When two legal rights collide, how does the court pick a side? The United States Supreme Court’s ruling on June 4, 2018, in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, made it clear that it is not an easy decision. Today’s Long Island civil rights blog discusses whether a baker can rightfully turn down a gay couple’s request to design their wedding cake if the baker’s religion does not accept gay marriage.

Freedom of speech and religion are two important civil liberties protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Freedom of speech extends to both traditional verbal speech, and expressive conduct also known as symbolic speech. Burning a flag and wearing a t-shirt opposing a political leader are two examples of symbolic speech.

Conduct remains at the heart of symbolic speech claims. Thoughts, ideas, and opinions are powerful and courts have decided to protect them in certain scenarios. However, the conduct’s offensiveness or irrationality can never be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not the conduct deserves First Amendment protection.

Employers in New York cannot willfully turn their backs to the state’s minimum wage and overtime laws and expect to get away with it. Courts or the Department of Labor are likely to impose hefty fines or penalties. Today’s employment law blog discusses the penalties employers on Long Island and in the rest of the state can face for willfully violating the law. Continue reading

Unpaid wage and overtime lawsuits are often brought as class actions or collective actions. This way, many employees can band together and use the power of numbers to take on powerful corporations. But, on May 21, 2018, The U.S. Supreme Court practically slammed its doors directly in employees’ faces while providing an easy escape route for employer’s to violate workers’ rights. Continue reading

Retaliation in the workplace is illegal. The law protects employees who speak up when they believe the employer discriminated against them because of a protected characteristic such as race, gender, age, disability, religion, or national origin. Employers cannot try to “get back” at the employee by negatively affecting his or her job such as by demoting, firing, or reducing the employee’s hours or pay. Continue reading

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects, among other rights, the freedom of speech.  An unsettled area of employment law in New York has been the question of how much protection does the First Amendment provide to public sector employees like police officers.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses a recent case involving a police officer’s union activity and First Amendment retaliation.  Continue reading

For the fourth consecutive year, Long Island employment lawyer Matt Weinick has been asked to return to Hofstra Law School to teach the Foundational Lawyering Skills class.  Weinick will be designated as a Special Instructor to teach second year law students, commonly referred to as “2L’s.”

According to Hofstra Law School’s website, the Foundational Lawyering Skills class is a required course for all second year students.  It teaches “core lawyering skills” such as litigation and transactional lawyering.  Instructors assess the students’ competency in those skills.  The class is comprised of a lecture and “break-out classes.”  Weinick will be instructing one section of the break-out class on Tuesday afternoons.

The fall 2018 semester will be the fourth year in a row Weinick has participated as an instructor in the Foundational Lawyering Skills class program.  Last year Weinick’s students commented that he was “pleasant,” “professional,” gave “thoughtful feedback,” “He was good, seemed effective,” and he was “Great, informative, knew the material, gave effective comments.”

At the April 30, 2018 session of the Court, Long Island employment lawyer Matthew Weinick was admitted to the United States Supreme Court.  His admission gives Weinick the privilege of representing clients in appeals before the nation’s highest court.

At the April 30, 2018 Supreme Court session, Weinick joined a group of lawyers from Hofstra Law School for a group swearing in ceremony at the court.  Making the day all the more special, the group included Hofstra’s dean and former Chief Administrative Judge of New York, A. Gail Prudenti.  Promptly at 10:00a.m., the Court was called to order and the Chief Justice and Associate Judges of the Supreme Court took the bench.  Hofstra Professor J. Scott Colesanti read the motion to admit Weinick and the rest of the Hofstra group.  Chief Justice John Roberts granted the motion.  Before the conclusion of the session, the Clerk of the Court Scott S. Harris read the lawyers their oath and the newest members of the Supreme Court bar were sworn in.

Following the ceremony, the group was escorted to the lawyers’ lounge.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stopped in to share some stories with the lawyers and their guests, then the Court’s photographer took a group picture.

On April 25, 2018, Long Island civil rights lawyer Matthew Weinick led a discussion about First and Second Amendment rights at a meeting of the League of Women Voters.  The meeting, held at the Levittown Library, was well attended by both organization members and the general public.

According to its website, the League of Women Voters is a “grassroots organization.”  Earlier this year, the group contacted the Nassau County Bar Association looking for a volunteer lawyer to speak about civil rights.  Civil rights lawyer and bar association member Matthew Weinick responded to the request and the discussion was scheduled.

At the meeting, Weinick discussed First Amendment and Second Amendment rights.  Weinick tried to keep these hot button issues away from politics and spoke about these rights from a legal viewpoint, discussing the way courts have interpreted the amendments.  Weinick used recent court decisions relating to sexual orientation discrimination and gun regulation to show how courts interpret the Constitution.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has been dominating the news.  What, if anything, can the Russia investigation teach us about employment law? Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the one clear answer — tell the truth.

The presidency may be a politically elected position, but it is nonetheless a job and the campaign process is like one giant and prolonged job interview.  Millions of bosses — voters — use information gathered during the campaign to make an informed decision about who to hire — i.e. elect — as president. Once elected, the president’s acts and performance are not without review.  Congress may impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and law enforcement may prosecute where there is evidence of a crime.

In the private sector, employers use the interview process to evaluate candidates for a job.  Employers may ask many questions to a candidate during the application process, and employers expect honest and truthful answers to their questions.  Businesses make decisions about who to hire after carefully reviewing, among other things, the applicant’s answers to the employer’s questions from the interview process.  Although many states are at-will employment states, meaning employees can be hired or fired for any lawful reason, many employers nonetheless will investigate suspicions of employee misconduct before terminating the employee.

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