Products. The company required applicants to fill out three pages of medical history. An applicant refused to fill out the information recently and the company told him he would not be considered for the job. He had a disability and the health information requirement on an application violates the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also violates the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), according the EEOC.

Businesses Targeted for ADA Violations

According to the National Law Review, the EEOC is targeting businesses that ask for medical history on job applications.

The EEOC fact sheet indicates it has gone after 200 businesses since 2011 that the EEOC alleges were in violation of the ADA. Lawsuits involved employees with the following types of disabilities:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • HIV
  • Diabetes
  • Renal Failure

Large, nationwide businesses have been sued, including:

  • Walgreen
  • Kmart
  • UPS
  • AutoZone
  • Dillard’s
  • United Airlines
  • Verizon Maryland
  • Dollar General
  • Papa John’s
  • Target

If you have questions about whether or not you may be liable because you failed to hire a disabled job applicant or have questions about how to deal with issues regarding a disabled worker, get a legal opinion.

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our attorneys can provide you with sound legal guidance and help you stay in compliance with state and federal laws.

 

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Restaurants Weigh in on Replacing Tipping with Service Charges
by cjleclaire
Apr 19, 2016 | 10343 views | 0 0 comments | 317 317 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Queens New York Employment Defense Attorneys

Human Resource Consulting Law Firm

Various restaurants across the country are in the process of changing tipping into service charges. The Seattle Eater published an article about a restaurant called Mollusk that eliminated tipping and replaced it with a 20 percent service charge. However, after implementing the change, this restaurant and brewery struggled.

The Chef/Owner of the business said he split the service charge equally between kitchen employees and front-house employees, who deal directly with customers. Kitchen employees’ wages increased from about $15 to $18 per hour. However, the loss in customers resulted in servers, bartenders and hosts making considerably less money.

To make up for income loss, restaurant management cut staff and dropped its lunch menu service in January. The owner had to reinstate tipping and also increased the restaurant’s menu prices by 10 percent to help kitchen staff earn higher wages. Fortunately, the neighborhood is a fast-growing area, and the restaurant hopes to increase its business soon based on population increases.

Is the service charge model a failure business-wise?

It depends on restaurant management, the location and the extent that customers prefer tipping. The Mollusk wants to go back to the service charge model after it gets the business boost it needs right now.

The News Tribune reports that Indochina Asian Dining Lounge in Tacoma, WA implemented an 18 percent service charge in June 2015. As of January 2016, the change was successful and servers average $20 to $25 per hour while kitchen staff earn between $15 and $20.

Another restaurant owner in Philadelphia says he is doing well with the service charge model. According to Second Nexus, William Street Common’s owner says he’s hitting numbers that other restaurants get with the tipping model. Downfalls of tipping involve people who tip based on:

  • How fast the food arrives
  • Whether the restaurant runs out of a particular dish
  • Whether the servers were there when the customer wanted them to be

These poor management decisions shouldn’t influence servers’ tips.

Even so, in many regions Americans prefer tipping compared to service charges.

Are you thinking about implementing service charges instead of tipping in your restaurant business? We recommend you get a legal opinion first.

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our attorneys routinely consult with business owners to help them comply with state and federal laws. Doing business in today’s world often requires reliable legal guidance.

 
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University Policies to Deal with Sexual Harassment Issues
by cjleclaire
Mar 01, 2016 | 14507 views | 0 0 comments | 399 399 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Recently, a sexual harassment case involving a Chicago professor became high profile in the news. While you can view the case from the perspective of the victim and the alleged abuser, there is also the viewpoint of educational institutions to consider. What preventative actions can they take to protect themselves against lawsuits?

The New York Times  reported that a well-known molecular biologist, who was a professor at the University of Chicago resigned after the university recommended he be fired. The administration based the termination recommendation on violations of the college’s sexual misconduct policy. Professor Jason Lieb allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward several female graduate students during an off campus retreat attended by graduate students and several faculty members. As a result of the allegations, Lieb resigned.

An incident of sexual misconduct also arose when Lieb worked at the University of North Carolina. However, an investigation at that time revealed no evidence to support the claim. When Lieb left the University of North Carolina and Princeton interviewed him for a position, Lieb gave permission for Princeton staff to examine his UNC personnel file. The University of Chicago also examined his UNC personnel file and found no evidence that proved him guilty of the allegation. Consequently, the Chicago department of human genetics voted unanimously to hire him. Weighing the responsibility to protect sexual harassment victims versus false sexual harassment allegations can be difficult.

Obviously, background checks are vital for educational institutions when hiring personnel. Also, these types of incidents bring up questions about whether the standards universities currently use to evaluate candidates during the hiring process are adequate.

At Stephen Hans & Associates, we work with businesses and institutions to help you put policies in place that protect you against sexual harassment and other discrimination liability.

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