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.
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.
“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.
Whether you are an employee who just secured their dream job, or an employer who has made a key hire, there exist certain key terms and obligations that must specifically be set forth in any resulting employment contract to protect all parties’ interests and set the ground rules for the duration of the employment relationship and beyond. A well-drafted employment contract significantly lowers the potential for conflict down the line, increases employee morale and provides a means for redress should the employment relationship break down and eventually terminate.
Towards that lofty end, I have set down the Top 10 things an effective employment contract should include. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but is rather meant to provide a general framework from which the parties may commence negotiations.
Job responsibilities and information
Job title, a description of job duties and expectations, as well as the department with which the employee shall work should all be set forth. Equally important is providing clarity with respect to how the employee will be evaluated and to whom the employee will directly report.
Job compensation and benefits package
Clearly outline the employee’s compensation and benefits package, including the salary or hourly rate, specific information about performance and merit-based raises, bonuses and incentives, as well as detail the process under which each such benefit is obtained. Explain when medical benefits become effective, what plans are available and what percentage is covered by the employer, as well as provide information about other possible benefits including a 401(k) plan, equity options and other negotiated benefits.
Vacation, PTO and sick time
The employer’s policy for employee time off should be fully explained. At what rate does PTO, including sick and vacation, time accrue? What is the employer policy with respect to emergency, sick or unpaid leaves? Is flex-time permitted and if so, under what circumstances and approvals?
As a new hire, will an employee be considered an employee or an independent contractor? Once a designation has been made, cross-reference to the job duties and responsibilities section should be made to support such designation.
Period of employment and job schedule
Whether or not an employee is being hired for a set term or on an ongoing basis is an integral term. Key terms in this section include expected total weekly hours, daily hours of work, whether overtime hours are possible and if so, how they will be paid, and whether night and weekend work is expected, even if occasionally.
The Confidentiality Agreement
This section cannot be stressed enough and is the most litigated issue in most employment relationships. Therefore, it is imperative that not only do the parties agree to strict confidentiality of all of the employer’s intellectual property and trade secrets, such as client lists, but that the parties mutually detail what information is considered confidential so that there is no confusion should this issue ever be disputed.
In this age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we exist in a culture of immediate gratification. That translates to an employee’s frequent use of the employer’s technology to access social media during working hours. The employer should clearly set forth what their policy is with respect to an employee’s use of social media during working hours, not only for use of the employer’s computer, but also for use of the employee’s cell phone and other on site technology.
Let’s face it, nearly all employment relationships end, hopefully on good terms but that is by no means a guarantee. Provide concise direction as to what notice period is required for either party to terminate the relationship, whether such notice must be in writing, and explain the employer’s policy with respect to severance, if any.
An employer’s brand is their lifeblood and should be protected at all costs. That translates into consideration of putting into place an outplacement plan should the employee and employer part ways. Explaining what types of assistance may be available to a terminated employee goes a long way in buying good faith in a potentially bad situation.
If the new hire is a key player in the employer’s organization, the parties may want to enter into a non-complete that is carefully tailored to the circumstances while providing the employee a means to earn a living should the parties decide to part ways. Overly broad non-competes are rarely enforced, and while Courts have wide discretion in narrowing an overly broad non-compete, the employer risks having it rejected in its entirety. Thus it is in the parties’ mutual best interest to carefully negotiate this section to account for all competing interests.
We at the Van De Water Law Firm, P.C. are well versed in all manner of employment contracts and are happy to answer any and all of your questions regarding employment contracts and all other employment issues at (631) 923-1314 or Chris@vdwlawfirm.com. You can also find more informative articles about the employment relationship by visiting our employment website.
Overtime Pay in New York
Many employees in New York are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. Unless an employee has a job that is specifically exempt from the overtime requirement under state and federal law, employers are required to pay employees time-and-a-half for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Time-and-a-half means an employee is entitled to 1.5 times their hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 in a given week. For example, if an employee is paid $20 hour and works 50 hours per week, that employee should be paid $20 x 40 ($800) in regular pay, and $35 x 10 ($350) for overtime hours worked, for a total of $1,150.
Determining Who Is Exempt from Overtime
A common misconception is that eligibility for overtime is determined based solely on your job title or whether you are salaried. That is simply not true. Instead, it is your employment classification that determines how your employer pays you and the benefits to which you are entitled. In New York, you can find these classifications and the legal protections associated with them in the New York State Labor Law.
Some examples of jobs that are exempt and thus not subject to receiving overtime are: Read More
Unfortunately, employers often mis-classify employees as exempt from overtime, and many employees are unaware of their right to overtime compensation. As a result, many employees are not paid wages they are owed under the law.
Another trick employers use to avoid paying overtime is misclassifying employees. Misclassification that results in failure to pay overtime wages can occur in three ways: Read More
3) Failing to provide an employee overtime wages because the employee is salaried. Just because you are salaried does not in itself mean you are exempt from getting overtime wages. If you are not exempt from overtime wages, your employer is responsible for calculating your hourly wage equivalent and providing you with overtime pay when you work more than 40 hours per week. Additionally, certain employees may meet the “highly paid” exemption if they are salaried; however, many salaried employees do not qualify for this exemption.
Who is Going to Pay for All This? Attorney’s Fees, Liquidated Damages, Cost and Interest
Federal and State Laws require that attorney’s fees, liquidated damages, costs and interest to be paid to an employee that prevails in an overtime claim. 29 U.S. Code § 216, otherwise known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The FLSA provides that the Court shall allow a successful employee to recover his or her reasonable attorney’s fees, as well as the costs associated with pursuing their rights in a legal action. More specifically, the Courts in New York have held that an employee who “prevails” in an FLSA action shall receive his or her “full wages plus the penalty without incurring any expense for legal fees or costs. This takes the financial burden off of an employee and places it squarely on the shoulders of their employer, allowing them to come forward and enforce their rights without paying an expensive retainer to secure the services of a highly skilled attorney who specializes in wage and hour claims, as does The Van De Water Law Firm, P.C.
Similarly, the New York Labor Law in §§ 198(1-a) strongly supports its Federal overtime counterpart by stating that “In any action instituted in the courts upon a wage claim by an employee or the commissioner in which the employee prevails, the court shall allow such employee to recover the full amount of any underpayment, all reasonable attorney’s fees, prejudgment interest as required under the civil practice law and rules, and, unless the employer proves a good faith basis to believe that its underpayment of wages was in compliance with the law, an additional amount as liquidated damages equal to one hundred percent of the total amount of the wages found to be due.”.
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, cell phone: (516) 384-6223, office (631) 923-1314. More information can be found at The Van De Water Law Firm P.C.
“I am your legal protector”
As brought to light during the course of the #MeToo movement, it is illegal to harass an employee or even a job applicant in New York State due to that person’s sex or gender. However, some of the recent cases of sexual harassment in the press raise more questions than they answer as to what kind and manner of conduct is illegal. In other words, sexual harassment at times is difficult to define and quantify and does not always need to be purely of a sexual nature. So how do we sort it all out? To begin with, harassment does not need to include physical or sexual actions. It is considered prohibited sexual harassment to make offensive remarks about women, but these remarks must be severe or pervasive to be actionable, meaning that a single comment is usually not sufficient. Romantic overtures, rather than purely sexual ones, such as repeatedly asking a coworker on a date, may also be considered sexual harassment. The actions that are considered to be harassment may be directed toward a man or woman and may be committed by men or women. The victim and the harasser may be of the same sex or gender.
Sexual harassment claims fall into two distinct categories: 1) quid pro quo, and 2) hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
A claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment may arise when your employer offers, either expressly or by implication, to trade job benefits such as a promotion, pay raise or other job benefit, in return for sexual favors. Typically, quid pro quo sexual harassment is committed by a direct supervisor or manager that is in a position of sufficient power to grant the promised benefit. Given the direct and often immediate impact on the employee, quid pro quo sexual harassment is often extreme and has lasting emotional and psychological effects on the targeted victim.
Here are a few examples of conduct that may be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment: Read More
Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
A claim for hostile work environment sexual harassment arises when the actions that constitute the underlying harassment are “severe”, “frequent” or “pervasive”. This type of harassment may be committed by co-workers as well as supervisors, managers, and even clients or customers. This type of harassment may include sexual or romantic advances, sexually discriminatory remarks, derogatory statements, words, pranks, jokes, signs, physical violence, intimidation, or any sort of conduct or action of a sexual nature taken due to the victim’s sex. Actions or conduct that constitute hostile work environment sexual harassment must cause the person hearing or seeing them discomfort, humiliation, or a significant loss of productivity at work.
Here are a few examples of conduct that may be considered hostile work environment sexual harassment: Read More
Generally, the New York State Human Rights Law applies to employers with four or more employees, while Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. However, the Human Rights Law applies to all employers, regardless of how many people they employ, as of 2015. Even domestic workers like a nanny or maid are protected from sexual harassment. Those individuals employed in New York City (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens or Staten Island) are more advantageous. New York City Human Rights Law offers more extensive protection than state and federal laws. Incidents that would not be considered severe according to federal or state criteria may be valid within the City of New York.
An employer faces strict liability if the employee has been harassed by an owner or high-level manager. Employers may only be held strictly liable for harassment by lower-level managers and supervisors if they have enough control over an employee’s working conditions. This means that an employee may hold an employer responsible for the harassment, even if the owner did not know that it was happening. However, an employee should report the harassment to the employer and take advantage of any grievance system that the employer has put in place before taking other formal steps.
We at the Van De Water Law Firm, P.C. stand ready to protect your rights and are available for a free consultation at 631-923-1314 or email us if you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment. Don’t hesitate to protect your rights.