Risman & Risman Takes on Emirates Airline

A class action lawsuit was filed by our firm in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that employees of Emirates were not given severance pay to which they were legally entitled through the Emirates Severance Plan in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), that Emirates violated New York’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN Act”), and discriminated against the plaintiffs and those similarly situated on the basis of national origin.

Risman & Risman, P.C. and their co-counsel are representing plaintiffs in Farah v. Emirates to assist the former Emirates’ employees in seeking the justice that they deserve. To learn more or to seek legal assistance with your employment issues in New York, give us a call today at 212-233-6400. We look forward to the chance to serve you now and in the future.

Changes to New York Labor Laws Spell Good News for Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers in the state of New York will soon have more needed protection against retaliation from their employers. This new legislation was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul and is effective as of January 26, 2022.
Senate Bill S4394A will amend Section 740 of New York Labor Law to provide added job protections for those who come forward about the wrongdoing or malfeasance of their employers. The changes to the whistleblower law come as great news to workers, where New York was lagging in similar protections offered by neighboring states.

Changes to the Current New York Labor Law

Some of the most significant changes to New York State Whistleblowing law that will go into effect in January 2022 include the following amendments to Section 740:
• The definition of “retaliatory action” has been expanded to include any adverse employment action (e.g., termination of employment, demotion, pay cut) or threat against an employee engaged in whistleblowing. The language of this section has been amended to include threats to contact immigration authorities.
• Whistleblowers will be protected against employer retaliation even if they were not acting in the scope of their job duties when they reported wrongdoing.
• “Employees” will be defined as current employees, former employees, and independent contractors.
• The statute of limitations for retaliation claims will be increased from one to two years.
• Plaintiffs in whistleblower retaliation cases are entitled to request a jury trial and to recover punitive damages if they prevail in court.
• The new law also protects employees who disclose or threaten to disclose information that the employee, not the employer, reasonably believes is in violation of the laws and regulations governing the state of New York. Previously, the law required that employees who reported employer activities must have certain knowledge that the activities they reported violated the law.
• Judicial rulings and executive orders are now included in the definition of law, rule, or regulation in the New York Labor Law.
Working with a veteran employment law firm can help employees protect their legal rights and pursue employer retaliation claims in New York. A qualified employment law firm can deliver the zealous representation needed in these cases to ensure that employers are held accountable for their violations of New York labor laws.

Finding the Right Employment Attorney

At Risman & Risman, we focus on helping workers protect themselves from exploitation or unsafe working conditions in the workplace. If you or someone you know needs the assistance of an employment attorney in New York, our team will be honored to provide legal counsel and representation. Give us a call today at 212-233-6400 to schedule a free initial consultation with our team.
We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

New Legislation Protects New York City Gig Delivery Drivers

Under new legislation proposed and approved by New York City officials, food service workers will now enjoy greater protection and an increase in the minimum pay they can receive for their services. These reforms will allow hard-working service industry employees to receive fairer wages for the work they perform while promoting a safer and more equitable situation for workers in what is known as the gig economy.

Impossible Working Conditions for Low Pay

Many New Yorkers and others across the country expressed concern and outrage when periodicals published pictures and videos of food delivery workers traveling through floodwaters to deliver meals during and after Hurricane Ida hit the city. These images demonstrated the dilemma of these workers, many of whom depend on tips from customers to manage their financial responsibilities. Most of these workers do not have medical insurance and provide their own transportation to perform these vital services.

Underpaid and Exploited

According to data collected by the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and the Workers Justice Project, about 42 percent of food delivery workers for services like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Doordash reported that they had been underpaid or, in some cases, not paid at all. Almost half of those surveyed reported being in an accident when delivering food. Worse yet, 54 percent of these workers reported that they had been robbed on the job. These horrifying statistics highlight the dangers of the gig economy and the workers who fuel its success.

What the New Legislation Will Do

The legislation just passed by New York City will provide some solid protections for workers who deliver food in the city. Some of the most important provisions of the new legislation include the following:

  • Prohibiting fees charged by companies to issue payments to their delivery workers
  • Enforcing transparency in corporate tipping and gratuity practices
  • Allowing workers to set their own parameters for the trips they make on behalf of their employers
  • Preventing companies from making delivery workers purchase their own insulated food bags
  • Making sure that restaurants allow workers to use their restrooms when picking up food for delivery

However, many worker advocates still feel that the new legislation falls short in providing benefits to these vulnerable workers. Under the provisions of this legislative package, for instance, workers will still be considered to be independent contractors. This classification prevents delivery workers from receiving unemployment benefits or workers’ compensation if they cannot work or are terminated from their employment with the food delivery app platforms. Many workers are immigrants who work long hours to make enough money to support themselves and their family members. Making sure that these individuals are treated fairly and receive the wages to which they are legally entitled is what we do at Risman & Risman, P.C.

Protecting the Rights of Gig Workers

At Risman & Risman, P.C., we are committed to helping workers protect their rights to a safe working environment, fair compensation, and equitable employment practices. Our team can help to level the playing field for you in disputes with your employer. Give us a call today at 212-233-6400 to discuss your case or to request more information from us.

We look forward to the opportunity to protect your legal rights in and out of the workplace.

Cuomo Signs New York “No Wage Theft Loophole Act” Into Law

On August 20, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to prevent businesses from committing wage theft against their employees. The “No Wage Theft Loophole Act” changes Article 6 of New York Labor Law to eliminate any exemptions that might allow employers to deprive their employees of wages to which they are fairly and legally entitled.

The Governor’s action will make it much easier for workers to file claims against their employers for owed and unpaid wages. The new legislation closed a previously applied loophole when an employer chose to withhold all of an employee’s wages rather than just a portion of those wages. Because the initial wording of Article 6 referred to “unlawful deductions,” it was deemed only to apply to cases in which the employee did receive at least some of the wages owed to them.

The “No Wage Theft Loophole Act” adds a new subdivision 5 to Section 193. It also adds this text to the end of subdivision 3 of Section 198 of Article 6:

• “There is no exception to liability under this section for the unauthorized failure to pay wages, benefits or wage supplements.”

This will remove a loophole that employers could otherwise use to avoid lawsuits by their workers, which had already resulted in the 2009 dismissal of a Section 193 claim by an employee based on the fact that no amounts were “deducted” from her wages. Instead, the court ruled that the employer “simply failed to pay her all the wages she had earned.” The new legislation removes this potential interpretation of the law.

At Risman & Risman, P.C., we offer practical help for workers in taking on discrimination and unjust treatment in the workplace. To learn more about the legal services we provide, give us a call today at 212-233-6400. We look forward to assisting your legal needs.

Biden Cracks Down on Non-Compete Employment Clauses

President Joe Biden is planning to issue a large-scale executive order that will restrict the use of non-compete clauses and roll back requirements for occupational licensing for specific jobs and career paths. According to members of the Biden administration, these requirements and employment contract provisions do serious and material harm to the ability of workers to seek out better employment opportunities and compete effectively in the job marketplace.

Working Out the Details

The proposed executive order is still undergoing scrutiny and reworking by members of the Biden administration. One of the administration’s critical issues is that occupational licensing and contract law matters are often settled at the state level. The executive order must make the most of the federal government’s ability to manage these issues on behalf of workers across the United States to be successful.

Targeting Corporate Monopolies and Encouraging Competition

When it is released, President Biden’s executive order will be the latest in a series of economic moves intended to promote increased competition in the business marketplace and protect workers’ rights to pursue career paths that will benefit them and their employers. Federal regulators are also encouraged to take a hard look at any mergers or acquisitions to determine the effects of these corporate actions on potential employees. Industries that consist of only a few companies can significantly limit the ability of workers to choose a workplace and leverage their talents for optimal compensation.

Protecting the Rights of Workers

For many employees, working with an experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney can often empower and encourage them to make the right decisions that can affect current and future employability. By working with a lawyer who concentrates on employment issues, workers can protect their legal rights and ensure the best outcomes for cases of sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, and other problems related to their employment or their place of work. These proactive efforts can provide added help for employees when they need it most.

Risman & Risman, P.C. can provide the most effective and assertive representation for employees in the New York area. Our team is committed to helping employees stand up for their rights in the labor marketplace. We represent clients in all types of industries and for a wide range of issues. Call our law office today at 212-233-6400 to schedule an appointment with our legal team.

We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

How the NY HERO Act Protects Workers

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a measure that affords workers an added level of protection against exposure to infectious diseases in the workplace. The New York Health and Essential Rights Act, more commonly referred to as the NY HERO Act, implements a framework that businesses and employers can use to protect their workers from airborne viruses and diseases in the workplace.

General and Industry-specific Plans

The NY HERO Act includes some important provisions that affect employers throughout the state of New York:

  • The law establishes an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard that outlines the basic steps required to comply with New York regulations.
  • The NY HERO Act also offers a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan that can be adopted and adapted by companies within the state to protect their employees against the transmission of infectious diseases.
  • Some additional models are available in the NY HERO act that applies to specific industries operating in the state of New York.

The guidance and prevention models are currently available in English and are expected to be available in Spanish soon.

At Risman & Risman, P.C., we offer practical help for employees who have been negatively impacted by the policies or actions of their employers. We represent victims of wrongful termination, retaliatory action, and sexual harassment on the job. Give our team a call today at 212-233-6400 to schedule a consultation with us. We are here to serve you.

Nurses Suspended for Refusing to Treat COVID-19 Patients Without Proper PPE

Source: Associated Press April 16, 2020

A nurse who led a protest in Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, demanding protective N95 masks when treating COVID-19 (coronavirus) patients, has been suspended for his actions. Mike Gulick was dismayed to learn that the hospital was not providing the standard of personal protective equipment (PPE) in N95 masks as administrators said that they were not necessary. Gulick was especially frustrated knowing the stark discrepancy in standards between hospitals. His wife is a nurse at nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where healthcare staff is armed with appropriate PPE.

When a fellow nurse tested positive for COVID-19 on Gulick’s ward, he and a group of his nursing colleagues told hospital administrators that they would no longer treat COVID-19 patients without N95 masks. According to the group’s representation with the National Nurses Union, the group of 10 nurses is now suspended with pay as a result of their demands.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not mandate that medical professionals use N95 to treat COVID-19 patients, the high level of protection that these masks offer providers should not be discounted.

Nurses all over the country have become increasingly vocal about the lack of PPE available to them. A global shortage of this equipment, particularly face masks, have led to many protests in hospitals in every part of the country. Because of the mass shortages, the CDC revised its guidelines by lowering the standard use of PPE to simply bandanas or other types of homemade protective masks.

Since that guideline revision, many nurses have had to weigh the pros and cons of protesting the change and risking being suspended from their jobs as a result of speaking out. In recent weeks, there have been more and more instances of healthcare providers testing positive for the deadly coronavirus. Some nurses have pointed out that the minimal protection they are being asked to use now would have invited discipline from their superiors in the past. What’s worse is that most of these vital healthcare workers have no means to complain about their employer’s failure to provide necessary safety precautions without risking retaliation.

Currently, in New York State, healthcare workers have no protection for making complaints regarding their safety, other than filing a complaint with United States Department of Labor under the Occupational Safety and Health Act – 29 U.S.C. § 660(c) (OSH Act). Specifically, this law states:

  1. No person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or because of the exercise by such employee on behalf of himself or others of any right afforded by this Act.
  2. Any employee who believes that he has been discharged or otherwise discriminated against by any person in violation of this subsection may, within thirty days after such violation occurs, file a complaint with the Secretary alleging such discrimination. Upon receipt of such complaint, the Secretary shall cause such investigation to be made as he deems appropriate. If upon such investigation, the Secretary determines that the provisions of this subsection have been violated, he shall bring an action in any appropriate United States district court against such person. In any such action the United States district courts shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown to restrain violations of paragraph (1) of this subsection and order all appropriate relief including rehiring or reinstatement of the employee to his former position with back pay.
  3. Within 90 days of the receipt of a complaint filed under this subsection the Secretary shall notify the complainant of his determination under paragraph 2 of this subsection.

As you can see, the OSH Act provides for recovery of lost wages and a court may enforce punitive damages to deter other employers from engaging in comparable egregious behavior. Unfortunately, the OSH Act does not provide for attorney’s fees or any special damages, such as emotional distress damages associated with an employer’s unlawful actions.

This lack of legislation to protect health care workers should be a wakeup call for politicians in the entire country, but especially New York State and New York City, one of the hardest-hit areas by the coronavirus. They must institute safeguards to protect our front-line workers, so they feel safe to make complaints regarding their safety and health without fear of retaliation.

Retaliation and discrimination can rear its ugly head, especially in these difficult times, as the entire world battles this coronavirus pandemic. A thoughtful and knowledgeable advocate can make a tremendous difference.

The attorneys at Risman & Risman concentrate their practice in employment and labor law on behalf of employees in the New York Metropolitan area. Consultations are free, and our legal team will work tirelessly to achieve the best result in your matter. Please call us at 212-233-6400 to discuss your inquiry.

New York State Enacts Law Banning Discrimination Based on “Reproductive-Health” Decisions

Effective November 8, 2019, New York State passed a non-discrimination law addressing protections for employees and their reproductive and sexual health decisions, giving these employees protected status.

What the Law Covers
The New York State Labor Law, Section 203-e focuses on the protection of “reproductive health decision making,” defined as “including, but not limited to, the decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service.” Under this new law, employers cannot:

  • Access an employee’s (or employee’s dependent) reproductive health records without specific prior consent.
  • Retaliate in the form of compensation or other terms of employment because of an employee’s reproductive health decisions.
  • Insist on employees signing waivers that impede their right to reproductive decisions.

What Can Happen to An Employer Who Violates the Law
Any employee who is aggrieved based on discrimination because of their reproductive or sexual health choices can now sue their employer and potentially prevail. Should the employee prevail, the court can award back pay, benefits pay, and reinstatement to employment, all paid by the offending employer. Such awards go beyond other discrimination remedies, making this law very comprehensive in terms of trying to prevent discrimination in this area.

Further, Section 203-e prevents employers from “retaliating” against any employee bringing a lawsuit or testifying in a trial related to discrimination around reproductive health decisions.

Immediate Action Required by Employers
Unlike similar legislation enacted in the past, the immediacy of this law taking effect means that employers will need to rapidly update any employee policies and policy manuals around the issue of employee reproductive health decision-making rights and protections. Failure to comply could result in a costly outcome for any employer.

If You Are a Victim of Discrimination
Employment discrimination in any form is against the law, but filing a lawsuit and dealing with the court system can be incredibly intimidating. Strong legal representation can make all the difference.

The attorneys at Risman & Risman concentrate their practice in employment and labor law on behalf of employees in the New York Metropolitan area. Consultations are free, and our legal team will work tirelessly to achieve the best result in your matter. Please call us at 212-233-6400 to discuss your inquiry.

FAIR Act Passes the House but Faces a Steep Climb in the Senate

In mid-September 2019, lawmakers in the House of Representatives (“House”) passed the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR). This bill bars businesses from forcing their employees, as well as their customers, to resolve legal disputes via private arbitration. With arbitration, there is no jury, no judge, and very little governmental oversight.

Arbitration clauses, often seen in customer and employment contracts, block employees and customers from pursuing litigation in an open forum based on allegations of sexual harassment, wage theft, racial discrimination, and just about anything else. Workers rarely win in private arbitration. When they do win, they often see less in compensation than they would in court. If the FAIR Act ultimately becomes law, more than 60 million workers in the United States, who previously signed away their right to sue in court, will regain full access to them.

A Brief Explanation of the FAIR Act

Initially, this bill came to light because of the efforts of both Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. It would prevent businesses from forcing mandatory arbitration clauses on employees and customers. It would also invalidate ceratin arbitration agreements previously agreed upon, as permitted by law. This bill has passed the House, but is expected to be strongly resisted by the Republicans in the Senate.

Many Workers May Give Up Their Rights to Sue Without Knowing It

Sixty million Americans have given up their right to go to court to earn a paycheck. Employees regularly sign hiring documents without thoroughly reading them or having them reviewed by an attorney. Some of the largest companies in the United States, including Walmart, Google, McDonald’s, and Starbucks, require employees to accept mandatory arbitration as a condition of their employment.

When employees face wage theft, job discrimination, or overtime violations, their arbitration agreements make it impossible for them to seek justice by way of a jury. The secretive nature of arbitration agreements has been seen by some to have the ability to hamper the #MeToo movement as well. Women and employees of color are disproportionately affected by their subjection to arbitration agreements because they make up the most significant percentage of workers in industries that require arbitration, including retail, education, and healthcare.

Arbitration Favors Employers

Past Supreme Court rulings have opened the way for businesses to expand their use of mandatory arbitration. In the past, arbitration was primarily a tool used for contract disputes between businesses. Now, it covers legal disputes with employees and customers. Companies argue that arbitration is less expensive and is a quicker way to resolve employment conflicts. All of this is true.

However, it is also true that private arbitration allows companies to hide conduct that would be made public in court. Moreover, arbitrators are more inclined to rule in favor of employers, and they are less likely to give significant awards to workers when a company is found violating the law. According to information published by the American Arbitration Association from 2013 through 2017, there were approximately 8,200 complaints filed by employees and handled through arbitration. Arbitrators ordered monetary damages in only 1.8 percent of the cases. The vast majority, 78 percent of them, were resolved via an unspecified mutual resolution.

Additionally, arbitration lacks oversight. Arbitrators do not need to be neutral, they do not need to memorialize or publish their opinions, and there are very few avenues for appeal. Courts can only overturn an arbitrator’s decision if the appealing party can demonstrate a “manifest disregard of the law.” Most courts have interpreted this to mean that intervention is necessary only in the event of arbitrator fraud or misconduct.

The FAIR Act passed the House by a margin of 225 to 186. As of the time of this writing, the Senate has not put this bill up for debate.

Protection Against Retaliation for Accommodation Requests in New York City

The New York City Council passed Intro 799 this past June. This ordinance is awaiting the mayor’s signature, and it will protect individuals who request reasonable accommodations from retaliation by their employers.

What does this mean for you?

The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most progressive anti-discrimination laws in the nation. The law mandates that all employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for certain protected groups of employees. An employer must grant reasonable accommodations to employees who are disabled, pregnant, victims of domestic violence, or part of a protected class. Providing an accommodation is required unless doing so would produce undue hardship for the employer.

Additionally, the New York City Human Rights Law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against people who engage in various protected activities. Employers, landlords and the like, cannot take adverse action against people who file discrimination lawsuits, assist in discrimination investigations, or engage in a variety of other protected activities.

Appellate Courts in New York have recently taken some of the teeth out of the New York City Human Rights Law. They have held that a request for accommodation does not constitute a protected activity. In response, the New York City Council drafted Intro 799, which was designed to re-affirm the intent of the New York City Human Rights Law. The amendment adds requests for reasonable accommodation explicitly as a protected activity. The hope is that in the future, the Appellate Courts will interpret the New York City Human Rights Law more broadly, and in conformity with the legislative intent of the New York City Council.

Specific details added by the New York City Council.

This new amendment to Chapter 1 of section 8-107(7) of the New York City Human Rights law will make it illegal to retaliate when a person has, among other things, asked for a reasonable accommodation. Companies, landlords, and other covered entities that engage in this kind of discrimination can be subject to significant penalties, just as they would be if they retaliated against a person for reporting discrimination and other forms of wrongdoing.

What Can Employees Do?

Employees who believe that their employer has wrongfully taken action against them will soon be able to use this section of the New York City Human Rights Law to bring a claim against their employer. Discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, age, disability status, and many other protected categories is illegal under Federal, New York State, and New York City anti-discrimination laws. Consulting with an experienced employment attorney is key to preserving potential claims. Firms that keep up with and understand legislative authority can be especially helpful in these matters.