Stephen Hans Blog by cjleclaire
Employment and Labor Law Attorneys
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Weinstein Misconduct Leads to Investigation of the Weinstein Company
by cjleclaire
Nov 09, 2017 | 1958 views | 0 0 comments | 135 135 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Do You Have Harassment Issues in Your Company?

The New York Times broke the story on October 5th about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment of actresses. That led to a criminal investigation, and now the whole company has come under the scrutiny of a civil investigation.

On October 23, The New York Times reported that New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman opened an investigation into the Weinstein Company by sending a subpoena that requested documents such as personnel files, criteria for firing, termination and promotion, and filed with the company regarding sexual harassment, gender or age discrimination. In addition, the subpoena sought information as to how complaints were handled and any private out-of-court settlements reached.

Company Financial Liability

Whether the company is financially responsible for any of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct is also subject to the investigation. Of the payments made by Harvey Weinstein in confidential settlements, the investigation seeks to discover whether other company people were involved and whether the payments came from the company or were personally paid by Weinstein.

The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein several days after the October 5th news story broke in The New York Times. More than half of the nine company board members have resigned. Harvey’s brother Bob Weinstein, co-founder of the company, is involved in sales negotiations to sell either part of or the whole production studio.

In addition, many employees have requested release from nondisclosure agreements so they are free to discuss their experiences at the company.

Do Not Bury Your Head in the Sand

With the power he wielded, movie producer Harvey Weinstein appeared to be untouchable. He won Oscars and was an entertainment industry icon. While the harassment incidents spanned for decades, all it took for his reputation to plummet and his livelihood to end was actresses coming forward and one newspaper article in an age where information goes viral.

If anyone in authority at the company had had the courage to stand up to him years ago and deal with the harassment issues, perhaps the company could have been saved.

Do You Have Harassment Issues in Your Company?

Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates can help you address your concerns. We provide seasoned legal advice based on more than 20 years of defending employers in employment issues.

 

 

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November 13, 2017
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Washington Post Settles Age and Discrimination Lawsuit
by cjleclaire
Nov 03, 2017 | 2960 views | 0 0 comments | 367 367 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Washington Post Settles Age and Discrimination Lawsuit

The Washington Post recently settled a lawsuit filed by former advertising executive David DeJesus. When bad publicity becomes a greater threat to business than losing money through a settlement, oftentimes businesses opt to settle.

discrim at job interview

Such was the case with the Washington Post. DeJesus claimed that his boss terminated him in 2011 due to racial discrimination. He had enjoyed an 18-year career with the company, and while the Washington Post claimed it based his termination on “willful neglect of duty and insubordination,” an appeals court of three judges decided last year that a jury could hear the case. The appellate court overturned a lower court that dismissed the lawsuit.

The appeals court went on the record as saying, “A jury could properly conclude that the Washington Post’s proffered reason [for the termination of DeJesus] is so unreasonable that it provokes suspicion of pretext.” (New York Post)

 

Further Details about the Age and Discrimination Lawsuit

According to the Observer, David DeJesus brought in more than $1 billion in revenue during his nearly 20 years of tenure with the company. His termination occurred abruptly with his boss cursing and shouting at him. In the federal claim that DeJesus filed in 2014, he also stated that his termination along with the terminations of 47 other older black employers at about the same time were so the company could hire younger, less expensive white employees.

Other affidavits file by former African American Washington Post employees provided details of racial harassment and in particular racial harassment by advertising Vice-President Ethan Selzer. He fired DeJesus without previous discipline or forewarning and told a black female employee to clean the department kitchen and made racist jokes about another black subordinate’s husband. Also, at one point an employee who came to work at the Washington Post wearing a KKK belt buckle was not even disciplined.

Quiet in the Media and with the Settlement

The Observer noted that a number of media outlets ignored the lawsuit and MSNBC did not respond to DeJesus’ request for coverage.

Do You Have Employment Issues that Could Become Legal Matters?

Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to address your concerns. We offer clients seasoned legal advice based on more than 20 years of employment law experience.

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Tip-Sharing Class Action Lawsuits Take Their Toll on Restaurant Owners
by cjleclaire
Oct 27, 2017 | 3063 views | 0 0 comments | 288 288 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

In recent years, restaurant owners have been subject to tip-sharing class action lawsuits that have cost them considerable amounts of money.

Zahav in Philadelphia

In July 2017, Eater.com published an article about Zahav, an award-winning Philadelphia restaurant that settled a tip-sharing class action lawsuit for $230,000. Toward the end of 2016, former server Tanya Peters filed a lawsuit against the restaurant and alleged that its tip-sharing practices violated the FLSA and Philadelphia Gratuity Protection Bill. Peters claimed that servers were required to share tips with silverware polishers during her 19 months of employment at the restaurant. This amounted to $5.00 per shift.

Bill Hill Restaurants

The previous July in 2016, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which Eater named the “best restaurant in America” and which ranked 11 on the World’s 50 Best list, was subject to a class-action wage theft lawsuit. The restaurant settled for $2 million. The third parties that sued also brought a claim against the NYC sister restaurant Blue Hill. The lawsuit claimed that due to tip pool mismanagement, certain service employees did not receive money owed to them. In particular, Blue Hill engaged in sharing tips with non-service employees and did not share private event service charges with service employees. An estimated 250 eligible former and current employees receiving the settlement money included servers, buses, back-waiters, runners and hosts and hostesses. Divided equally, each class-action suit member will receive around $5,000 and the lead plaintiffs will receive an additional $25,000.

Preventative Actions to Prevent Tip Pooling Class Action Lawsuits

Consulting with an experienced employment law attorney can help you prevent tip-pooling lawsuits. Restaurants should have a written policy that addresses tip pooling. An attorney can help you draft a policy that complies with laws. Your policy should designate which categories of employees share tips and how much is shared. You should make clear in the policy which employees are service employees and which employees are not. Restaurant owners should also allow employees to share tips if that is their desire but without pressure to do so.

Stephen Hans & Associates has decades of experience assisting restaurant owners with employment related issues.

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NYC Department of Transportation Sued for Racial Discrimination
by cjleclaire
Oct 19, 2017 | 4224 views | 0 0 comments | 336 336 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This summer the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) faced a lawsuit for racial discrimination. The Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney filed a lawsuit that alleged a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation.

Shot of a businessman standing in front of a window using a digital tablet

Details of the Racial Discrimination Violation

According to the article released by the Department of Justice, NYCDOT supervisors for nearly 10 years participated in racial discrimination by:

  • Tolerating use of racial epithets
  • Systematically excluding racial minorities from preferred assignments
  • Discriminating against minority employees for promotions

The discrimination was brought to the DOT management’s attention, but instead of taking proper corrective action, they retaliated against employees who made the allegations.

Fleet Services, a unit within NYCDOT employs an estimated 200 employees in various trades including machinists, auto mechanics, electricians, blacksmiths and engineers. All personnel in this unit reported to an executive who regularly and flagrantly referred to African American employees as “monkeys,” “niggers” and “gorillas.” Another example of the executive director’s conduct included responding to an African American’s request for a cell phone by saying, “that nigger gets nothing.”

The Executive Director verbally threatened and also threatened physical violence against an employee who accused him of discriminating against racial minorities.

The lawsuit demanded that the executive director be demoted, suspended and removed from his position as NYCDOT EEO counselor. The counselor decided to retire. However, his second in command who had also been involved in and tolerated the discrimination was promoted into the Executive Director position.

Settlement

In a settlement agreement, the city agreed to pay more than $1.3 million to individual employees.

The settlement provisions included:

Offering monetary compensation to 14 individuals entitled to relief, which consisted of back pay and compensatory damages awards within a range of $60,000 to $168,000. The complainant who brought the claim to the EEOC’s attention would receive $150,000 and attorney’s fees.

Do You Face Allegations of Discrimination?

Employers dealing with discrimination issues should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates cam advise the best legal action for you to take as an employer.

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Overtime Myths in the Restaurant Industry
by cjleclaire
Oct 11, 2017 | 6154 views | 0 0 comments | 504 504 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Overtime myths can circulate in any line of work, and the restaurant industry is no exception. Some of the most prevalent myths deal with wages and overtime. As an employer, it is vital that you don’t fall for these myths because they could lead to unnecessary disputes, lawsuits or compliance penalties.

An Employee Can Waive the Right to Overtime

Sometimes employers get the idea that if an employee is willing to work longer hours and waive overtime, it works out well for both of them. However, under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) , when an employee who is not an exempt employee (not a manager, executive, etc.) works overtime (over 40 hours in a workweek), employers must pay the employee for overtime. A workweek can begin or end on any day that the employer designates.

In fact, an employee, who waived overtime, actually has the legal right to turn around and sue the employer for overtime pay.

An Employer Can Compensate an Employer in Other Ways than Paying Overtime

Another myth is that an employer can compensate an employee who works more than 40 hours by giving the employee extra time off called compensatory time or “comp time.” Employers cannot compensate in ways other than paying overtime. The FLSA requires overtime work to be paid at a rate of not less than one and a half times the employee’s regular pay rate.

An Employer Does Not Have to Pay Overtime for Unauthorized Overtime Work

It can be frustrating for employers who instruct their employees not to work over 40 hours and discover that unauthorized work was done. Employers may feel justified in not paying the employee overtime. However, overtime work must be paid, whether it was authorized or not. Employers can devise other ways to penalize employees who work unauthorized over their 40 hours but they cannot deny them overtime pay.

Legal Representation for Employers

When you have questions about overtime, wage and hour or other employment issues, it is wise to consult with an experienced employment law defense attorney. Stephen Hans & Associates has assisted employers for more than two decades with employment issues.

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Starbucks Baristas Complain About Company’s Parental-Leave Policies
by cjleclaire
Sep 25, 2017 | 7444 views | 0 0 comments | 489 489 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Posted on by sdhans

Starbucks made its company stand out from many others when it put in place a six-weeks paid parental leave policy for eligible birth mothers. Starbucks made this a nationwide policy. Indeed they did stand out as being “a different kind of company” that “put our people first.” (Grub street.com)

However, female Starbucks executives get 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave and male executives get 12 paid weeks. Starbucks considers this difference in paid parental leaves a fringe benefit to attract executive talent to the company’s ranks.

A group of baristas met with Starbucks executives to discuss making the leave policy universal, but executives told them to view it as a very competitive benefits package instead. There was no discussion about making the policy universal.

What Is U.S. Federal Law on Parental Leaves?

A parental leave applies to both parents and is a leave from work taken after a child is born, adopted, or placed as a foster child. Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is federal law, parents may take this leave any time during the first year of having the child with them.

psrenting or psrensl leave

The FMLA does not require employers to pay employees for the time off, but it does require larger employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to workers who need to take the time in caring for a new child.

Did you know that the United States, Suriname, Papua New Guinea and several Pacific Ocean island countries are the only countries the world that do not have laws requiring employers to pay for parental leaves?

Given the status of parental leave in the U.S., Starbucks has been quite generous in making its parental leaves “paid” time off.

Do You Have Legal Questions About Pregnancy Leaves or Parental Leaves?

If you have questions, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to help. We can provide you with seasoned legal advice based on more than 20 years of employment law experience.

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What Are Wage Theft Lawsuits in the Restaurant Industry?
by cjleclaire
Sep 12, 2017 | 6989 views | 0 0 comments | 599 599 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A number of wage theft lawsuits and settlements have been occurring during the past five years. However, they haven’t received as much media attention as restaurant workers’ fight for higher minimum wages.

As a restaurant owner, you should be aware of what wage theft is and the ways it can occur. Ensure your restaurant managers aren’t engaging in wage theft activities.

Examples of Wage Theft and Related Lawsuits

Large chain restaurants have been subject to lawsuits for reducing hours, not paying proper wages for side work and for misappropriating tips.

Requiring workers to work off the clock is not legal but some chain restaurants have been settling claims that allege they’ve been doing this. The Huffington Post reported about several well-known restaurant chains that settled or paid huge sums in wage theft lawsuits.

 

Dogs with choice of food diet

Ruby Tuesday settled a case for $3 million in 2014. The restaurant avoided paying bartenders and servers overtime by having them do checklists before or after clocking in for work. They also shaved hour totals down to 40 hours/week when workers went over 40 hours.

Outback Steakhouses settled a $3 million lawsuit to workers claiming that the restaurant required workers to complete pre-shift work before clocking in.

A Papa John’s New York franchise had to pay more than $2 million in overtime rates under the order of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for rounding down hours worked to the whole number to avoid paying overtime, and for paying workers the “tipped minimum wage” when they mainly did un-tipped work and for not reimbursing employees for the purchase and maintenance costs of bicycles used in deliveries.

Red Robin Restaurants in Pennsylvania paid $1.3 million for requiring tipped workers to share tips with kitchen expeditors when the restaurant was taking tip credits and not paying servers a full minimum wage. Kitchen expeditors had no contact with customers and did not qualify to be paid as tipped workers.

What Are Wage Theft Lawsuits in the Restaurant Industry?

Johnny Rockets had to pay 55 servers more than $570,000 under order of the Department of Labor (DOL) because they required servers to share tips with cooks and dishwashers.

Fourteen TGI Fridays servers received $485,000 to settle claims for having to spend more than 20 percent of their work time doing side work instead of directly relating to customers, which violates the 80/20 rule for tipped employees. Part of this settlement amount was also due to being forced to work off the clock.

Are You Concerned About Wage Theft?

If so, get legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment law defense firm and can advise the best course of action for you to take as an employer

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Baawda
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September 13, 2017
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National Origin and Race Discrimination and Retaliation: EEOC Sues Long Island Company
by cjleclaire
Sep 12, 2017 | 6773 views | 0 0 comments | 481 481 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Claims of national origin and race discrimination along with retaliation were the basis of an EEOC lawsuit brought against a Long Island Company headquartered in Massapequa, NY in August 2017.

A&F Fire Protection Co, Inc. is a sprinkler installation company that allegedly violated federal law by allowing a hostile work environment where black and Hispanic employees were routinely subjected to racial insults.

Details of the National Origin and Race Discrimination Allegations

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that repeated racial harassment occurred with workers being called the “N-word,” “spics,” “jigaboo,” and “wetbacks.” The company failed to take action to end the discrimination and instead either forced complaining employees to quit or fired them, which is retaliation under federal law.

Prior to filing a lawsuit, the EEOC used its conciliation process to try and reach a settlement. The lawsuit against the company seeks the following:

  • Back wages
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Changes in employment policies to prevent future harassment or retaliation

The EEOC New York District Office Regional Attorney Burstein pointed out that the abuse was pervasive and that upon learning about racial harassment, employers are obligated by law to ensure it stopped. The EEOC New York District Office Director Kevin Berry emphasized that retaliation against the employee who complains against discriminatory behavior is one of the EEOC’s top priorities when reviewing claims. Another EEOC Trial Attorney, Kirsten Peters reminded employers that even one utterance of a racial slur by a supervisor in a workplace constitutes a hostile work environment and can be legally actionable based on recent case law.

At the First Sign of a Discrimination Dispute, Consult with an Employment Defense Attorney

At the first sign of a discrimination dispute in your workplace, you should consult with an employment defense attorney. Had the above company consulted with an experienced lawyer instead of retaliating, it’s likely they could have made the necessary changes in employment polices and settled outside of court, avoiding the high costs of litigation and potential punitive damages that the EEOC is pursuing.

Legal Representation for Business Owners

Business owners can rely on the decades of experience that our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates have had in successfully dealing with employment issues.

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September 14, 2017
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How Can You Find Out What Federal Employment Laws Apply to Your Business?
by cjleclaire
Aug 31, 2017 | 8439 views | 0 0 comments | 300 300 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Running your own business can feel overwhelming when you get a glimpse of all the laws that affect your operation.

It is smart for business owners to consult with an employment attorney to ensure handbooks, contracts, non-disclosure agreements and other legal documents are in order. Even so, there is a certain amount of self-education that is necessary. At Hans & Associates we like to keep our clients apprised of tools that can assist them with gaining legal understanding and remaining in compliance with employment laws.

 

Federal Employment Laws at Elaws

For federal laws, the Department of Labor (DOL) has a tool called Elaws , which includes the FirstStep Employment Law Advisor and other advisors that are useful. You can obtain a basic understanding of federal employment laws that relate you your particular industry.

FirstStep Employment Advisor

For example, the FirstStep Employment Advisor takes you through the basics, such as: do you know which posters federal law requires your company to display? You can answer “no” and then choose the link that applies to your industry. Restaurants, hotels, caterers, etc. is one category; agriculture is another, and so on.

Piggybank and calculator. Isolated on white background

FirstStep is just one of a number advisor categories that provide regulatory information about employment law. Here are other areas you can access:

  • Pay and Benefits
  • Safety and Health
  • Posters and Record keeping
  • Youth Employment
  • Veteran’s Issues
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

With Pay and Benefits, you can use the advisor to help you calculate overtime pay. Or you can get help deciding whether a particular employee is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements. You may have questions about whether a work related activity counts as “hours worked” and whether you owe the employee pay for it.

Consult with Experienced Employment Defense Lawyers

If you have questions about employment law compliance issues or legal concerns, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to help. We can provide you with seasoned legal representation based on more than 20 years of employment law experience.

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October 20, 2017
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How Many Racist Statements Does It Take to Create a Hostile Work Environment?
by cjleclaire
Aug 16, 2017 | 7803 views | 0 0 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

If is severe enough, one racist statement can create a hostile work environment, according to the United State Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court hears appeals for New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

As reported in The Legal Intelligencer , in the case Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc., the plaintiff alleged harassment, termination and retaliation because of the worker’s race, national origin and sexual orientation.

Details of the Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc. Appeal

The court concluded that the single use of the N-word as a severe racial slur was sufficient evidence to overcome the defense’s request for summary judgment in the hostile work environment claim. Previously, the district court had found in favor of the company, Protection Resources, which is located in Manhattan.

Daniel Otis worked as a fire safety director at the company and was eventually terminated in retaliation for his complaints of discriminatory treatment.

Among various derogatory comments the supervisor made about Daniel were slurs about his looking like a gorilla, complaints about his English accent and telling him to go back to England. He also rubbed his genitals against him and asked him whether he was gay. At one point the supervisor became angry and called him the N-word. A week after filing his complaint, Daniel was under investigation and then the company fired him for receiving personal mail at the workplace.

The district court found that use of a racial slur during one yelling incident was not enough to constitute a hostile work environment claim.

However, the appeals court ruled that the lower court erred in adjudicating that a one-time use of a severe racial slur did not support a hostile work environment claim. It was the court’s opinion that the use of the unambiguously racial epithet, “n—–,“ by a supervisor in the presence of his subordinates was a single act that can quickly alter employment conditions and create an abusive working environment.

Are You a Small or Medium-Sized Business Owner Facing Hostile Work Environment Allegations?

If so, get legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates is a New York law firm with decades of experience representing business owners in employment disputes.

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September 26, 2017
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