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Matthew Weinick
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On August 24, 2023, the Honorable Philip M. Halpern administered the judicial oath of office to employment lawyer Matthew Weinick, marking Weinick’s appointment to the panel of mediators serving the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. As a panel mediator, Weinick will be randomly selected to serve as a mediator for cases designated for court ordered mediation.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Rather than the formal, rigid structure of court proceedings, mediation is an informal and confidential way for plaintiffs and defendants to meet to try to reach a settlement of their dispute. Mediators are trained in techniques which can help the parties reach a settlement. More information about mediation in general, is available here.

The Southern District of New York (SDNY) is one of New York’s federal courts. It has jurisdiction over federal cases from counties in New York State such as New York, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Sullivan, Orange, and Dutchess. Because of the area it covers, the Southern District of New York has handled many famous court cases, including most recently, the sentencing of President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, the “deflategate” litigation relating to the NFL, and the prosecution of Bernie Madoff.

In a sex discrimination case filed by New York employment lawyers Famighetti & Weinick PLLC, the New York State Division of Human Rights has issued a determination of Probable Cause. This means a judge will hold a hearing to determine liability and damages. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the case and the decision.

The foregoing is taken from the filed charge of discrimination, and the Division’s investigation report:

F&W filed a charge of discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR), on behalf its client, a former volunteer firefighter who applied to volunteer with the Ladies Auxiliary of the fire department. The NYSDHR is an administrative agency of the State which investigates claims of unlawful discrimination.

When employers offer severance pay to a terminated employee, the employers typically require that, before receiving the pay, the employee sign a severance agreement. Severance agreements primarily are used to obtain a waiver from the employee of any legal claims the employee may have had against the employer, known as a general release. But, many employers also include non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses. Under a recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses are unlawful.

What are non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses and what does the NLRB’s ruling mean? Today’s Long Island employment law blog explains.

As noted, when employers often severance pay to an employee, the employee usually must also sign a severance agreement. The agreement sets forth the terms to which the employee must agree, in order to receive and keep the severance pay. Among the many provisions generally included in severance agreements is a non-disparagement provision.

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law which requires employers to pay certain employees a minimum wage and overtime. Like most laws, the FLSA contains various exemptions. On February 22, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in the case Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt, an FLSA case which addressed the question of whether  a high earning employee is exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirement, if the employer pays the employee based on a daily rate. Today’s Long Island employment law blog looks at the Helix decision.

Unless an exemption applies, the FLSA requires that employers pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Exemptions under the FLSA include employees who work in an executive, professional, or administrative capacity. In Helix, the court looked at the executive exemption.

The executive exemption to the FLSA generally applies to workers if a three part test is met. First, the employer must pay the employee on a salary basis. Second, the salary must meet a specified amount set by regulation. Third, the nature of the employee’s job must relate to executive responsibilities, as those responsibilities are established by law.

On November 2, 2022, United States Magistrate Judge Robert Levy swore in Long Island employment lawyer Matthew Weinick as a mediator for the Eastern District of New York. The moment marks the culmination of years of work Weinick has spent training to serve as a mediator for the EDNY panel.

Mediation is an informal way for parties to a dispute to work towards a negotiated settlement, instead of having a judge or jury decide the outcome. Advantages to mediation include that it is often quicker and less expensive than a lawsuit, and the parties control the outcome of the case, instead of a court. Because of the efficiencies of mediation, courts such as the EDNY, often order parties to try mediation before the case continues in court.

The path towards Weinick joining the EDNY mediation panel started many years ago. Weinick first applied for and was accepted to the EDNY’s pro bono mediation advocacy panel. On the advocacy panel, Weinick represented parties involved in lawsuits filed in the Eastern District of New York. The EDNY, as it is known, has jurisdiction over federal lawsuits arising in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties.

Long Island employment lawyers Famighetti & Weinick PLLC are proud to announce that both partners, Matthew Weinick and Peter Famighetti, have been selected to the New York Metro Super Lawyers list. This marks the 10th consecutive year that the magazine selected Weinick and the 8th consecutive year for Famighetti. Additionally, the firm is announcing the opening of a new practice area – mediation services.

Firm Celebrates a Decade of Selections by Super Lawyers Magazine

In 2012, Super Lawyers magazine first selected Weinick for its “Rising Star” list. The Rising Star list is reserved for lawyers who have been practicing for less than 10 years or who are under 40 years old. Super Lawyers’ patented selection process results in just 2.5% of the lawyers in the state being selected for inclusion. Weinick made the cut for inclusion on each list from 2012 to 2018.

The #MeToo movement highlighted the prevalence of sexual harassment in workplaces across the country and in New York. For years, if not decades, employers have had a variety of ways to keep instances of workplace sexual harassment in the dark. One way was confidential settlement agreements. In other words, employers could pay employees alleging sexual harassment to “keep quiet.”

Another way, was to require that employees who were alleging workplace sexual harassment fight their claims in mandatory secret arbitration, instead of publicly in court. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses a new law passed by Congress which addresses these forced arbitrations.

Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement’s growing publicity, lawmakers have worked to take away employer’s tools for silencing sexual harassment victims. Federally, Congress altered the tax code to prohibit payments to sexual harassment victims from being categorized as a deductible business expense when the employer requires confidentiality about the payment, as a term for payment. Arguably, the goal was to make employers re-consider whether payments should be confidential and to provide incentive for employers to remove confidentiality terms from settlement agreements. F&W would argue that this is not effective.

Whistleblower retaliation is perhaps one of the most misunderstood employment law claims in New York. Many employees believe a broad whistleblower law protects a variety of employee conduct and that when employees complain about any number of workplace issues, they are automatically protected against retaliation by the employer.

In fact, New York’s whistleblower law is remarkably narrow. The New York employment lawyers at Famighetti & Weinick PLLC have previously blogged about the limitations of New York’s whisteblower statute, codified as New York Labor Law 740. But, on January 22, 2022, the law is set to expand. Today’s Long Island employment law blog explains the changes coming to New York’s whistleblower law.

Under the existing New York whistleblower law, workers in New York were protected against retaliation by employers when employees engaged in certain protected acts. To invoke the protections of the act, employees had to have disclosed an illegal activity of the employer. Further, it was not enough that the employer just engaged in unlawful activity. The violation must have threatened the health or safety of the public or constitute healthcare fraud. In other words, the law’s coverage was remarkably limited.

As we predicted when the order issued on September 15, 2021, Justice Laurence Love has lifted an order he issued which would have blocked a New York City Vaccine Mandate from taking effect. Last week, the court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting a New York City law from taking effect which would have required City DOE employees, and others, to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

The September 15 order was issued without the Court having heard from New York City. Further, the order seemed to conflict with existing law concerning vaccine mandates. Thus, we opined that the order would not remain in effect very long.

Indeed, on September 22, 2021, the judge lifted order. In a written decision, Justice Love noted that he understands that many people have objections to the vaccine, whether it be based on religious grounds, medical reasons, or other personal beliefs. He further acknowledged that DOE employees have already persevered through working on the front lines of the crisis.

On Tuesday September 14, 2021, two judges issued orders blocking vaccine mandate requirements from taking effect in New York. One ruling from a federal judge, blocks a state requirement concerning health care workers and another ruling from a state court judge blocks a New York City requirement concerning city workers. What do these rulings mean for the future of the mandates? Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses these orders.

Federal Judge Blocks State Health Care Worker Vaccine Mandate

On August 26, 2021, New York State’s Department of Health issued a rule that requires that healthcare workers in the state get a Covid-19 vaccine. Workers in hospitals and nursing homes must receive a first dose by September 27, 2021 and others must receive a first dose by October 7.

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