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Using Our Schools to Curb School Shootings

 

Access to Counseling and Instilling Values are Key to Addressing Culture of Violence

Once again, we are collectively stunned, watching reports of a number of high school students dying on school grounds at the hands of an armed gunman. Once again we look upon the horrified faces of grieving parents, classmates and community members, shocked that such a thing can happen…and happen…and happen. Unfortunately, once again, the political bickering and backlash has begun, the finger-pointing and blaming that always takes the place of actually doing something that might make a difference.

More often than not, the finger gets pointed at the National Rifle Association and gun advocates. Sometimes, astonishingly naïve and short-sighted measures are proposed in the emotional aftermath of tragedy-the recommendation by a Kentucky legislator that teachers be armed comes to mind. We want to do something—we all want to put an end to the needless and wrenching gun violence that regularly puts our children at risk. The really tough question—what can we do?

I am convinced that we need to develop and support measures that address gun violence where it has the greatest potential to be remedied—in our homes and in our schools. How often have we heard, in the days following a school shooting, that the perpetrator was someone who had been bullied or harassed at school? How often have we read that the shooter’s home life was a major contributing factor to his or her anger or rage? Why can’t we implement measures that give parents resources to recognize potential problems, and that give schools the tools to help defuse potential lethal situations before they fully develop?

I know, from experience, the difference that access to counseling and a compassionate ear can have on an angry young person. I knew a young man who faced merciless verbal and emotional harassment from his peers while he was a high school student. He also had challenges at home, with a rift with his mother leading his father to throw him out of the house at an early age. He had all the attributes and all the earmarks of someone who might let his accumulating rage explode into violence against others. Instead, he found a counselor at his school, who gave him a safe place to address and overcome the pain of the bullying he faced. His counselor became a trusted friend, such that, when his relationship with his parents broke down, he went to live with the counselor and his family for a period of time. Over the next couple years, he worked through his anger, reconnected with his parents and started his own business. He became a happy and productive member of society, primarily because of the counseling that was available to him at his school.

Unfortunately, it seems that every time we turn around, fewer and fewer dollars are being allocated to any kind of counseling services in our schools. Let’s put some time and money into helping our schools and our school administrators identify and address problems before they occur. Though I believe that it’s just as critical to provide resources to parents and family, studies show that the vast amount of time our children spend on social media sites dramatically reduces their opportunities to learn basic social skills at home. Combine that with the fact that, in nearly 90% of household in America both parents work outside the home, and it’s clear that the schools must play a role.

In the Los Angeles schools, there’s a program called the “School Threat Assessment Response Team, which provides the tools for school officials to recognize the warning signs of potential school violence. Other schools have successfully used programs that teach children and young people basic social skills, including how to channel or control their emotions. We also need to provide funding for more counselors and school resource officers. Research indicates that doing so may be the best way to minimize school violence.

Let’s be clear about this, though. To do what needs to be done, we have to be willing to spend some money, to commit to improving the services our schools offer. And we have to understand that, whether we have children in a school system or not, we as a community have a vested interest in the mental health and well-being of all students in our schools.

 

Author:Cindy LeClaire

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Court Limits Scope of Release Involving Estate and Trust Accounting

Law-Office-of-Bonnie-LawstonIt’s pretty common procedure for a fiduciary to a trust to obtain a release, with the objective of waiving the fiduciary’s obligation to provide an accounting of the assets of the estate and trust. A recent opinion from the Surrogate Court in New York County casts some doubt on the potential validity of such releases.

In Matter of Ingraham, NYLJ, June 16, 2017, at p. 28 (Sur. Ct., New York County), the court considered the validity of a receipt and release and ruled that it did not absolve the trustee from the legal responsibility to provide an accounting. In Ingraham, a successor trustee had filed a petition with the Surrogate Court asking that the former trustees submit an accounting. One trustee complied with the request, but the other trustee objected, citing both the language of the trust document, which she argued relieved her from any obligation to provide an accounting; and releases that had been signed and executed by the trust’s grantor and by the other trustee.

According to evidence entered during the proceeding, the document signed by the grantor released the trustee from “any and all claims related in any way to her role as trustee,” other than claims arising as a result of fraud or willful misconduct. The document also included a provision waiving the right to a formal accounting of the trust. The other trustee had executed a similar release.

The court, however, found that that trustee could not use the release to avoid the duty to provide an accounting, citing two specific reasons:

  • The release specifically reserves the right to seek relief if there are allegations of willful misconduct or fraud
  • The duty to provide an accounting is a fundamental aspect of any fiduciary relation, an essential part of a trustee’s duty

The court also concluded that, even if the released waived the grantor’s right to an accounting, it was not legally binding on the other trustee, successor trustees and trust beneficiaries. Furthermore, the court rejected the argument that the trust document waived the requirement that trustees provide an accounting, concluding that the trust document only waived the obligation to provide periodic accountings, not the requirement that there be a final accounting.

When you’re involved in an estate or trust administration dispute, it’s essential that you have knowledgeable, skilled and experienced legal representation. Estate and Probate Attorney Bonnie Lawston has protected the rights of individuals in trust and estate matters on Long Island for more than 20 years.

Contact Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Bonnie Lawston for all your Probate and Estate Administration matters. 

 

HELPING RESTAURANT OWNERS NAVIGATE THE NEW YORK LABOR LAWS

FAQ for Restaurant Owners

For restaurant owners, who are busy running their day-to-day business, New York Labor laws can seem like an added burden. Having access to a NY employment defense lawyer is often vital to navigate the laws and make your business successful.

According to the NY State Department of Labor, here are some frequently asked questions employers often ask:

Can you require employees to wear uniforms?

Yes, you can. What is considered a uniform? Black slacks and white shirts are not uniforms. A shirt with the company insignia or custom-made slacks and shirts would be considered uniforms. If your worker’s pay is minimum wage, then the cost of buying the uniform and taking care of it cannot bring the employee below the minimum wage rate. Employers must either clean and take care of the uniforms or pay their employees to care for them.

Are you limited by the number of hours an employee can work in a day?

Except for children under 18, there are no limitations on how many hours in a day an employee can work. There also are no limitations on how early or late an employer can ask an employee to work. However, in the restaurant industry, an employee must have 24 hours of rest one day in a calendar week. This does not apply to small, rural restaurants.

What are the rules for giving workers meal breaks?

For work shifts of more than six hours that begin before 11:00 a.m. and continue until 2:00 p.m., the workers must be provided with an uninterrupted lunch period of at least half an hour between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Employers do not have to pay for meal periods, and they do not have to provide other breaks for workers. However, if an employer permits a break of up to 20 minutes, then the employer must count it as work time and pay the employee.

Do You Have Other Questions about NY Labor Laws that Apply to Your Business?

Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to explain the laws, offer legal guidance, and provide representation for employment dispute issues.

Is Workers’ Compensation the Only Source of Recovery for a Work Injury?

Author: Pyrros & Serres, LLP

Queens | New York City | Brooklyn | Bronx Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

Under the workers’ compensation in New York, when you have been injured on the job, you have the right to pursue benefits through a workers’ compensation claim. In many instances, it will be your exclusive remedy—in other words, the only avenue you have to pursue compensation for your losses. But that’s not always the case. In fact, there are situations where you can simultaneously file a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit. Here’s how it works.

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In addition, you won’t be able to recover twice for the same loss. For example, if your medical expenses are paid by workers’ compensation, you cannot recover for those same expenses in a civil suit.
Is Workers’ Compensation the Only Source of Recovery for a Work Injury?

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

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Investigation

 

 

How Should You Conduct Sexual Harassment Investigations?

It is vital to conduct an investigation as soon as possible when an employer receives a complaint of sexual harassment (or any other type of discrimination harassment). Delays in investigating can be viewed as neglect and as a failure to take effective measures to prevent harassment in the workplace, which makes employers vulnerable to sexual harassment claims.

harassment Q & A

What Comprises an Effective Investigation?

The EEOC  recommends that employers incorporate the following into their investigations to ensure prompt and effective investigations:

Ensure the investigation is conducted immediately, thoroughly and with impartiality. Individuals who are alleged harassers should have no control, whether direct or indirect, over the investigation.

  • Those who should be interviewed during the investigation include:
  • The employee complaining about harassment
  • The alleged harasser(s)

Anyone with relevant information or who would be expected to have reasonable information about the harassment.

sexual harassment in the workplace, is the employer responsible

Ask the Complainant, Alleged Harassers and Witnesses Specific Questions

The following are some examples of specific questions that the EEOC suggests employers ask during a harassment investigation:

Questions for Complainant

  • Who, what, when, where, and how: Who committed the alleged harassment? What exactly occurred or was said? When did it occur and is it still ongoing? Where did it occur? How often did it occur? How did it affect you?
  • How did you react? What response did you make when the incident(s) occurred or afterwards?
  • How did the harassment affect you? Has your job been affected in any way?
  • Are there any persons who have relevant information? Was anyone present when the alleged harassment occurred? Did you tell anyone about it? Did anyone see you immediately after episodes of alleged harassment?
  • Did the person who harassed you harass anyone else? Do you know whether anyone complained about harassment by that person?
  • Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • How would you like to see the situation resolved?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?

was there harassment

Questions for the Alleged Harasser

  • What is your response to the allegations?
  • If the harasser claims that the allegations are false, ask why the complainant might lie.
  • Are there any persons who have relevant information?
  • Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?

Questions for Witnesses

  • What did you see or hear? When did this occur? Describe the alleged harasser’s behavior toward the complainant and toward others in the workplace.
  • What did the complainant tell you? When did s/he tell you this?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?
  • Are there other persons who have relevant information?

Stephen Hans & Associates has decades of experience assisting business owners with employment related issues.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Q&A that Applies to Sexual Harassment in Small Business Environments

If you are a small business owner, you may wonder how to protect your small business from sexual harassment and resulting claims that put your business at risk.

Here are some questions and answers (Q&A) that are a good place to start when dealing with sexual harassment.

This Q&A relates to harassment by supervisors:

Who is considered a supervisor?

Any individual who has the authority to recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the employee is a supervisor. Tangible employment decisions include significant employment actions that change an employee’s status, such as:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotion
  • Demotion
  • Work assignment
  • Undesirable reassignment
  • Significant benefits changes
  • Compensation decisions

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

When are employers liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment?

Whenever a supervisor engages in harassment that results in a tangible employment action, the employers are always liable. When no tangible employment action occurs, employers are still liable unless they can show the following:

  • They took reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassment.
  • The employee reasonably failed to complain to management or failed to otherwise avoid harm.

What steps should employers take to prevent and correct sexual harassment?

Employers need to establish policy that prohibits harassment, put it in writing and pass it out to all employers.

Employers should create procedures for making complaints and notify employees.

When a business is sufficiently small that the owner is regularly in contact with all employees, the employer does not have to put policies in writing. Employers can tell employees at staff meetings that harassment is not allowed, that employees should report harassment immediately and they can even report incidents of harassment directly to the owner.

The business should conduct a prompt investigation when harassment is reported.

When sexual harassment is discovered, the discipline for the offending employee should be comparable to the extent and type of harassment.

As much as possible, the employer should keep the harassed employee’s identity confidential. Otherwise, if the offender retaliates against the reporting employee, the company could be held liable for the retaliation.

(This Q&A applies to all types of harassment, not just sexual harassment and more information is available in the EEOC article, Questions and Answers for Small Employers on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors ).

Are You Dealing with Sexual Harassment Issues in Your Business?

Stephen Hans & Associates can offer valuable legal assistance to help you protect your business. Our attorneys have more than 20 years of experience defending employers.

Avoid Drunk Drivers During the Holiday Season

 

Author: Sacksteinlaw

Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the holiday season, which ends after New Years Day. This festive time irations with lots of parties, gift giving, dining out and drinking alcoholic beverages.
However, despite the good cheer, statistics show that binge drinking spikes during the holidays, so much so that it makes the rest of the year pale by comparison. More drunk drivers are on the roads than any other time, which ucreases the risk for accidents.

Drunk Drivers Statistics from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day

Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) , runs a campaign called “Sober Days for the Holidays.” According to AMS, DUI rates and deaths increase during the holiday season.

AMS monitored more than 360,000 drunk drivers who were at high risk for alcohol consumption and discovered that the five-week period between Thanksgiving and New Years had 33% more violations than any other time of the year. The monitoring was for drivers who knew they were subjected to tests every 30 minutes, understood they would be arrested for DUI and could be sure they would face legal consequences, such as jail time. Despite all these deterrents, they could not stop themselves from drinking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between Thanksgiving and Christmas 728 people will die or suffer injury, a statistic that is double or triple the rest of the year.

As a way to avoid drunk driving during the holiday season, be sure to designate drivers and put transportation plans in place before drinking alcohol. If you see a car weaving in a lane or other evidence of drunken driving, keep your distance.

Consult with Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers

The attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP have decades of experienceand success representing clients in vehicle accident cases. When another party appears to be at fault, by investigating the accident, we can often establish liability and help you recover compensation.  Contact our firm at (888) 519-6400 to determine whether you have a viable case.

Protecting Your Rights during an Insurance Company Medical Examination

 

Author: Pyrros & Serres

When you have been hurt on the job and have filed a workers’ compensation claim, it’s pretty common for your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider to require that you submit to a medical examination by a doctor chosen by the insurer. It’s important that you understand that you have a number of rights with respect to that examination and it’s important that you know what your rights are.

When you receive the medical exam letter, it can be intimidating and confusing. The letter, which will make reference to an “independent medical exam,” will typically ask you to appear for the examination and to bring a variety of documents or records. Contrary to what the letter suggests, though, the examination will be conducted by a doctor chosen and paid by the insurer, who has a vested interest in making conclusions and diagnoses that are favorable to the insurance company.

Your Rights at the Medical Examination

The letter you receive will indicate whether the doctor plans to videotape the examination. However, regardless of whether the doctor chooses to do so, you always have the right to videotape the exam—you can also audiotape the doctor’s appointment. In addition, there is no rule that requires you to notify the doctor in advance that you will be taping the proceedings. If the letter says you must, ignore it. If you appear for the examination and the doctor says you cannot videotape the exam, you should politely decline to go through the examination.

Why would you want to videotape a medical examination? Because, as we were able to do in a case we handled recently, you may be able to successfully have the insurance company doctor’s report ruled inadmissible, if it has no bearing on your injury or your claim.

Matt Lauer: One Sexual Harassment Complaint Led to More

 

Author: Stephen D. Hans

Matt Lauer: One Sexual Harassment Complaint Led to More

As more women are coming forward to claim sexual harassment, other women are also gaining the courage to come forward. This is the current trend in a variety of sexual harassment cases that are hitting the media. Such appears to be the case in the recent reports about Matt Lauer, long time anchor and host of the “Today” show.

Details About the Matt Lauer Sexual Harassment and His Job Termination

According to Fox News , NBC met with Lauer, an alleged victim and her lawyer to confront Lauer about his inappropriate sexual behavior. Since the news broke, it became apparent there was more than one isolated incident. NBC quickly fired Matt Lauer and stated it was the first time they had heard about the sexual harassment allegations.

People magazine reports that eight women have now come forward regarding inappropriate sexual behavior on Matt Lauer’s part.

Lauer has issued a public apology for his actions and for the people he has harmed, and said that although not all aspects of the allegations were true and some he felt were mischaracterized, there was enough truth in them for him to apologize and feel regret and shame. He said his full time job is now to do what he can to repair the damage he has done.

Actions that Make Lauer’s Instance Stand Apart from Other Recent Claims

NBC News acted quickly on the allegations after discovering them. Matt Lauer did not deny that he engaged in sexual misconduct, but instead expressed his regret and indicated he would take action to repair the damage.

As a business, what is the best approach to take when allegations of sexual harassment arise? If you face sexual harassment issues, seek legal counsel as soon as possible and discuss your concerns so you can weigh your options.

Experienced Legal Counsel When Your Business Faces Sexual Harassment Allegations

At Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C., we have decades of experiences assisting business owners with sexual harassment and other employment related issues. Call our Long Island City office at (718) 275-6700 to arrange a confidential consultation.

What Happens at a Workers’ Compensation Hearing and Why Are They Scheduled?

 

Author: Pyrros & Serres

Workers’ Compensation Hearings – What Happens and Why Are They Scheduled?

When you’ve been injured on the job, one of the first things you’ll do is notify your employer and file a claim for workers’ compensation. In some situations, your claim will be approved without the need for a hearing and your benefits will start within a couple weeks. In most situations, though, you’ll receive a notice that a hearing has been scheduled.

Workers comp claims

Why You Will Have to Appear at a Hearing After Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

There are a number of reasons why you’ll have to appear at a hearing after you’ve filed a claim for workers’ compensation:

  • Your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance provider may be challenging your claim, arguing that you weren’t hurt on the job
  • The insurance company doctor may have concluded that your injuries don’t prevent you from doing your job
  • There may be a dispute about your wages or the amount to which you are entitle

At the workers’ compensation hearing, the parties will produce evidence regarding all the issues being contested. You can provide the judge with documentation regarding your pre-accident wages, so that you are awarded the appropriate amount of disability income under the law.

It’s important to understand that your employer and the workers’ compensation insurer will both likely have legal representation at the hearing. In addition, you can’t expect that the judge will take the time to walk you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at your side.

Contact an Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorney

At Pyrros & Serres LLP, our attorneys handle all matters related to workers’ compensation claims for people in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and across the greater New York City metropolitan area. Call our office at (718) 626-7730 to schedule a consultation to find out how we can help with your workers’ comp claim.