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
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
Workplace Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation Now Illegal Under Federal Law In New York
Published by Aaron Ferri
Yesterday, in a landmark 10-3 ruling, the Second Circuit became the second federal Court of Appeals to hold that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) includes protections against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. Employers in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont can no longer discriminate against gay and lesbian workers with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, without running afoul of Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex.
While the Second Circuit had previously held that sexual orientation discrimination claims were not cognizable under Title VII, yesterday’s majority opinion, written by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, acknowledged that the legal framework for evaluating such claims had, “evolved substantially,” requiring the overturning of the Circuit’s prior precedents.
According to the majority, one’s sexual orientation is largely defined by an individual’s sex and the sex of the person he or she is attracted to. Therefore, the Court held, sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex, and is thus covered under Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex.
Additionally, the Court found that discrimination against a gay or lesbian employee on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes unlawful “sex stereotyping”, under Title VII. The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that employment decisions cannot be predicated on mere ‘stereotyped’ impressions about the characteristics of males or females. For instance, a company cannot fire a female employee because she is deemed insufficiently “feminine” in her demeanor, dress, or mannerisms. In yesterday’s Opinion, the Circuit Court acknowledged that stereotypes about homosexuality are inescapably related to people’s preconceived notions regarding the proper roles of men and women, and therefore, any adverse employment action taken on account of sexual orientation would necessarily involve impermissible gender-based stereotyping.
Finally, the Court held that sexual orientation discrimination is a prohibited form of associational discrimination on the basis of sex. Just as an employer may violate Title VII if it takes action against an employee because of that employee’s association with a person of another race, an employer cannot take action against an employee because of that employee’s mere association with a person of the same (or opposite) gender. Importantly, the Court held, with limited exception, that the prohibition on associational discrimination applies with equal force to all the classes protected by Title VII, including race, color, religion, and national origin.
A Huge Win For The LGBTQQ Community In New York, Connecticut & Vermont
Although this ruling does not apply nationwide, for the time being, it represents binding precedent in the Second Circuit, which is includes Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Gay and lesbian workers in these states will now be able to challenge the discriminatory behavior of their employers in Federal Court, and may be eligible to recover attorney’s fees and punitive damages if they are successful. The decision also creates another avenue to bring the issue back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could give the decision nationwide effect.
If you work in New York and feel you are being discriminated against by your employer based on your sex or sexual orientation, or if you have additional questions regarding the protections granted under Title VII, you should consider meeting with a New York Employment Attorney to learn more about your rights.
You Want a Lawyer Well-Versed in the Complexities of Workers’ Compensation Law
If you’re an injured worker seeking benefits to cover lost wages or unreimbursed medical expenses, or you’ve developed an illness because of a jobsite exposure to toxic materials, it’s critical that you retain a lawyer with extensive knowledge, skill and experience handling workers’ compensation and workplace injury claims. The workers’ compensation process can be complex, even for legal professionals—the best chance of full financial recovery is with an attorney who understands the workers’ compensation process, who has successfully recovered benefits for other injured workers.
Here are some of the specific ways that a proven workers’ compensation attorney can help you or your client:
Properly developing and presenting medical evidence—One of the principal reasons many workers’ compensation claims are initially denied is because claimants offer insufficient or incomplete medical evidence. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will know when it’s necessary to obtain an expert medical opinion, to depose medical experts or when medical records are missing something.
Development and introduction of vocational evidence—It’s not enough to show that you’ve suffered injury. You also need to show what the physical requirements are for your job and why you can’t meet them. This may require testimony about your daily activities or about current safety or training programs at you place of employment.
Negotiating a settlement, if appropriate—Unless your attorney has handled quite a few workers’ compensation claims, he or she won’t have a realistic idea of the value of your claim. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will be able to quickly look at your disability rating, whether it partial/total or temporary/permanent, and incorporate the costs of past and future medical expenses to determine the full extent of your losses.
Results-Oriented Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Queens, New York
At Pyrros & Serres, we bring more than a half a century of combined workers’ compensation experience to injured workers in Queens and across the New York City metropolitan area. We built our reputation on personal service and attention, always taking the time to learn the details of your situation, so that we can tailor our representation to get the outcome you deserve. Many of our new cases come to us as referrals from our colleagues in the legal profession, from satisfied clients and from medical professionals.
We handle all types of work-related injury claims, including cases involving:
Occupational Disease or Illness | Hip, Leg, Foot and Toe Injury| Burns | Paralysis | Spinal Cord Injury | Permanent Scarring or Disfigurement | Amputation or Loss of Limb | Hearing or Vision Loss | Accidental Death | Back and Neck Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) | Fractures | Shoulder, Arm, Hand and Finger Injury
What is your responsibility for giving terminated employees their last paycheck?
When you decide to lay off employees, must you give notice of termination?
Employers in the private sector who have 50 or more employees (part-time employees excluded) must provide at least 90 days notice before closing their business. This refers to shutting down a single site of employment that results in laying off 25 or more full-time employees during any 30-day period. Employers must send a WARN notice to employees, their representatives, the State Labor Department and local workforce investment partners. Read More
If employers are doing a mass layoff (excluding part-time employees) but not closing down the business, they must still provide at least a 90 days notice about the layoff when the layoff affects 33 percent of the workforce (at least 25 workers) or 250 workers from a single employment site. Employers must send the WARN notice to employees, their representatives, the State Labor Department and local workforce investment partners. Read More
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.
It’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.