Representative Conyers: Claims Mounting About Sexual Misconduct

Since multiple allegations of sexual misconduct emerged regarding Harvey Weinstein, during the past month, other women have come forward in Hollywood and other industries to make their claims of sexual harassment known. A recent example is Democratic Representative John Conyers, who is resigning amidst accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple women. Confers announced his decision to retire while in a Detroit hospital during an interview on “The Mildred Gaddis Show” on 102.7 FM. and said he plans to back his son to replace him. Sexual Misconduct Allegations According to The Washington Post, former staff member Deanna Maher came forward with claims that on various occasions from 1997 through 2005, Conyers sexually harassed her. She said she never came forward earlier because he was too powerful and she believed no one would want to take her claims seriously. However, there was a previous staff member who also alleged sexual misconduct claims, and in 2015 a settlement was reached between Conyers and the staff member for $27,000. The settlement was over the staff member’s claims for what had occurred when she worked for him in the 1990’s. These claims recently led to a House ethics investigation of Conyers (age 88), the longest serving member of Congress. He denied the claims. However, as a result, House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi made a statement saying that the claims were believable and requested that Conyers step down, which he has done. CNN reported that Representative Jim Clyburn also asked Conyers to resign and said it was in his best interests. Clyburn is the assistant Democratic leader and holds the highest-ranking position by an...

Companies Accused of Discrimination or Harassment: What Can You Do?

When accusations of discrimination or harassment emerge, employers should consult with an employment law defense lawyer as soon as possible. Aside from seeking counsel, what actions can you take right away and what mistakes can you avoid? The American Bar Association  suggests avoiding the following mistakes. Failing to investigate immediately. Waiting for an employee to submit a formal statement about harassment or discrimination or waiting for witnesses to submit written statements is the most common mistake made by employers. Any investigation delay can make it appear like you’re ignoring the situation or not taking it seriously. Inserting cross-examination into the process. Conducting an investigation without bias is important for avoiding claims of unfair investigation against your company, even when you suspect a complainant, witness or the accused individual is lying. A better approach is to ask in a respectful manner that the person explain contradictory statements or ask for evidence that refutes the statements. Not maintaining confidentiality. You must keep the investigation confidential along with the information obtained during the investigation. If witnesses suffer backlash from the investigation because their identity is made known or for any other reason, as the employer, you may become subject to claims of retaliation. Not interviewing all witnesses with knowledge of the alleged events. The investigator should interview all the witnesses because it will help determine whether information is consistent. Failing to make known the company’s policy against retaliation. Retaliation is a common problem, according to the EEOC and comprises about one third of the cases the EEOC handles. It is important to reinforce the company policy by reminding all parties that retaliation...

Weinstein Misconduct Leads to Investigation of the Weinstein Company

Do You Have Harassment Issues in Your Company? The New York Times broke the story on October 5th about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment of actresses. That led to a criminal investigation, and now the whole company has come under the scrutiny of a civil investigation. On October 23, The New York Times reported that New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman opened an investigation into the Weinstein Company by sending a subpoena that requested documents such as personnel files, criteria for firing, termination and promotion, and filed with the company regarding sexual harassment, gender or age discrimination. In addition, the subpoena sought information as to how complaints were handled and any private out-of-court settlements reached. Company Financial Liability Whether the company is financially responsible for any of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct is also subject to the investigation. Of the payments made by Harvey Weinstein in confidential settlements, the investigation seeks to discover whether other company people were involved and whether the payments came from the company or were personally paid by Weinstein. The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein several days after the October 5th news story broke in The New York Times. More than half of the nine company board members have resigned. Harvey’s brother Bob Weinstein, co-founder of the company, is involved in sales negotiations to sell either part of or the whole production studio. In addition, many employees have requested release from nondisclosure agreements so they are free to discuss their experiences at the company. Do Not Bury Your Head in the Sand With the power he wielded, movie producer Harvey Weinstein appeared to be untouchable. He won...

Tip-Sharing Class Action Lawsuits Take Their Toll on Restaurant Owners

In recent years, restaurant owners have been subject to tip-sharing class action lawsuits that have cost them considerable amounts of money. Zahav in Philadelphia In July 2017, Eater.com published an article about Zahav, an award-winning Philadelphia restaurant that settled a tip-sharing class action lawsuit for $230,000. Toward the end of 2016, former server Tanya Peters filed a lawsuit against the restaurant and alleged that its tip-sharing practices violated the FLSA and Philadelphia Gratuity Protection Bill. Peters claimed that servers were required to share tips with silverware polishers during her 19 months of employment at the restaurant. This amounted to $5.00 per shift. Bill Hill Restaurants The previous July in 2016, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which Eater named the “best restaurant in America” and which ranked 11 on the World’s 50 Best list, was subject to a class-action wage theft lawsuit. The restaurant settled for $2 million. The third parties that sued also brought a claim against the NYC sister restaurant Blue Hill. The lawsuit claimed that due to tip pool mismanagement, certain service employees did not receive money owed to them. In particular, Blue Hill engaged in sharing tips with non-service employees and did not share private event service charges with service employees. An estimated 250 eligible former and current employees receiving the settlement money included servers, buses, back-waiters, runners and hosts and hostesses. Divided equally, each class-action suit member will receive around $5,000 and the lead plaintiffs will receive an additional $25,000. Preventative Actions to Prevent Tip Pooling Class Action Lawsuits Consulting with an experienced employment law attorney can help you prevent tip-pooling lawsuits. Restaurants should have...

Overtime Myths in the Restaurant Industry

Overtime myths can circulate in any line of work, and the restaurant industry is no exception. Some of the most prevalent myths deal with wages and overtime. As an employer, it is vital that you don’t fall for these myths because they could lead to unnecessary disputes, lawsuits or compliance penalties. An Employee Can Waive the Right to Overtime Sometimes employers get the idea that if an employee is willing to work longer hours and waive overtime, it works out well for both of them. However, under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) , when an employee who is not an exempt employee (not a manager, executive, etc.) works overtime (over 40 hours in a workweek), employers must pay the employee for overtime. A workweek can begin or end on any day that the employer designates. In fact, an employee, who waived overtime, actually has the legal right to turn around and sue the employer for overtime pay. An Employer Can Compensate an Employer in Other Ways than Paying Overtime Another myth is that an employer can compensate an employee who works more than 40 hours by giving the employee extra time off called compensatory time or “comp time.” Employers cannot compensate in ways other than paying overtime. The FLSA requires overtime work to be paid at a rate of not less than one and a half times the employee’s regular pay rate. An Employer Does Not Have to Pay Overtime for Unauthorized Overtime Work It can be frustrating for employers who instruct their employees not to work over 40 hours and discover that unauthorized work was done. Employers...