LIEB BLOG

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Showing posts with label retaliation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retaliation. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

What Rights Does an Employee have if Penalized for Using Legally Protected Absences in NYS?

An employee who was discharged, threatened, penalized, or in any other manner discriminated or retaliated against because such employee used any legally protected absence pursuant to federal, local, or state law will soon be able to bring a lawsuit against their employer now that S1958A has passed both the NYS Assembly & Senate. 


In fact, such an employee will have 2 years after the violation to sue and recover lost compensation and damages, liquidated damages of up to $20,000, costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. Plus, the Court can order rehiring or reinstatement and restoration of seniority. Alternatively, in lieu of reinstatement, an award of front pay can be awarded.


Employers better learn and provide legal days off ASAP.






 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

NYS Law Prohibits Release of Personnel File as Retaliation for Discrimination Complaint

We always tell discrimination victims that you are protected from retaliation. In fact, if you are retaliated against, you can sue for that too. Interestingly, if you are retaliated against on an alleged discriminatory event, which is ultimately found in court to not constitute discrimination, you can nonetheless recover damages for the retaliation on that non-discrimination.


Retaliation protection is really important so that victims have a voice and are not silenced by powerful companies. 


Yet, the bounds of retaliation are rarely defined and employees often wonder what an employer can do against them if they complain about discrimination.


On March 16, 2022, Governor Hochul clarified the answer to that question by signing S5870 into law and thereby expanding the definition of retaliation, at Executive Law 296(7), to now include: 


Disclosing an employee's personnel files because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden under this article or because he or she has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding under this article, except where such disclosure is made in the court of commencing or responding to a complaint in any proceeding under this article or any other civil or criminal action or other judicial or administrative proceeding as permitted by applicable law.


However, as always, clarity brings more confusion. While the law's stated purpose is "[t]o clarify that release of personnel records to discount victims of workplace discrimination counts as a retaliatory action...," the law fails to define "personnel records" and, as such, questions remain.


Specifically, how many small / medium businesses even record "personnel record"?

Is a boss disclosing their memory of an event, which is unrelated to the discrimination complained of, a personally record? 

Is the work product of a discriminatory complainant a personnel record?


All we can say is that discrimination laws are designed to protect victims. So, if you are confused, assume that everything related to the employee is a personnel record until a court narrows that definition when this issue is eventually fought out before a judge / jury.


Until then, more protections for victims is a welcome sign in NYS that discriminatory retaliation won't be tolerated.




Monday, January 10, 2022

New Rules Protecting Federal Employees from Employment Discrimination Published

Since 2021, federal employees have been protected from workplace discrimination by the Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act of 2020, which added protections, notice, and reporting to the No FEAR Act.


To implement the Cummings Act, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published proposed rules on January 6, 2022, which are currently in the public comment period. 


These rules include:  

  • Whistleblower and retaliation protections;
  • Notice of findings of intentional acts of discrimination to be made on a publically accessible internet page;
  • Agencies to submit annual reports to the Director of OPM;
  • Agencies to submit disciplinary action reports to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC);
  • Agency employees found to have intentionally committed discriminatory acts, including retaliation, will have notations of the discriminatory acts added to the employee's personnel record;
  • New public disclosure obligations; and
  • Federal agencies to add new trainings for all employees about their rights and remedies under law.


The comment period ends on 2/07/2022 and then, these rules will be finalized to become effective. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

New Law Permits Employees to Petition Employers to Implement a "Shared Work" Program without Fear of Retaliation.

Governor Hochul signed Bill A07373 into law yesterday which permits employees to petition their employer (in writing, within ten (10) days after a layoff, or in advance of a layoff) to implement a "Shared Work" program in lieu of a layoff. While employers are not required to implement a Shared Work program, employers must respond to the employees' petition in writing within seven (7) days and may not discriminate or retaliate against any employees who bring a petition.

The Shared Work program was formed to assist employers in avoiding layoffs and maintain trained workers during an economic downturn by allowing employees to receive partial unemployment benefits while working reduced hours. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

New Whistleblower Protection in NYS Coming Soon - Independent Contractors are Covered (think, Real Estate Salespersons)

Effective January 26, 2022, A5144 will cause NYS private employees / independent contractors to have expanded whistleblower protection, under amended Labor Law 740, if they disclose or threaten to disclose, to a supervisor or to a public body, an activity, policy or practice of the employer, that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of law, rule or regulation or that the employee reasonably believes poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety. 


This expanded protection is not only for employees, but also for former employees and independent contractors. With independent contractor protection, real estate brokers should be on the lookout for their agents lodging complaints to the Department of State, amongst other bodies. It's therefore time for every private business in NYS to button-up its compliance protocol and avoid whistleblowers because silencing them is no longer possible. Beyond tightening up their policy manuals, employers will be required to post signage about this new law at their places of employment.


This law is huge for employee / independent contractor rights and it's going to get messy quickly with lots of lawsuits to follow in the near term. Think about how many times an employer previously leverages its position to blackball a whistleblower from the industry. Now, actionable retaliation includes adversely impacting a whistleblower's future employment. 


This is huge, just watch the news and you will know how many whistleblowers are out there. Think about what's going on with Facebook. What about the Alec Baldwin shooting? Maybe, if New Mexico's law was as broad and protective as this new New York law, the Baldwin shooting / gun mishap wouldn't have happened. Yes, the film crew voiced complaints, but their position was limited. In New Mexico, an employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, testifying in a proceeding, or exercising a right concerning violations of occupational health and safety standards. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-9-25. However, there is no private right of action (besides common law) and only the possibility of reinstatement and back pay if the secretary of environment chooses to pursue a retaliation claim. In contrast, a New York employee is now protected if they "reasonably believes [the employer's wrong] poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety" and that employee can sue in their own name within 2-years of the retaliation while seeking back pay, front pay, a civil penalty, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. 


This law will launch a new era of compliance throughout New York industry. Is your business ready? 




Thursday, May 06, 2021

New Law Imposes Heavy Burdens on Employers to Prevent Exposure to Airborne Infectious Diseases in the Workplace

Governor Cuomo signed Bill 2681-B into law today, imposing extensive requirements on employers to mitigate exposure to "airborne infectious diseases" in the workplace. 

Establishing a Prevention Plan. The new law requires all employers to establish an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan by May 19, 2021. The plan must detail procedures for employee health screenings, regular cleaning and disinfecting of the workplace, personal protective equipment ("PPE"), accessible workplace hygiene stations and adequate break times to use the stations as well as other onerous requirements. The plan must be part of the employer's employee handbook and displayed in a prominent location in the workplace. While the law requires the Department of Health to prepare a model policy, there is no timetable for the arrival of the policy compelling employers to prepare their own policies prior to May 19, 2021. 

Forming Safety CommitteesEmployers must permit employees to form public safety committees and provide them with paid time to hold meetings and attend trainings. This provision of the law takes effect in 180 days.

Retaliation Prohibited. Retaliation is prohibited against employees exercising their rights under the new law. Notably, retaliation is prohibited against an employee who refuses to work based upon a reasonable belief that he/she is exposed to an unreasonable risk of contracting an airborne infectious disease in the workplace. 

Penalties. Employers may be penalized $50 a day for failure to adopt a prevention plan; $1,000 - $10,000 for failure to abide by the adopted plan; and $1,000 - $20,000 for a second violation within six (6) years. In addition, the law affords employees a private right of action to file a complaint in state court where he/she may be awarded damages including liquidated damages and reasonable attorneys fees.  

For more information on this new law, please listen to our podcast here

Do you think these requirements are reasonable for employers? Will this law cause more businesses to move out of New York State? 



Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Federal Courts Remain Open Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

While New York State Courts are currently not permitting individuals or businesses to commence new matters (with extremely limited exceptions), federal courts (Eastern District of New York and Southern District of New York) remain open. Individuals or businesses can, thus, still file new cases in federal court.

Potential causes of action that can be filed in federal court include, but are not limited to:

  • Wage and Hour claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards act for unpaid wages, overtime, etc.;
  • Bankruptcy petitions; 
  • Discrimination/Retaliation claims under Title VII (race, age, sex, religion, disability etc.);
  • Interference with rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.