Are You Motivated to Prevent Discrimination Lawsuits?

Because putting measures in place to prevent discrimination can be a lot of work, many employers don’t take the time to address this factor in their businesses. However, when a lawsuit is pending or a discrimination claim has been filed, you’re no longer in the preventative stages, and litigation can cost you dearly.

Reasons to Be Proactive

An article in thebalance.com points out the costs that are often involved with employment discrimination litigation. Their figures are based on 2010 statistics.

The EEOC acquired more than $404 million in damages for individuals in discrimination claims in 2010. When employees won the lawsuits, average costs ran the employers about $250,000 in defense fees, and jury verdicts averaged $200,000.

Employers also experienced financial losses through:

  • Lost production time due to staff involvement in rounding up and preparing documents, participating in an internal investigation and working to fight the claim
  • Lawsuit pressures lowering employee morale
  • The business’s potential loss of reputation and its effect on being able to recruit desirable employees
  • Attorney fees that surpassed settlement costs, especially if going through a trial

Laws require employees to complain to their employers before becoming eligible to file a claim, and this is to the employer’s advantage. It provides employers with the opportunity to seek legal advice and rectify the situation before it turns into a claim or lawsuit.

We live in litigious times, and taking measures to prevent lawsuits along with resolving employment discrimination complaints are simply part of doing business. Businesses who want to stay in business plan ahead. They become proactively involved with devising policies and putting business practices in place that create diversity in the workplace and prohibit discrimination.

Stephen Hans & Associates has several decades of employment law litigation experience. We can help you take proactive measures. Discuss your discrimination concerns with us and find out how we can help.

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Recent Laws & Regulations Affecting Restaurant Owners

Before ending the summer session and taking summer vacations, the NY legislature passed major bills that affect restaurant owners and other employers in the food industry.

Brunch Bill

The Brunch Bill or SO8140, which loosened restrictions for selling alcohol on Sundays passed the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature. The NY State Restaurant Association (NYRSA) lobbied diligently to pass this bill. The bill enables restaurant owners to begin serving alcohol on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and also gives them the option to serve alcohol 12 times a year on Sundays at 8:00 a.m. for a $35 fee.

Minimum Wage Hikes

Changes were made in the proposed bill that raised minimum wages to $15/hour. The cash wage for tipped food service workers was locked in to two-thirds of the state minimum and the rate increase in upstate counties was extended more slowly.

Minimum Wage Hikes

Pregnancy Discrimination Regulations

Last May, the Mayor of NYC Bill de Blasio and the NYC Human Rights Commission released the NYC Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination on the Basis of Pregnancy. It outlined regulations and clarified pregnancy discrimination violations. It included examples for restaurant and bar owners to follow in regards to exercising their rights to refuse to serve alcohol to pregnant women.

Restaurants cannot refuse to serve raw fish or alcohol because a woman is pregnant and they believe she should not be drinking or eating such foods. Another example for pregnancy discrimination was that a bouncer at a bar couldn’t refuse to admit a pregnant woman based on a belief that pregnant women should not go to bars or drink alcohol.

Get Legal Guidance for Your Business

Stephen Hans & Associates can help you create employee handbooks or put policies in place that protect your rights as employers and help you avoid litigation.

 

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New York City & Queens Employment Defense Attorneys

What Is the EEO-1 Survey and Does It Apply to Your Business?

Businesses that fall into the following categories must file an EEO-1 Survey:

  • Private businesses with 100 employees or more
  • Business that are a federal government contractor or first-tier subcontractors with 50 or more employees and a contract/subcontract of $50,000 or more

The filing deadline for EEO-1 reports is September 30.

What is the EEO-1 Survey?

The EEO-1 Survey  is a mandatory annual survey required under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title 29 Chapter XIV of the Federal Code of Regulations. The purpose is to provide data about race/ethnicity, general and job categories to researchers, private attorneys and human resources staff, who can use when developing affirmative action plans.

What are affirmative action programs?

Federal contractors and subcontractors must make outreach efforts, have training programs and take other actions to recruit and advance the following:

  • Qualified minorities
  • Women
  • Individuals with disability
  • Covered veterans

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Improvements for Uploading EEO-1 Surveys

You can now upload your data files and receive immediate notifications of any errors that need to be corrected. This is an improvement over having to email data and wait for confirmation.

Regulatory compliance to protect your business interests

Part of running a successful business includes complying with federal and state regulations and putting policies in place that protect you against fines, penalties and lawsuits.

Today we live in a society with an ever-increasing number of laws and regulations. It is difficult to run a small business and keep with a changing legal landscape. For this reason, having an employment litigation attorney who can provide you with legal advice and guidance to stay compliant is vital for your business success.

Stephen Hans & Associates has several decades of employment law litigation experience and can help you take proactive measures to avoid regulatory non-compliance and other employment issues.

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New York City Employment Defense Law Firm

Americans with Disabilities Act: Employment Questions and Medical Tests

For employers, there is a long list of questions the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits you from asking, but you may start wondering what types of questions are allowable.

It is important to train your hiring managers and other personnel so they know the parameters of what to ask and what not to ask applicants and employees.

Examples of ADA Questions

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers clarification of the ADA and gives the following as examples of allowed questions:

“Asking generally about an employee’s well being (e.g., How are you?), asking an employee who looks tired or ill if s/he is feeling okay, asking an employee who is sneezing or coughing whether s/he has a cold or allergies, or asking how an employee is doing following the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage/relationship

  • Asking an employee about non-disability-related impairments (e.g., How did you break your leg?)
  • Asking an employee whether s/he can perform job functions
  • Asking an employee whether s/he has been drinking
  • Asking an employee about his/her current illegal use of drugs
  • Asking a pregnant employee how she is feeling or when her baby is due
  • Asking an employee to provide the name and telephone number of a person to contact in case of a medical emergency”

Medical Examinations Explained

Employers violate the ADA when they require an employee to undergo a medical examination as terms for employment as part of a pre-offer, post-offer or after employment. Examples of medical examinations include tests for all types of physical abilities, such as vision, disease, genetic markers, blood pressure, range-of-motion, pulmonary function and mental state. All scans including x-rays, CAT and MRI are medical examinations.

Procedures that do not violate the ADA and that employers can require include:

  • Tests to detect illegal drug use
  • Physical agility tests to measure performance such as running or lifting
  • Tests to determine the ability to read labels or distinguish objects necessary for job function
  • Polygraph tests

Stephen Hans & Associates can help you put policies in place that protect your rights as employers and adhere to employment laws.

 

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Employment Defense Attorney New York City & Queens

DOL Sets Overtime Rules Affecting the Restaurant Industry

Whether you own a fast food restaurant or a fine dining establishment, you must now pay your salaried workers overtime if they meet new qualifications set by the Department of Labor (DOL).

This means fast food restaurant managers, head cooks, sous chefs, pastry chefs and sommeliers working a salaried job that pays $47,476 or less, now qualify for overtime pay. They receive time and a half for hours that exceed 40 a week. The exemptions for salaried employees have new limits and regardless of whether the employee is hourly or salaried, overtime rules apply.

How Does the New DOL Overtime Rule Compare with Past Rules?

The DOL released the new rule in May 2016. The limit on salaried workers who could collect overtime had stayed at $23,660 since 2004. Here are some relevant facts for owners in the restaurant industry:

  • Average wages in the U.S. for chefs, head cooks and pastry chefs are $45,920
  • Bakers’ wages average is around $26,270
  • Culinary Journalists’ mean wage is $46,560
  • The majority of these employees work 50 or more hours per week

(Information from Eatery.com)

Restaurant Worker overtime pay

Most Common Ways for Employers to Deal with the New Law

To continue to cover costs and also deal with additional overtime pay, employers will most likely do one or more of the following:

  • Pay higher salaries
  • Cut work hours to no more than 40 per week
  • Raise menu prices

When Does the Overtime Rule Go into Effect?

The rule goes into effect December 1, 2016. Every three years, beginning in 2020 the DOL will modify the overtime threshold to match the 40th percentile income of the country’s lowest income area, which is the Southeast.

Stay on Top of Changing Laws as an Employer

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our firm helps small and middle sized business owners deal with legal changes. We understand how difficult it is to stay apprised of new laws while managing in the daily demands of running a restaurant.

We do not just keep you informed. We also provide legal guidance and representation to help you protect your rights and assist you with policies that avoid liability.

 

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The EEOC and Kroger Settle in a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

NYC & Queens Employment Defense Attorney

As mentioned in an earlier blog, claims with the EEOC for ADA violations have been on the rise and many involve companies that are household names.

In September of 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Kroger of Michigan for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations. The Kroger Company is a large Michigan grocery store chain with stores throughout the state.

Lawsuit Allegations Details

The Kroger store in Howell, Michigan had provided an employee, hired as a stock person, an accommodation to work as a cashier after being injured. This was a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. However, when medical professionals determined that the disability was permanent and not temporary, the store fired the employee. Firing an employee based on disability violates the ADA and provides grounds for a lawsuit. Kroger attempted to reach a voluntary settlement during the pre-litigation conciliation process but no settlement was reached. The EEOC lawsuit sought the following monetary compensation for the fired employee:

  • Back pay
  • Damages for emotional stress
  • Punitive damages

Settlement Details

Legal Newsline reported on June 1, 2016 that the EEOC and Kroger reached a settlement where Kroger will pay $35,000 along with other relief for ADA violations. The EEOC trial attorney pointed out that “Federal law expressly prohibits employers from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities “ and she also stated, “An employer must always seriously consider whether it can make an accommodation before downgrading or firing employees.”

In addition to the compensation being provided to the employee, Kroger must provide managers and employees with ADA training.

Protect Your Business by Consulting with an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

Company policies should comply with federal and state laws, and at the first sign of  disability discrimination issues, it is wise to consult with an attorney. At Stephen Hans & Associates, we can provide you with sound and experienced legal guidance.

 

 

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New York Employment Discrimination Defense Attorney

What Can Happen if You Ignore a Discrimination Claim?

No one likes dealing with a dispute, and we often wish disputes would just go away. However, ignoring a discrimination claim can land employers into trouble and result in undesired legal consequences.

This is what occurred in a Florida discrimination case brought against a Clearwater adult entertainment club called Bliss Cabaret. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the club and its successor corporation Executive Gentleman’s Club for firing African American Quatavia Harden who was employed as a bartender based on her race. The manager, Patrick Franke who hired Harden objected and refused to participate in the discrimination, and consequently, he was terminated. Later in the lawsuit, the EEOC added the parent company Southeast Showclubs, LLC as a party to the lawsuit. Race discrimination and retaliation are violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Because the defendants ignored the EEOC’s allegations and failed to respond, the Court ruled the defendants were guilty of discriminatory conduct and awarded $365,000 in relief to the EEOC, which included punitive damages, back pay, interest, compensatory damages and tax penalty offsets for Franke and Harden. The Court also granted injunctive relief that demanded the companies cease their discriminatory practices, that they incorporate non-retaliation and non-discrimination policies and report applicant flow and hiring data to the EEOC for compliance monitoring.

The best legal defense is preventative and helps you put measures in place so you do not become involved in discrimination issues. Unfortunately, companies often do not realize the importance of legal guidance until they face a lawsuit. At the first sign of a discrimination dispute, it is wise to seek legal counsel. Stephen Hans & Associates puts decades of legal experience to work on your behalf and works diligently to protect your rights as an employer.

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