Final Rules on Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors

At the end of September 2016, the Department of Labor released the final rules for federal contractors. The rules required employers to provide workers with paid sick leave.

The final rule only applies to employees working on or in connection with federal contracts. Nevertheless, it establishes a guidepost that reflects the trend for sick leaves regarding workplaces in general.

Under the following situations, workers can use paid leave:

  • For their own personal illness (whether a physical or mental disorder, disease, condition or impairment)
  • To take of a sick family member
  • To see a doctor
  • To take a family member to a medical appointment
  • For handling issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking

 

Statistics indicate the rule will:

Provide up to 56 hours of sick leave per year for approximately 1.15 million federal contractors’ employees, which also includes 594,000 employees who currently do not receive paid sick leave.

Implementation Options

Employers can allow sick leave to accrue over time or front load sick leaves to make administration easier.

Employers are given flexibility in integrating existing paid time-off policies with existing collective bargaining agreements.

Sick Leave Carry Over

Sick leave days from one particular year carry over to the next year. However, the employer does not have to pay the worker for accrued sick leave that the worker did not use by the end of the job. If the employer rehires the same employee within 12 months (even if for a different contract), and sick leave had been accrued but not used, the accrued sick leave is reinstated.

Overall, the purpose of the final rule is to help improve workers’ health and performance while protecting public health as well by keeping sick workers at home.

The final rule goes into effect in January 2017.

Do You Have Questions about Sick Leave?

If you have questions about sick leave for employees, consult with an experienced employment litigation attorney.

Stephen Hans & Associates can answer your questions and help protect you against legal liability.

 

 

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Employers Walk the Line on Employees’ Social Media Comments

As employers, if you feel that an employee’s comment on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter is damaging to your business’s reputation, it is wise to seek legal counsel before firing the employee. Employers can end up in a wrongful termination lawsuit if they do not carefully walk the line where social media is involved. They also may be subject to publicity backlash.

New York Employment-at-Will

Like most states, New York is an “employment-at-will” state. Under the NY Labor Code this means an employer can at any time and for any reason terminate the employment of a worker unless a law (for example discrimination laws) or agreement (union labor contract) provides otherwise.

Employer Social Media Policies

A Forbes Magazine article points out that employers can issue policies that prohibit employees from revealing trade secrets, criticizing customers or creating a hostile work environment through social media posts about the company. Doing so is within their legal rights and protects the company.

However, if an employee has a grievance against the company that is discussed with other company employees online, National Labor Relations Board  (NLRB) advisories and rulings protect employees under these circumstances — even when they’re not union members. Such communication is protected when it aims to improve working conditions.

To Terminate or Not to Terminate an Employee?

Another important factor to consider is whether terminating an employee will result in public backlash that is more damaging than keeping the worker employed.

Uber terminated a driver who had tweeted a link to an article that claimed driving for Uber was not much safer than driving a taxi. The pubic backlashed negatively on social media against Uber when the employee was terminated. Uber ended up reinstating the driver.

Receiving sound legal advice is often the best way to become informed so you can make the right decision.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment litigation firm that has assisted small and medium sized businesses with employment law for more than 20 years.

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Food Waste Law Tax Incentive for Restaurant Owners

Food waste is a problem that restaurants and other businesses in the food industry have grappled with for years.

An article entitled “It’s Time to Rethink Restaurant Food Waste” points out that 84 percent of the food waste restaurants generate ends up in land fills. A corporation with a billion dollar revenue loses money on more than 3 million pounds of food that it pays for but does not use. A 15.7 percent food loss exists across the food industry.

Donating food to charities is a way to offset the loss and help the needy at the same time.

Congress Passed a Law that Increases Tax Incentives against Food Waste

In December of 2015, Congress passed the PATH ACT, which improved the tax incentives for food donation.

Food diet for pets

Here is how the law improved tax incentives:

  • Now not only C corporations but other corporations can also carry forward the deductions for five years, the same way C corporations do.
  • Farmers can claim 25 percent of the donated food’s fair market value as the food production cost and so can other “cash method” accounting taxpayers.
  • The allowable charitable contributions cap was raised from 10 percent to 15 percent.

This change for C corps is permanent and it also included 2015 donations made by corporations that were not C corps. The law creates an advantage for small and mid-sized restaurant owners, enabling them to donate food to charities and write off a percentage of the donation for up to 15 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Lucky Stores Inc, v. Commission of Internal Revenue is also case that affected charity donations and tax write offs. It was fundamental in establishing the fair market value (FMV) of unused food.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment litigation firm that assists restaurant owners and defends small and medium sized businesses in discrimination, labor law and other employment related matters.

 

 

 

 

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Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement

In recent months, media focus on the Black Lives Matter Movement and growing concerns about law enforcement practices have been on many people’s minds. Finding workable solutions to this problem is a pressing issue. Advancing diversity is one approach that seeks to bring greater justice and more effective policing to law enforcement agencies.

EEOC & Justice Department Report

Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in conjunction with the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report that evaluated not just the barriers but also the promising practices for advancing diversity in law enforcement. The report highlighted strategies that would help small and mid-size agencies in particular to diversify their work forces.

Prior to releasing the report, the EEOC and DOJ acquired information from law enforcement leaders, officers and officials along with experts, researchers and civil rights advocates. The aim was to make policing more safe, just and effective.

Group of young people holding teamwork sign smiling

Group of young people holding teamwork sign smiling

The report took a twofold approach that:

  • Identified the barriers to effective policing
  • Reinforced actions based on real-world examples of effective implementation of smart policies in this area

Best practices that arose from the study included:

  • Ensuring community policing, procedural justice and cultural inclusivity that would guide the law enforcement agency’s organization culture
  • Engaging stakeholders from within and outside the law enforcement agency to help create a workforce that would reflect community diversity
  • Being willing to re-evaluate employment criteria and standards to ensure they would be tailored to the skills required for job functions and consistently attract, select and retain the most qualified and desirable sworn officers

Diversity in Businesses

Creating greater diversity in any business can help to overcome prejudices and incorporate anti-discrimination practices.

Stephen Hans & Associates can help you put business policies in place that protect your rights as employers and help you avoid litigation regarding discrimination and other legal issues.

 

 

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Google Faces Allegations of Age Discrimination

We tend to think that the largest companies in the world would have bulletproof discrimination policies and training in place, but that is not always the case. Fortunately, other businesses can learn from their challenges, even when they appear not to be learning from the challenges themselves.

Age Discrimination Allegations

According to an article in USA Today, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating age discrimination claims filed against Google.

Cheryl Fillekes filed a discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in San Jose and refers to the EEOC investigation done on Google. She was a systems engineer who interviewed for a position at Google. She alleges the company did not hire her when she was 47 because of her age.

In July 2016, for the third time, Google released the breakdown of its workforce based on gender and race. However, it has never revealed its workforce breakdown based on age.

Silicon Valley in general is known for its tech leaders who put a high value on young employees. The New Republic released an article in 2014 that quoted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as saying, “Young people are just smarter.” ServiceNow, an I.T. services company in Santa Clara promoted on its careers page “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

business-people-hans-blog

Lawsuit Details

Robert Heath filed a lawsuit in 2015 against Google that alleged he was not hired for a software engineering position in 2011 when he was 60, even though he had IBM, Compaq and General Dynamics experience on his resume. Evidence in his lawsuit included a Google employees survey done by Payscale.com that showed the median employee age was 29 in 2013.

His lawsuit also referred to an earlier lawsuit in which Brian Reid, a former Google executive alleged he was called “an old fuddy duddy” and told his ideas were “too old to matter.” He settled his case out of court.

Fillekes has joined up with Heath and is seeking court approval to pursue a class action lawsuit against Google.

Get Legal Guidance for Your Business

While a multi-billion dollar corporation may express concern about lawsuits, a costly lawsuit could wipe out a small or mid-sized business.

Stephen Hans & Associates can help you put policies in place that protect your rights as

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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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