The New NY Anti-Sexual Harassment Law: What Employers Should Know
Additional New York State anti-sexual harassment law protections came into existence in August 2019.
Under the new law, sexual harassment only has to rise above the level of “petty slights or trivial inconveniences,” which is a much lesser burden of proof. This change will make it much easier for victims to come forward and file a lawsuit against employers. By comparison, under the previous law, the plaintiff would have to prove that sexual harassment was “severe or pervasive.”
When Does the New Law Go into Effect? Read More
Who Does the New Law Affect and How? Read More
How Do the Changes Affect Employment Agreements? Read More
How Are All Individuals in the Workplace Protected?
The new law extends protection beyond private company or government employees and offers protection to the following people in the workplace:
- Other individuals providing services pursuant to contract
- An employee of such a contractor (contractor, subcontractor, vendor, consultant or other person providing services)
How Does the New Law Affect an Employer’s Liability and Responsibilities?
All employers will need to investigate complaints and take corrective action or face liability for the failure to do so.
The extent of the employer’s control over the harasser in cases involving non-employees is also a consideration when reviewing the case.
In addition, all state contractors when submitting bids for work most also submit certification that written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention in the workplace has been implemented. Contractors must also show that all employees receive annual sexual harassment training.
(References: New York State Bar Association article, New York Post)
Stephen Hans & Associates assists employers in complying with employment laws and represents them in employment disputes.
Protecting Your Legal Rights in Car Accidents Claims
You may have heard people say that everyone will be in a car accident at some point in their lives. While this statement is a generality and isn’t literally true for everyone, there are statistics that make it likely. Chances are, based on statistics, that most people will experience a car accident, whether a fender bender or a full on crash.
Quoting from Forbes, car insurance industry estimates show that the average driver is in a car accident once every 17.9 years. The article goes on to point out that if you got your driver’s license at age 16, when you reach the age of 34, you will have been in a car accident. Esurance.com reports that 77 percent of U.S. drivers have experienced at least one accident, yet the average driver will experience three or four accidents during a lifetime.
Also noteworthy are the statistics that 10 million vehicle accidents occur in the U.S. every year, and this includes everything from parking lot dings and scratches to major collisions on the freeway.
Legal Protection for Serious Car Accidents
While the insurance sales representative may seem like your best friend, other insurance personnel work to save the company money. Car insurance companies hire teams of adjusters, private investigators, accident analysts and lawyers to build strong cases to protect their bottom lines. Denying a claim or paying a claimant as little as possible is a common strategy for driving profits.
However, the fact remains, that insurance companies want to avoid going to trial because litigation is expensive. Whenever possible they vie for an out-of-court settlement. Another tactic is to push for a settlement too quickly before the full extent of damages is known.
If you are injured and medical bills are mounting up, the idea of a quick settlement may appeal to you. This may or may not be to your advantage. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can have a knowledgeable advocate during settlement negotiations. You also have professional who knows how to get you the most compensation.
If you have been in a serious car crash and the other driver was at fault, get legal help. Lawyers offer free consultations to determine whether you have a case. Cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means you owe nothing unless the attorney succeeds through settlement or verdict.
Safety Tips from OSHA to Avoid Falling from a Ladder
Falls from ladders are the leading cause of death in the construction industry.
In fact, according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), close to one-third of construction site deaths result from falls from ladders.
Furthermore, it is the employer’s responsibility to train workers and provide a safe work environment for them.
Safety Precautions: Knowing When and When Not to Use a Ladder
Ladders and stepladders are not always the best option for work. Using a ladder is not a good idea when:
- Holding onto heavy items
- Working from the height for a long time
- Elevation for work would make a long ladder unstable
- You have to stand sideways on the ladder to do the job
Under these circumstances, a scissor lift or a platform stepladder (platform with handrail barricades on the side) would be safer than a ladder.
Other Safety Tips to Avoid Falls from Ladders
Here are some other safety guidelines to follow:
- Make sure the ladder is high enough to reach the area. (Do not stand on the top ladder rung.)
- Extend the ladder and secure it three feet above the landing point of the next level for a safe handhold.
- Secure the base of the ladder.
- Wear non-slip, flat boots or shoes.
- Place the ladder on even, stable ground.
- Ensure full extension of the ladder before working.
- Put barriers or cones around the ladder to prevent passersby from walking near or under the ladder.
- Do not carry tools or materials while climbing the ladder.
- Keep your weight centered between side rails and do not lean out from the ladder while working.
- If using a ladder near a doorway, ensure you lock the door.
Whenever falls from ladders cause serious injury, it is wise to consult with an accident attorney to find out about recovering compensation. The State of New York has stringent laws that can protect your rights in a construction accident case.
August 23, 2019 UPDATE
Governor Cuomo, on August 12, 2019, signed into law Assembly Bill A8421, which significantly expands New York State sexual harassment and discrimination laws. These changes are in addition to the significant legislation that New York enacted in 2018 that were originally reported by The Van De Water Law Firm. This article details the revised and most timely deadlines and requirements under New York State and New York City sexual harassment training laws.
New York Sexual Harassment Training Deadline of October 9, 2019
By October 9, 2019, employers must provide sexual harassment training to all employees located in New York State. Thereafter and upon an ongoing basis, all employers must provide sexual harassment training to all employees each year. Both court decisions and numerous regulations in New York State have made it clear for years that all employers should provide harassment prevention training. Now it’s the law!
The New York State law:
- Applies to all employers, regardless of their size, who employ anyone in the state of New York.
- Applies to all employees, not just supervisors.
- Requires that the training is provided annually.
- Applies to all contractors who bid on New York State contracts.
The NYC law, entitled the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” applies to all employers with 15 or more employees, and requires annual sexual harassment training for all employees. Mandatory compliance with that law began on April 1, 2019.
As a matter of course, both the New York State and New York City laws detail specific content that must be addressed in the training. While New York State training content requirements are similar to content requirements in other states, New York City’s law goes beyond the training content that previously has been required in other jurisdictions. For example, the training provided to employees in New York City must:
- Address bystander intervention
- Describe the complaint process available through the NYC Commission on Human Rights, the New York State Division of Human Rights, and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and provide employees with those agencies’ contact information
The two tables below detail the obligations and the differences between the New York State and New York City laws regarding:
- Training Requirements (Table 1)
- Training Content (Table 2)
Bottom of Form
Sexual Harassment Training Obligations in New York State Read More:
Harassment Training Content Requirements in New York State and NYC: Read More
**Quoting Chart from Clear Law Institute, New York State and New York City Sexual Harassment Training Laws Michael Johnson, J.D., CEO, Clear Law Institute, August 12, 2019
Required Distribution in Writing of Anti-Harassment Policy and Information Presented in the Employer’s Training Program
According to the 2019 New York State legislation, employers must now provide employees in New York with written notice at the time of their hire and during annual sexual harassment training. The notice must include (1) the employer’s sexual harassment prevention policy and (2) the information presented in the employer’s sexual harassment prevention training program.
Employers must provide the required information in English and in the language identified by each employee as his or her primary language.
The state will publish a model policy in languages other than English (depending on the prevalence of each language in the state). New York employers are not required to provide their policy in another language if the state has not published a template in that language. This requirement to provide notice at the time of hire and during annual training goes into effect immediately upon enactment on August 12, 2019. Read More
Most employers likely will turn to a third party with expertise in training on sexual harassment prevention, such as The Van De Water Law Firm. Indeed, the New York City law explicitly states that its model training is designed to be a minimum threshold. Many employers will likely and should in fact turn to expert providers of sexual harassment training: Read More
As always, we at The Van De Water Law Firm are your local resource for all your Company’s sexual harassment questions and provide detailed and fully compliant sexual harassment training that strictly complies with both the New York State and City requirements. Call now for a free evaluation and consultation at (631)923-1314, or email us at Chris@VDWLawFirm.com. You can also visit us on the web.
Important Reasons for Employers to Avoid Retaliation
Retaliation in the workplace is unlawful. Therefore, as a business owner it is important to understand what it is and to avoid it. Employers violate the law if they retaliate against an employee who has engaged in “protected activity” under the New York City Human Rights Law or forbidden activities under the Law.
What Does Retaliation Mean?
“Retaliation” in a legal sense refers to “punishment of an employee by an employer for engaging in legally protected activity such as making a complaint of harassment or participating in workplace investigations. Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction or job or shift assignment.”
Examples of protected activity include:
- Filing a formal written complaint about discrimination (within the company through its management or Human Resources or with any anti-discrimination agency)
- Testifying or assisting in a Human Rights Law proceeding regarding discrimination
- Making a verbal or informal discrimination complaint to management
- Making a complaint that another employee has been subjected to discrimination
- Encouraging another employee to report an occurrence of discrimination
Even when the employee has left the company, if the employer provides an unreasonable negative reference about the former employee, such behavior can fall under retaliation. However, the employee would have to show that the negative reference was based on retaliation.
Potential Penalties for Retaliation
Under New York Law, the New York State Department of Labor can assess potential penalties for retaliation, including:
- Penalties ranging from $1,000 to $20,000
- An order to pay lost compensation to the employee
- An order to pay liquidated damages
If a New York court finds an employer guilty of retaliation it can impose the following:
Reinstatement of the employer to the former position
- Restoration of seniority
- Payment of lost compensation
- Damages of up to $20,000 per employee
- Payment of reasonable attorney’s fees
At Stephen Hans & Associates, we help employers comply with employment laws, avoid retaliation, offer legal advice and represent them in employment issues.
Navigating the New York Legal System
Hiring an attorney for a serious car accident case is typically a necessity based on what the accident victims face. Severe injuries leave the victim suffering and unable to work. Many are hospitalized, have gone through a surgery or several surgeries and are taking months to recover. Aside from the excruciating pain and strong desire to feel normal again, the person may be wondering, “How can I afford being off work or how can I pay the mounting medical costs?”
In New York, a serious injury caused by a car accident enables the victim to sue for damages. New York insurance law outlines specific requirements that define the “serious injury threshold” for car accidents. When your injury meets this threshold, you will need a lawyer.
Why You Need a Lawyer if You Meet the Serious Injury Threshold
Substantial monetary amounts are at stake. If another driver was at fault for the accident, you can expect their insurance company to do everything it can to pay as little as possible. Their insurance adjuster may call you and appear to be very interested and compassionate. However, the information you provide will become part of their lawyers’ legal strategy to settle quickly, pay as little as possible and safeguard the insurance company’s bottom line.
The at fault driver will have a team of insurance lawyers working diligently to prove the driver either was not at fault or that the driver’s percentage of fault for causing the accident was minimal. They would like to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you claim or that your actions contributed to the accident more than they actually did.
They are advocates for the defendant, not for you. What you need is an experienced attorney who can advocate on your behalf and argue your side of the case.
Let Your Lawyer Gather the Facts and Prepare Your Case
Aside from the fact you do not have in-depth knowledge of how the legal system works, if you are seriously injured, you are in no shape to gather case information anyway. About all you can do is follow your doctor’s orders, deal with the pain and suffering, struggle with the tasks of daily living and try to recover.
If your attorney has years of experience handling accident cases, he will have valuable knowledge and skill when dealing with insurance companies. He knows what a fair settlement offer should look like. He also knows to have you wait until your doctor says you have met maximum medical improvement. By doing so, he can arrive at realistic and adequate monetary amounts to recover compensation for damages.
Personal injury lawyers take car accident cases based on contingency, which means the lawyer receives no fee unless he wins or settles your case.
If you are seriously injured in a car crash, an attorney can help you protect your rights. There is no charge for an initial consultation. During the consultation, the lawyer will evaluate your accident and discuss the prospects of pursuing a case.
As a breastfeeding mother, the last thing on your mind during this joyous time should be how and when you are permitted to pump breast milk at work. However, the cold reality is that many employers don’t have a policy in place to permit pumping, and even worse, some employers discourage new mothers from pumping activities during working hours. This is illegal and has no place in today’s evolving society norms. As an employer, you have an obligation to create a breastfeeding policy and accommodate your employees.
As of 2010, Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a Federal statute that protects employees in their workplace, was amended to require employers to provide basic accommodations, such as time, space and other accommodations, for breastfeeding mothers at work. Learn more about what employers are required to provide.
What time accommodation does an employer have to provide nursing employees? Read More
“Reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk” — U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act — Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision.
What space accommodations does an employer have to provide nursing employees?
“A place other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk” — U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act — Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision.
Why do employees who are breastfeeding need time and space for lactation at work?
Health benefits. Breastfeeding is so important for the health of mothers and babies that major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend that babies receive nothing but breast milk during the first 6 months of life and continue receiving breast milk for at least their first year. More than 80% of new mothers now begin breastfeeding immediately after birth.1 Breastfed babies are healthier and have lower health care costs. Giving breast milk, rather than formula, helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, ear infections, type 2 diabetes, and many other illnesses.2 And the longer a mother feeds her child breast milk, the more health benefits there are for both mother and child.2
Biological needs. Breastfeeding is a normal biological process. Breastfeeding employees need breaks throughout the workday to pump because milk production is a constant, ongoing biological process. A breastfeeding mother needs to feed her baby or pump milk about every 3 hours. Otherwise, her body will stop making breast milk. When a nursing mother cannot pump or breastfeed, the milk builds up in her breasts, causing pain and sometimes infection. Removing milk from the breast is a biological need, similar to the need to eat or sleep.
Why can’t employees pump milk in the bathroom?
Bathrooms are a place to eliminate waste from the body and to wash hands afterward in order to prevent the spread of germs and disease. Breast milk is food and should be handled in the same way other food is handled. No one would be willing to prepare food in a bathroom, and that includes breast milk. Bathrooms are not a sanitary place to prepare and handle food of any kind.
In the past, mothers were forced to use bathrooms to pump because there was no other private space available when it was time for a mother to express milk. Pumping is not something that all moms can do discreetly under a cover, in the way a baby can be breastfed discreetly in public. Breastfeeding mothers need space that is not a bathroom to express milk in a clean and private environment.
Are employers required to pay employees for pumping breaks?
“An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time to express milk for any work time spent for such purpose.” — U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act — Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision.
Does my employer have to create a lactation policy?
Creating a policy helps ensure that all employees have access to the same level of support, no matter what type of workplace they have. A policy helps the company be sure it is complying with federal regulations and also shows support for the health of employees and their families. A policy clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of both supervisors and employees, potentially helping them avoid embarrassment about discussing a personal topic.
What about New York State laws that protect breastfeeding mothers?
The following summaries the protections available to breastfeeding mothers under New York State Statutes:
- N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 79-e (1994) permits a mother to breastfeed her child in any public or private location. (SB 3999)
- N.Y. Labor Law § 206-c (2007) states that employers must allow breastfeeding mothers reasonable, unpaid break times to express milk and make a reasonable attempt to provide a private location for her to do so. Prohibits discrimination against breastfeeding mothers.
- N.Y. Public Health Law § 2505 provides that the Maternal and Child Health commissioner has the power to adopt regulations and guidelines including, but not limited to donor standards, methods of collection, and standards for storage and distribution of human breast milk.
- N.Y. Public Health Law § 2505-a creates the Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights and requires it to be posted in a public place in each maternal health care facility. The commissioner must also make the Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights available on the health department’s website so that health care facilities and providers may include such rights in a maternity information leaflet. (2009 N.Y. Laws, Chap. 292; AB 789)
We at the Van De Water Law Firm, P.C. specialize in wage and hour and overtime cases. If you believe you are the victim of overtime violations, we are always available for a free consultation and can be reached via email: Chris@vdwlawfirm.com, cell phone: (516) 384-6223, office (631) 923-1314. More information can be found at the website.
How Can Lawyers Help Victims of Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Hit-and-run accidents occur when a driver causes an accident and flees from the accident scene. However, all drivers involved in an accident involving injury or death must stay at the scene of an accident, whether they caused the accident or not. Also, all drivers involved must file an accident report.
Under New York law, anyone who is party to an accident where injury or death occurs must immediately notify the police. It is a crime to leave the accident scene.
Hit and run accidents can involve an accident between vehicles; or between a vehicle and a bicyclist, motorcyclist or pedestrian.
The Recent Hit-and-Run Accident in North Babylon
According to Newsday, an auto parts delivery van hit two pedestrians in the parking lot of an Auto Zone store on July 29. The store was located on Route 231, near Commack Avenue, and the accident occurred around 1:00 in the afternoon.
When the van struck them, one of the pedestrians got caught beneath the van. However, the driver did not stop, and the van dragged her for about three blocks. When the driver made a right turn, she dislodged from the van. Upon arriving at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, doctors pronounced the accident victim’s death. Doctors at the hospital also treated the other pedestrian struck by the van for minor non-life threatening injuries.
Investigators at the scene inspected skid marks but no other details about the accident were released. Police apprehended the van driver, charged him with hit-and-run and took him into custody.
What Can a Hit-and-Run Accident Victim or Their Family Members Do?
In addition to the criminal charges a hit-and-run driver faces, a lawyer can file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the injury victim. In the event of death, the attorney can bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family.
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident and suffer serious injuries, you may have legal grounds to pursue a case. New York hit-and-run accident attorneys can investigate the circumstances surrounding your injury and explain your rights to take legal action.
The Underlying Causes of FRD Lawsuits
Statistics show that Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) lawsuits are on the rise. This means that courts are seeing an increase in lawsuits brought against employers by caregivers. Caregivers include single parents, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, parents of young children, and employees who are taking care of sick children, spouses, relatives or other disabled dependents.
According to an article on FRD published in Working Mother, FRD cases increased 269 percent between the years of 2006 and 2015. This fact is based on a report done by the Center of Worklife Law, a research and advocacy organization at the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
During the past three years, FRD decisions averaged more than 400 decisions, which was an increase over the previous years. Furthermore, this statistic only included cases where courts issued a decision. It did not include all court complaints or charges filed by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
Here are some other statistics that employers should also note:
- Women file an estimated 88 percent of FRD cases
- Of these women, about 50 percent received a settlement, judgment or favorable court ruling
Cases that went to trial saw success rates at 67 percent
Why is this significant? Typically, employees lose discrimination cases and their winning cases range between 16 and 33 percent. But, as you see, that is not the recent trend.
Contributing Factors to the Rise in Families Responsibilities Discrimination Cases
Contributing factors to the increase in lawsuits are the following:
- Childcare becoming increasingly expensive
- Families taking on more caregiving themselves
- Stagnating wages
- Cultural shift from #MeToo movement on inequality for women in the workforce
- Employers still basing decisions on 1950’s era models of one household adult (woman) at home
When companies can hang onto employees so they do not have the costs involved with turnover and hiring/training new employees, it is more financially feasible. Keep in mind, employers who can make it known that they support workers who are caregivers may see lower turnover rates.
If you are unsure about whether your company policies are free of FRD, seek legal advice. Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to advise you.
“Discrimination in the present culture shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances, especially in the context of a woman’s pregnancy.” Attorney Chris Van de Water
By Jack Newsham, New York Law Journal, August 08,2019
The New York County Lawyers Association has been sued by a former employee who claims she was taunted in the workplace, had to pump breast milk in the bathroom and was ultimately fired because of her two pregnancies.
The Plaintiff, a fee dispute program administrator, said she worked for the prominent New York bar association starting in 2005 and began facing discrimination once she became pregnant in 2013. The suit, filed Wednesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court, alleges violations of city and state human rights laws and seeks unspecified damages.
The first time she became pregnant, The Plaintiff alleged, she was assigned arduous tasks that she wasn’t assigned before, such as retrieving boxes from a basement. After giving birth, she said, she could initially only pump breast milk in the bathroom and was only given 15 minutes to do so. After complaining, she was given access to a conference room, but it was rarely available for use, she said.
“Both defendants’ managing director and director repeatedly [asked] plaintiff whether she planned on having any more kids and ‘how many babies do you people have!,’ among numerous other snide and degrading remarks,” her suit claims. Read More
Christopher Van De Water of the Van De Water Law Firm, who represents The Plaintiff, said, “Discrimination in the present culture shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances, especially in the context of a woman’s pregnancy.”
Representatives for the NYCLA didn’t immediately respond to comment requests. Davis, who no longer appears on NYCLA’s staff list online, could not be reached for comment.