The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with investigating and prosecuting claims of discrimination arising under federal law.  Generally, federal law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, color, disability, age, and genetic information.  Further, federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report or oppose unlawful workplace discrimination.

Before an employee may sue an employer for discrimination or retaliation (arising under federal law) employees must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  In January 2020, the EEOC published data reporting the number of charges filed across the United States and its territories in 2019.  The publication shows the number of filings broken down by state and type of charge, and percentage of charges as a total of all filings and as a percentage of all filings within the state. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the EEOC’s report.

New York saw a total of 3,220 EEOC charge filings (or 4.40% of all charges filed in the United States). This shows a continued a downward trend of EEOC charges in New York. As pictured in the graph below, in 2016, New York saw 3,740 total EEOC filings which steadily decreased to 3,220 last year.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which requires that employers pay overtime pay to employees. Generally, overtime pay equals one and one half times an employee’s regular rate of pay. But, not all employees are entitled to overtime pay. The FLSA sets forth various exemptions to the overtime pay requirement. One such exemption is the professional exemption. In January 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether registered nurses are exempt from overtime pay pursuant to the professional exemption.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the decision.

In Isett v. Aetna Life Insurance Company, the plaintiff-employee worked as an appeals nurse for an insurance company.  Isett was required to hold a license as a registered nurse. Her job involved reviewing appeals for authorization for medical services which were initially denied by the health insurance claims department. Isett made a clinical determination about whether the service is medically necessary. For her work, Isett was paid on a salary.

To perform her duties, Isett reviewed the patient file, including clinical documents, as well as the initial insurance review documents. Isett then compared the information to the company’s guidelines to determine whether the service is medically necessary. If the patient’s coverage did not meet the company’s criteria, the file was forwarded to a medical director (a doctor) for further review. In other words, Isett did not work in a clinical setting.

On December 6, 2019, the the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided an important case which clarifies the law concerning settling federal wage and hour cases. Today’s Long Island employment law blog takes a look at this decision.

In 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision which sent employment lawyers in New York into a panic. The decision, known as Cheeks, essentially requires that when parties settle a lawsuit arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a court or the Department of Labor must approve the settlement. In other words, in the normal course, parties may settle cases under whatever mutually agreeable terms they decide on and the court has no say in the matter. Cheeks altered this practice for FLSA cases (the federal statute regulating minimum wage and overtime).

Moreover, Cheeks requires that when deciding whether to approve FLSA settlements, courts must review the settlement agreement for fairness and other requirements, including that the release is limited to wage claims and that the agreement does not require confidentiality. Further, courts review any amount of the settlement allotted for attorneys fees to ensure their reasonableness.

Long Island employment lawyers Famighetti & Weinick PLLC have obtained a $221,980 judgment against a Long Island metal fabrication company and its owner.  The judgment in this sexual harassment and retaliation case was issued after an inquest on damages, held in Suffolk County Supreme Court in September 2019.

The New York State Human Rights law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of, among many other factors, sex.  Discrimination can include creating a hostile work environment based on sex.  Further, the New York State Human Rights law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose or complain about unlawful discrimination in the workplace.

In this case, F&W’s client alleged she faced ongoing, persistent sexual harassment while working for the defendant corporation. Some of the conduct included supervisors and co-workers suggesting that they wanted to perform sex acts on the plaintiff, talking about her body, and suggesting that she participate in a wet t-shirt contest at work.  After the plaintiff complained about these acts, the owner first reduced her work hours, then terminated her entirely.

As Long Island employment lawyers, one of the questions we encounter is whether an employer can ask an employee for medical records. A request of this nature can implicate issues relating to disability discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Today’s Long Island employment law blog tries to shed some light on the issue.

Requests for Medical Records Under Anti-Discrimination Laws

The EEOC has consistently noted that employers with legitimate concerns relating to an employee’s medical condition which may impact that employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of his job, may make any inquiry into that employee’s medical history. But, that inquiry must be limited and related to the medical condition at issue.

October 2019 was a busy time in the world of employment law. Two major developments include (1) New York State sexual harassment training deadline hits; and (2) the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a Title VII case which will decide whether the federal workplace anti-discrimination laws prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses these developments.

1. Sexual Harassment Training in New York

As of October 9, 2019, all employers in New York, regardless of size, must have completed sexual harassment training for all employees. The training must include an explanation of what sexual harassment is, it must provide examples of sexual harassment, it must discuss available remedies for victims of sexual harassment, and it must discuss how victims can bring complaints of sexual harassment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits, among many other things, employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities. In addition to protecting employees with disabilities, the law also protects employees who associate or have a relationship with another individual who has a disability. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the law concerning associational discrimination under the ADA and a recent appellate court decision related to such claims.

The explicit language of the ADA prohibits employers from denying jobs or benefits to individuals because of a known disability the individual has or because the individual is known to associate or have a relationship with another person who has a disability. In an associational discrimination disability case, plaintiffs must prove, among other elements, that an adverse employment decision was made “under circumstances” which allows an inference that the disability of a relative or associate caused the employer’s decision. One way to show this is by establishing distraction evidence. A plaintiff can show distraction with evidence that the employer was motivated to take action against the employee out of fear that the employee will not pay attention at work because of the disability of a disabled person.

In Kelleher v. Fred A. Cook, Inc., the plaintiff-employee worked as a laborer. Just months after starting work, the employee’s daughter was born with a neurological disorder. Later the next year, the employee told his supervisor about his daughter’s condition and that because of the condition, on occasion he would need to rush home to care for her. The employee alleged that after this disclosure, his work conditions deteriorated. For example, his work location changed and his coworkers were offered assignments at higher wages than he was assigned.

Through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Congress enacted laws which set minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for employers. The Department of Labor is authorized to issue further guidance about the law, to implement additional rules concerning overtime and minimum wage, and to enforce compliance with the rules and regulations. On September 24, 2019, the United States Department of Labor issued a final rule concerning updates to the overtime rules existing for the past 15 years. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses these changes.

Under the FLSA, employers must pay minimum wage to employees. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. States may set higher rates, though. For instance, in New York, the minimum wage rate varies depending on county, but it is at least $11.10 per hour and can be as high as $15 per hour in New York City (as of 2019).

The FLSA also requires that employers pay overtime to employees. Overtime pay is one and one half times the employee’s regular rate of pay and kicks in when the employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek. But, not at all employees are entitled to overtime pay. The FLSA classifies employees as either exempt or non-exempt. Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay and typically are paid by salary, which remains they receive the same pay no matter how many hours the employee works. Non-exempt employees are typically paid on an hourly basis (or commission) and must be paid overtime hours.

Long Island employment lawyer Peter J. Famighetti secured a sizeable settlement for a firm’s employment litigation client. The settlement amount totals just shy of $295,000 and was based on claims that the public employer violated constitutional due process and civil service laws. As discussed below, the case shows that Famighetti & Weinick PLLC is able to use a wide range of tactics along with its depth of knowledge of employment laws, to obtain quick and substantial results for clients, oftentimes without ever needing to file a lawsuit, as was the case here.

Public employees are employees who work for the state, city, town, or local government. Public employees can also be employed by quasi-government agencies or public benefit corporations, such as the MTA.

In New York, many public employees are entitled to job protections. These employees cannot be fired without cause and must be provided a hearing to determine whether cause exists. Further, the constitution requires that employees who enjoy these protections, must also be provided with a notice of charges and an opportunity to be heard on the charges, before a termination is made effective.  Whether public employees are entitled to job protections can be a fact specific inquiry, dependent on whether the employee is subject to a collective bargaining agreement, the civil service title, the type of civil service appointment, and the employee’s job responsibilities and reporting hierarchy.

We are proud to announce that Peter J. Famighetti and Matthew Weinick, partners at the Long Island employment law firm, Famighetti & Weinick PLLC, have been selected for inclusion by Super Lawyers New York Metro magazine.  This exclusive list is reserved for no more than five percent of the attorneys in New York State.

According to Super Lawyers, the list is “research driven” and peer influenced.  It is a rating service of lawyers who, according to Super Lawyers, have “attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.”  Super Lawyers uses a patented multi-part evaluation process to select lawyers for inclusion on its list.  The process includes:

  • Peer nominations
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