Investigating Employees Through Their Social Media Accounts
Social media can provide a lot of information about people’s lives. Why would an employer want to know what an employee is doing through social media?
An employer may suspect that an employee is doing other things during work that do not relate to his or her job, such as posting on Facebook, watching Youtube videos, etc. An employer may also wonder if the employee is speaking badly about the company or discussing private company information.
Any number of reasons could motivate an employer to pressure an employee for social media account information or to access the employee’s site without permission.
What laws protect the privacy rights of employees?
The American Bar Association warns employers about not violating the Stored Communication Act (SCA). The SCA includes social networking sites when it states that individuals are subject to criminal and civil actions when the individual:
“Intentionally accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided”
“Intentionally exceeds an authorization to access that facility”
(By intentionally accessing) “obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage in such system”
Keep in mind that a government institution may obtain a subpoena for an investigation and through court approval access social networks for information. However, a private company conducting an internal investigation does not have this right.
Employers who obtain access to social media under false pretenses or through duress can be held liable and courts typically do not view favorably attempts to access an employee’s account information or the private account of a “friend.”
However, in some instances where employers obtain the information without asking or pressuring an employee to provide it, the courts have allowed it.
Get Legal Help with Your Questions about Employment Law
It is often wise to seek legal advice when you have questions about accessing an employee’s social media information. Stephen Hans & Associates offers seasoned legal guidance and representation to assist business owners with employment issues.
In December 2015, there were 38,000 hit and run accidents in New York City, according to a NYPD official who testified before the City Council. While the greater majority of accidents involved only property damage, there were 4,000 accidents where drivers left the scene after someone suffered injury, and 48 of those accidents involved serious injury or death. In these latter accidents, the NYPD’s crash investigation squad was alerted to investigate the accidents.
(Source: Politico New York)
Hit and Run Accidents Remain a Serious Problem
Fast-forward to 2018 to a citylimits.org article written in February that indicated Vision Zero is reducing accidents through lower speed limits, safer street designs and greater law enforcement. However, hit and run accidents are on the rise with a 26 percent increase from 36,000 incidents in 2013 to 46,000 incidents in 2017, based on NYPD statistics. More than 5,000 of the 2017 incidents resulted in injury, and 52 people died. Very few of the accidents resulted in arrests.
What Should You Do if You Are the Victim of a Hit and Run Accident?
You should document as much of the incident as you possibly can. Actions you should take if you are involved in a hit and run accident, include:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Take photos of the car damage and accident scene (if you are able to do so).
- Write down the color, make and model of the other car and its license number (whenever possible).
- Get names and contact information from witnesses.
- File an accident report with the police.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
- Hire an experienced car accident attorney to help you file reports and gather all necessary information regarding the accident.
Your accident lawyer will be able to gather statements from witnesses, analyze evidence from the accident and the firm’s investigative team may be able to track down the hit and run driver.
At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your hit and run accident and evaluate your potential case.
Answers to Common Questions about Workers’ Compensation
When you are a doctor and have a patient come to you claiming to have been injured on the job, it can be extremely helpful to have a basic understanding of the workers’ compensation laws and process. Here are some frequently asked questions about workers’ compensation that have medical implications.
Q: What are the requirements to qualify for workers’ compensation?
A: In the state of New York, there are only two requirements—you must have been working and you must have suffered an injury while on the job. Workers’ compensation is generally considered to be “no-fault,” meaning that the negligence of the worker doesn’t mean a claim will be denied. There are limited circumstances where a claim may be denied—where the injury was suffered while off duty, was self-inflicted, happened while the employee was violating company policy or while the employee was committing an illegal act.
Q: Must the injury occur on company property?
A: No. Any injury sustained while you were performing the duties of your job will be covered, regardless of where it happened. If your job requires that you travel, you can seek benefits for motor vehicle accident injuries or even for a slip and fall at a customer facility. As a general rule, if you leave company property on a personal errand, you are not covered. However, if your boss asks you to do a work-related task (pick up lunch for the office, etc.) while running a personal errand, you may have coverage.
Q: Does workers’ compensation cover only work-related accidents?
A: No. Any injury or illness that arises out of work conditions may be covered. Accordingly, a person who is exposed to toxic substances on the job may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for any negative health consequences that result. In addition, employees who experience mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may recover workers’ compensation benefits if it can be shown that the mental health problems were work-related.
Q: What medical expenses are covered by workers’ compensation?
A: Workers’ compensation pays for any “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses resulting from a work-related injury. This can include examinations, checkups, urgent care treatment, hospitalization, surgical treatment, anesthesia and medications.
Results-Oriented Workers’ Compensation Lawyers in Queens, New York
At Pyrros & Serres, we bring more than 50 years of combined workers’ compensation experience to injured workers in Queens and across the greater New York City area. We built our practice on personal service and attention, taking the time to learn the details of your case, so that we can take the necessary measures to get the outcome you want. Many of our new cases come to us as referrals from doctors, lawyers and satisfied clients.
We take all types of work-related injury claims, including cases involving:
Occupational Disease or Illness | Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) | Fractures | Hip, Leg, Foot and Toe Injury| Burns | Paralysis | Spinal Cord Injury | Permanent Scarring or Disfigurement | Amputation or Loss of Limb | Hearing or Vision Loss | Back and Neck Injury | Shoulder, Arm, Hand and Finger Injury | Accidental or Wrongful Death
To learn more about the services we provide, see our practice area overview page.
Author:Pyrros & Serres LLP
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys—Queens, New York
Clarifications for Employers for Women in the Workplace
In June of 2014, the Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York signed amendments to the New York State Human Rights Law, which bolstered civil rights for women.
It’s important for employers understand the changes under the Women’s Equality Act so they can abide by the law and avoid discrimination disputes in the workplace.
How does the act affect pay equity?
Women must receive the same pay as men when performing the same work. However, the previous law enabled employers to suspend or terminate employees for discussing their wages with each other. This law prevents employers from firing or suspending employees who discuss wages with each other and also increases the amount in damages an employee can seek if an employer violates the new law.
How did the definition of “employer” change in respect to sexual harassment?
Previously, business owners with four or fewer employees were not considered “employers” under the Human Rights law, and therefore the sexual harassment law did not apply to them. The new law eliminates this distinction, and employees subjected to sexual harassment while working for any size company may file sexual harassment complaints.
Is it lawful to not hire or promote a woman because of her status of being a parent and her familial duties?
The new law prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from discriminating against women based on their familial status. They cannot assume that because a women has children or plans to have a family that this fact disqualifies her for hiring or job promotion.
What changes were included in the act that affects pregnancy discrimination?
Employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women, due to the fact that certain pregnancies involve medical conditions. The previous law was confusing and often was wrongly interpreted. The new act clarified employers’ responsibilities to perform a reasonable analysis for pregnant employees.
Do You Have Questions about Women’s Rights in the Workplace?
Our attorneys are glad to answer your questions and address your concerns.
Author: Stephen Hans & Associates
The New York Compassionate Care Act (NYCCA) protects patients who are certified to use medical marijuana from being subject to criminal or civil marijuana charges. We live in an age where some states view marijuana as a legitimate medicine for individuals with certain types of diseases while they are being treated under a doctor’s care. Individuals with such diseases are also viewed as disabled, and employers are prohibited from discriminating against them because of their disability based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
What Employers Should Know About the New York Compassionate Care Act (NYCCA)
The New York legislature passed the NYCCA in July of 2014 and it went into effect in January 2016. The act will sunset in seven years.
Under the law, there can be no more than five manufacturers that provide medical marijuana in New York with a maximum of 20 locations.
Patients must have their physician provide them with written certification for using medical marijuana and their documentation must state the limitations of its use. They also must register with the health department. Patients may not consume medical marijuana in a public place. Other restrictions imposed by the law are that patients cannot smoke medical cannabis but have to take it in a different form.
Diseases that qualify a patient for certification include cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage causing spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, or Huntington’s disease. Other diseases may also result in prescribing medical marijuana.
New York State Human Rights Law
The Society for Resource Management (SHRM) points out that the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) views a certified medical marijuana patient as disabled, which also protects them from employment discrimination.
Employers can still do drug testing if that is part of their work policy and can prohibit employees who are impaired by drug use from working on the job if it poses a danger or interferes with their work. They can prohibit workers from taking medical marijuana while in the workplace. However, they cannot discriminate against employees because they are certified to use medical marijuana.
Do You Have Questions about the NYCCA and Your Rights as an Employer?
Because disabled employees who are certified for marijuana use can bring discrimination lawsuits against employers, it is vital for employers to know their legal boundaries.
Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to answer your questions and provide legal guidance or representation in disputed employment issues.
Author: Stephen D. Hans
According to the New York Law Journal, Harvey Weinstein’s accusers will have a difficult time actually recovering payment on their claims. The parent company of Weinstein Co.filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on March 20, 2018. Before that, Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, had filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein companies on February 11, 2018 based upon its gender based hostile work environment and a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment. After over 100 women made accusations against Harvey based on his outrageous behavior and the company fired him in October 2017, it became clear that his company could no longer continue without new leadership. There were negotiations with a potential buyer which would have included $90 Million in funding to pay the claims, but the deal fell through. After the company filed Chapter 11, a new buyer is negotiating a deal which does not include any fund for the payment of claims. These women’s claims will now have to compete with all of the company’s other creditors for limited funds. In fact, they are at a disadvantage because most of the their claims never reached a judgment, which at least would have given them a claim for a certain amount. When a dollar amount has to be assigned to any contested claim in bankruptcy court, it will always be at a much lower amount than it would have been if the woman could have presented her case to a jury. All of the women can still bring their cases against Harvey Weinstein personally, but his income is now limited and he had just gone through a very expensive divorce. They’d better hurry up and get a place in the line.
What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
Quid pro quo is latin for something received or traded for something else. Applied to sexual harassment, it means the boss or supervisor will give the employee something (a raise or a promotion) in return for satisfaction of a sexual demand, or when a manager or other authority figure implies that he will not fire or punish the employee as long as she agrees to give him some type of sexual favor. While we usually think of men as the culprits, be aware that there are also cases where women demand sexual favors from men or from other women as well. Andrea Ramsey, a former executive, had to drop out of the race to become the democratic candidate for a competitive congressional district in the Kansas City area, when it came out that a man had filed a lawsuit against her in 2005 claiming he had been fired for rejecting her sexual advances. She denied that the claim was ever valid, but in December 2017 she acknowledged that in this climate, candidates were being held to higher standards, and the allegation was enough to make her abandon her congressional bid.
Can a Sexual Harassment Claim be Wiped Out (Discharged) in Bankruptcy?
A sexual harassment claim can continue even if the guilty party has filed bankruptcy if it is “willful and malicious”, but the conduct has to be very serious. For example, where a father had sexually abused his daughter for 10 years, beat her, warned her not to tell others, and threatened her life, the bankruptcy court held that there was no need to have any trial on whether the conduct was willful and malicious, the harm was inevitable, and the daughter’s judgment was non-dischargeable and had to be paid even though the father had gone bankrupt. In that case, the daughter had already obtained a judgment. Where there is an accusation of touching that the offending party denies, there will have to be a trial in the bankruptcy court. While I have not been able to find any cases on this, I am very confident that if the woman had to meet sexual demands to keep her job, she would win if the court believed her claims. On the other hand, if the conduct involved only verbal abuse and the injury was psychological, I think the claim would probably be wiped out by the bankruptcy, but I cannot find any reported case which answers this question either way. This is particularly true because bankruptcy judges tend to think only in economic terms, and are generally not receptive to awarding limited dollars against claims of emotional trauma, as opposed to giving it to creditors who have sustained economic losses in hard dollars and who are only going to get a small portion of their claims paid. This might change with the advent of the #metoo movement, though – we’ll have to wait and see.
 Weinstein Accusers Face Difficult Road to Recovery in Bankruptcy, NYLJ 3/24/18
 11 USCS § 523(a)(6).
 Henderson v. Woolley (In re Woolley), 288 B.R. 294, 303, 2001 Bankr. LEXIS 2106, *22
Author: Bill Cafaro
New York City |Bronx| Brooklyn | Queens Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Author: Pyrros & Serres LLP
Under the New York workers’ compensation laws, when you have suffered a workplace injury or have contracted a disease related to your employment, you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim and to get payment for certain medical expenses. What types of medical bills are covered?
General Medical Care
You are entitled to payment or coverage of all expenses related to any necessary medical care directly related to or arising as a consequence of your work-related injury or illness. Workers’ compensation benefits also cover the costs of recovery, including physical therapy and rehabilitation.
As a general rule, any medical professional providing care to you must be preauthorized by the Workers’ Compensation Board, unless the treatment is an emergency. You have a right to payment of or reimbursement for such medical expenses, even if your injury has not resulted in any time lost at work and you have received no cash benefits for lost wages. If you have requested an authorization, but it has been withheld for more than 30 days, with no stated reason, the treating physician may provide care, if necessary to promote or protect you health or welfare.
Tests and Procedures
If you require any x-rays, MRIs or other tests, or need a surgical procedure, physical therapy or special consultation, you must obtain prior authorization, if the costs exceed $1,000. If the workers’ compensation insurance carrier has notified you of a preferred provider of services, you must obtain services from that provider, unless the situation is an emergency or there is no preferred provider within a reasonable distance from where you live.
The cost of drugs to treat you condition are generally covered by workers’ compensation. The pharmacy may directly bill the workers’ compensation insurance company or you may seek reimbursement by sending the bill and a letter from your treating physician, indicating that the medication was a necessary part of your care.
Medical Benefits under a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Experienced NYC | Brooklyn | Bronx | Queens Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
At Pyrros & Serres LLP, we handle all matters related to workers’ compensation and Social Security disability claims for people in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and across the greater New York City metropolitan area. Because of our reputation for effective advocacy, many of our new clients come to us as referrals from clients and other lawyers.
To learn more about the full scope of our practice, see our practice area overview page.
Pyrros & Serres LLP
Queens | NYC | Brooklyn | Bronx Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
A well designed website that is optimized for search engines, contains high quality content, and shows the benefits of retaining your firm can act as an anchor for all your marketing efforts. When done properly, a site can also control your firm’s image and increase your referral rate. In fact, it’s highly likely that the first thing a person will do when referred to you is to check your website.
A website will save you time and increase efficiency
A website can answer many of the basic questions a potential client has about your firm, such as your address, directions to your office, your areas of practice, and your background. This will allow your staff to be more productive because they won’t be fielding phone calls seeking this type of basic information. An effective website should include:
- Firm address
- Directions to the office
- Phone numbers and email addresses
- Relevant legal articles you have authored
- Media about you or the firm
- High profile cases you have won
- Achievements or awards
- A frequently asked question page covering areas of practice
- A helpful and informative blog with articles about your practice focus
- Links to resources for clients
Your site should also include a well-written attorney profile with:
- A professional photo of yourself
- Your education
- Court admissions
- A summary of your practice areas
- Charitable and/or community involvement
- A few personal facts about you that make you relatable and show you are a person a prospective client can trust and like
Make your website the centerpiece of your marketing efforts
While a website isn’t the only marketing tool you should use, it can serve as the centerpiece to your marketing efforts. A home base that your other marketing can point to and direct prospective clients to for further information about your firm. All your directory listings, email campaigns, and print, TV, and radio ads should direct prospective clients to your site, where they can benefit from getting the full information about your firm.
Talk to a NY SEO website specialist today
In the age of information and technology there isn’t any reason not to have a website but there are plenty of reasons to have one. Your site doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be effective—and show why you are the legal professional a potential client needs. Web Perseverance provides custom websites for legal professionals in New York and throughout the United States. We are experts in search engine optimization (SEO) and understand how to build sites that will come up in search results when people are looking for an attorney. To talk an NY SEO specialist about building an effective website for your firm contact us or call (631) 765-8098 today.
Author: Bonnie Lawston
In today’s electronic world, the idea of property has changed dramatically. In the past, when you were putting together an estate plan, the only intangible property that might be a part of it was certain types of securities. Now, however, you can have e-mail accounts, online subscriptions, social media passwords and other digital assets. Recognizing the importance of digital property, the New York legislature recently enacted laws setting forth the rights of potential heirs to such property.
In Matter of Serrano, 2017 NY Slip Op 27200, (Sur. Ct., New York County, June 14, 2017), the court addressed the issue of whether the fiduciary of an estate had a statutory right to access to online passwords and other digital data, so as to “inform friends of [the decedent’s] passing…and close any unfinished business.” The judge allowed disclosure of contacts and calendar information from the deceased’s Google account, but denied access to the content of the e-mails in the Google account, reasoning that the contacts were necessary for the administration of the estate. Under the recent New York law, the custodian of electronic records (here Google), can be required to disclose to the personal representative of an estate a “catalogue of electronic communications sent or received by a deceased user.” The statute defines “catalogue of electronic communications” to include only the identity of any person with who the deceased had an electronic communication, the time and date of that communication, and the e-mail address of that person.
In a more recent Surrogate Court opinion, a fiduciary’s request for access to the contents of a decedent’s Google account was denied. In Matter of White, 2017 NYLJ, October 3, 2017, at p. 25, the court expressed concern that allowing “unfettered access” to digital property had the potential to involve the unnecessary disclosure of sensitive or confidential information, unrelated to the administration of the estate. The court concluded that, when evaluating a request for access to digital data, there must be a balancing of interests—the interest of the fiduciary to properly administer the estate, and the interest of the deceased in his or her privacy. Accordingly, the court followed the precedent in Serrano, allowing disclosure of contact information only.
The estate administration process can be complex and confusing. It’s important to have a strong and knowledgeable lawyer to guide you through the process. Attorney Bonnie Lawston offers more than 20 years of experience to clients in Nassau County and Suffolk County.
Contact the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston for all your Probate and Estate Administration matters.
To set up a free initial consultation, contact us by e-mail or call us at 631-425-7299 or 24/7 at 855-479-4700 for an appointment.
Author: Bonnie Lawston
Perhaps the most common way to transfer property upon death in the State of New York is through a valid will or trust. What happens, though, if you’ve entered into a binding contract to transfer certain property to a specific beneficiary under you will, but the terms of the document convey it to someone else? Which document takes priority?
The Surrogate Court for Nassau County looked at this specific legal issue in Schwartz v. Bourque, 2017 NY Slip Op 31621 (U)(Sur. Ct., Nassau County, June 14, 2017), concluding that a person who enters into a valid contract to transfer property upon death may not subsequently agree to transfer the property to another person, either while still alive or in a will.
In the Schwartz case, the dispute centered on title to the real property where the decedent and two subsequent generations resided. Initially, the deceased (Mother) was the sole owner of the property, but executed an agreement in 1978 that allowed her daughter (Daughter) to live on the property for as long as she desired, provided she paid the “carrying charges” on the residence. The agreement also promised to convey full legal title to the Daughter in the Mother’s will.
The 1978 agreement was amended six years later, with the preparation and execution of a new agreement and a deed, immediately conveying a one-half interest in the property to the Daughter. In 2012, however, the Mother executed a new deed, attempting to transfer the remaining one-half interest in the property to her granddaughter (Granddaughter). The Daughter objected to the conveyance, arguing that it violated the 1978 agreement. The Granddaughter claimed that the 1984 agreement superseded the 1978 agreement and, because it contained no clause regarding the transfer of the property by will, that clause was no longer valid.
After reviewing the facts, the court ruled that a subsequent contract will only replace and render a prior contract void under one of two circumstances:
- The subsequent contract contains specific language voiding or superseding the earlier agreement—the court found that it did not
- The contracts covered exactly the same subject matter—the court found that they did not, as one made a promise of a testamentary disposition and the other did not
Because the Granddaughter could not show that the 1984 agreement superseded the 1978 agreement and revoked the promise to convey the property to the Daughter in the Mother’s will, the Granddaughter was not legally entitled to any interest in the property. Accordingly, the 2012 deed was not valid.
It’s obvious from the facts of this case that an estate matter can become extremely complicated. It’s critical that you have an experienced, knowledgeable and capable lawyer to protect your interests. Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Bonnie Lawston brings more than two decades of hands-on experience in estate litigation to clients across Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island, New York.
Contact the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston for all your Probate and Estate Administration matters.
At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, we offer experienced estate litigation counsel to individuals across Suffolk County and Nassau County. Contact our office online or call us at 631-425-7299 or 24/7 at 855-479-4700, to set up a free initial consultation.