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Marijuana Legalization in New York

Governor Cuomo Is Supporting the Legalization of Marijuana

Marijuana Legalization in New YorkMarijuana legalization for recreational use appears to be on the verge of becoming law in New York State. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2014, but what would legalization for recreational use mean for New York businesses?

If the legislature passes the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, Governor Cuomo believes it could generate $300 million in revenue a year for New York.

According to the Gothamist, the governor also sees marijuana legalization as an opportunity to create greater income for poor communities and individuals who have “paid the price” for marijuana prohibition.

The legislature is expected to vote on legalizing marijuana on April 1, 2019, and if passed, marijuana could go on sale in April 2020.

The new law would establish an Office of Cannabis Management, which would have oversight of recreational marijuana use for adults who are 21 and older along with overseeing hemp and medical marijuana. The office would be responsible for creating licensing procedures for growers, distributors and sellers. Currently the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union represents medical marijuana employees, and it appears that the recreational cannabis industry would also fall under its representation.

Taxes that the law would generate include a 20 percent state tax and two percent local tax on sales from wholesalers to resellers. Taxation for growers would be by the gram.

The law would give priority to minority and women-owned businesses for licenses to grow and sell cannabis.

How Would the Legalization Potentially Affect Business Employers?

Business owners already faced challenges that resulted from the legalization of medical marijuana. Even so, marijuana recreational use would be viewed differently. While an employee cannot come to work drunk, an employee also cannot come to work high on marijuana. However, employers would have to discern which employees have medical cards and are considered disabled, and which employees are not. The ones without medical cards should not be under the influence of marijuana at any time while at work.

While drug testing is more prevalent in the workplace today, testing for marijuana is more complex than testing for alcohol. Also, there are no uniformly established THC levels to determine what would constitute drug impairment under the influence of marijuana. As it stands, observation is the best form of detection and that would include slurred speech, slow reactions, dilated pupils, impaired body movements, poor short-term memory and other physical signs. (Reference: Buffalo Business First)

The main pressing issue for employers would be safety in the workplace and preventing an employee who is using marijuana from working on a job that could put others in danger and result in injuries.

If you have concerns about employment issues, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to advise you. We represent employers in employment related disputes and issues.

 Stephen-D.-Hans-&-Associates

Are You Opening a New Restaurant

Legal Concerns for New York Restaurant Owners

Author: Stephen D. Hans

NY Restaurant LawsIf you’re opening a new restaurant in New York City or the surrounding area, there are certain legal requirements you must put in place. You will need to choose a business entity and get your licenses and permits. You must address health and safety issues (ventilation, garbage removal, sanitation, etc.) before opening your restaurant. You will also need to purchase insurance.

When all the above is said and done, you still have the matter of employees. An employment attorney is a vital resource who can help ensure you are up to speed with New York employment laws.

New York Employment Laws

You will have to know which employees must be paid for overtime, the rules about paying tipped employees and the laws for employing minors. You will have to verify the legal work status of every employee at your restaurant and fill out an I-9 form for each employee.

Before you begin the hiring process, it is wise to know what questions you should avoid. Our blog on job interviews will give you a basic idea but to ensure you have all the information, it is wise to consult with an attorney.

Our lawyer can assist you by reviewing your job application to ensure it does not contain illegal questions. You also need to understand how to check references without making illegal inquiries.

It is wise to devise an employee handbook and ensure it is legally sound.

You must set up sexual harassment training for all of your employees based on recent New York State law.

If you feel overwhelmed about the laws involved with opening a restaurant, you are not alone. You can avoid some employment nightmares at the outset by consulting with an experienced New York employment attorney.

At Stephen Hans & Associates, we work with restaurant owners to help them comply with labor laws and to deal with employment issues.

A Look Back on Sexual Harassment Charges in 2018

EEOC Sexual Harassment Charges Statistics Surged

Author: Stephen D. Hans

A Look Back on Sexual Harassment Charges in 2018The increase in sexual harassment lawsuits brought by the EEOC was 50 percent higher in 2018 than they were in 2017. The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, and of those, 41 involved allegations of sexual harassment.

New charges filed with the EEOC that alleged sexual harassment were more than 7,500, which was 12 percent higher than in 2017.

The EEOC recovered close to $70 million in settlements of cases that involved sexual harassment issues, which compared with the $47.5 million in settlements recovered for 2017.

As the new year begins, we often look back to the previous year, reflect on the changes and hone our perspectives toward progress for the coming year.

Facts about the #MeToo Movement and Its Effect on Sexual Harassment

In October of 2017, rape and sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein were the springboard that propelled the #MeToo movement. Sexual harassment took center stage in the American media’s spotlight.

The #MeToo Movement is a movement against sexual harassment and assault. Tarana Burke was the social activist who coined the “Me Too” expression in 2006, and the phrase reappeared in 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano used it on Twitter.

The #MeToo movement has been a driving factor in the heightened focus on sexual harassment cases. According to the Washington Post, similar to the celebrity driven #MeToo movement, cases filed with the EEOC saw an increase in sexual harassment cases filed by employees from small businesses — mom-and-pop and everyday companies.

The #MeToo movement has increased society’s awareness of the problem and also made it more acceptable for victimized employees to speak out and report abuse. It has made filing claims with the EEOC or a state agency more socially acceptable.

While charges for other types of discrimination dropped in 2018, charges for sexual harassment rose significantly. This focus does not appear to be losing momentum any time soon.

Incorporate Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and Actions into Your Business in 2019

If you have questions, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to advise regarding your concerns or represent you in employment related disputes.

NYC Bans Polystyrene Takeout Containers and Coffee Cups

Judge Upholds the 2013 Law Banning Polystyrene for Takeout Containers and Coffee Cups

NYC Bans Polystyrene Takeout Containers and Coffee CupsIn 2019 restaurants must begin phasing polystyrene cups and containers out of use. This change is a result of a ruling that came down from an appeal that had challenged the new law in 2013. The appeal had suspended implementation of the law until the court rendered its decision. One of the main arguments alleged by parties challenging the law was that it was not difficult to dispose of Styrofoam products. Research that parties had presented and included in the appeal supported this argument. Read More

Will Plastic Straws Be Next?

In May of 2018, a NYC council member proposed the idea of banning plastic straws to cut down on plastic pollution. A number of cities in various states such as Malibu, California and Miami, Florida have already banned plastic straws. Davis and San Luis Obispo in California require that restaurants do not provide customers with straws unless requested. Customers requesting straws must receive paper straws. At this time, the elimination of straw use in Europe is more widespread than in North America.

McDonald’s has pledged to continue its research for alternatives to plastic straws.

While it has yet to happen, New York City restaurant owners may have to contend with this change as well.

Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates work with restaurant owners to help them comply with labor laws affecting their industry and to deal with employment issues.

The Aging Workforce: What to Expect and the State of Age Discrimination

Author: Hansassociates

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How Extensively Has Age Discrimination Changed in the Past 50 Years?

Most employers are aware of the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) passed in 1967. The law has been in existence for decades. What many employers may not be aware of is the fact that age discrimination continues to be an issue, and in some cases a growing issue. How likely are you to be sued for age discrimination? Are the statistics on your side or against you?

Consider the following facts reported this year by the EEOC in a statement about the state of age discrimination and older U.S. workers.

Age Discrimination Statistics Today

More than 60 percent of workers surveyed in 2017 who were age 45 and older indicated they either noticed or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Of the individuals in this group, 90 percent stated age discrimination was common. African Americans (77 percent) reported higher rates of age discrimination, followed by Hispanics (61 percent) and Whites (59 percent). More women than men said that older workers face age discrimination.

Older workers in the technology sector indicated that 70 percent of those on IT staffs had observed or experienced age discrimination. More than 40 percent of older workers in the technology fields feared losing their jobs due to age.

In a Forbes magazine article, the author commented about the EEOC’s report entitled “State of Age Discrimination Statement 50 Years After the ADEA.” The article said that since the 2009 Supreme Court ruling on the Case Gross vs. FB Financial Services, age discrimination has been much more difficult to prove in court.

Types of reforms employers might expect to see regarding age discrimination include unexpected hiring audits along with financial penalties for incidents of malfeasance.

Stephen Hans & Associates  provides extensive legal experience to business owners regarding employment related issues.

Social Media: Should You Use Social Media in an Internal Investigation?

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.

Stephen D. Hans & Associates

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