Helping Restaurant Owners Navigate the New York Labor Laws

FAQ for Restaurant Owners For restaurant owners, who are busy running their day-to-day business, New York Labor laws can seem like an added burden. Having access to a NY employment defense lawyer is often vital to navigate the laws and make your business successful. According to the NY State Department of Labor, here are some frequently asked questions employers often ask: Can you require employees to wear uniforms? Yes, you can. What is considered a uniform? Black slacks and white shirts are not uniforms. A shirt with the company insignia or custom-made slacks and shirts would be considered uniforms. If your worker’s pay is minimum wage, then the cost of buying the uniform and taking care of it cannot bring the employee below the minimum wage rate. Employers must either clean and take care of the uniforms or pay their employees to care for them. Are you limited by the number of hours an employee can work in a day? Except for children under 18, there are no limitations on how many hours in a day an employee can work. There also are no limitations on how early or late an employer can ask an employee to work. However, in the restaurant industry, an employee must have 24 hours of rest one day in a calendar week. This does not apply to small, rural restaurants. What are the rules for giving workers meal breaks? For work shifts of more than six hours that begin before 11:00 a.m. and continue until 2:00 p.m., the workers must be provided with an uninterrupted lunch period of at least half an hour between...

How to Protect Your Small Business Against Sexual Harassment

Q&A that Applies to Sexual Harassment in Small Business Environments If you are a small business owner, you may wonder how to protect your small business from sexual harassment and resulting claims that put your business at risk. Here are some questions and answers (Q&A) that are a good place to start when dealing with sexual harassment. This Q&A relates to harassment by supervisors: Who is considered a supervisor? Any individual who has the authority to recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the employee is a supervisor. Tangible employment decisions include significant employment actions that change an employee’s status, such as: Hiring Firing Promotion Demotion Work assignment Undesirable reassignment Significant benefits changes Compensation decisions When are employers liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment? Whenever a supervisor engages in harassment that results in a tangible employment action, the employers are always liable. When no tangible employment action occurs, employers are still liable unless they can show the following: They took reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassment. The employee reasonably failed to complain to management or failed to otherwise avoid harm. What steps should employers take to prevent and correct sexual harassment? Employers need to establish policy that prohibits harassment, put it in writing and pass it out to all employers. Employers should create procedures for making complaints and notify employees. When a business is sufficiently small that the owner is regularly in contact with all employees, the employer does not have to put policies in writing. Employers can tell employees at staff meetings that harassment is not allowed, that employees should report harassment immediately and they can even...

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...

National Origin and Race Discrimination and Retaliation: EEOC Sues Long Island Company

Claims of national origin and race discrimination along with retaliation were the basis of an EEOC lawsuit brought against a Long Island Company headquartered in Massapequa, NY in August 2017. A&F Fire Protection Co, Inc. is a sprinkler installation company that allegedly violated federal law by allowing a hostile work environment where black and Hispanic employees were routinely subjected to racial insults. Details of the National Origin and Race Discrimination Allegations The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that repeated racial harassment occurred with workers being called the “N-word,” “spics,” “jigaboo,” and “wetbacks.” The company failed to take action to end the discrimination and instead either forced complaining employees to quit or fired them, which is retaliation under federal law. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the EEOC used its conciliation process to try and reach a settlement. The lawsuit against the company seeks the following: Back wages Compensatory damages Punitive damages Changes in employment policies to prevent future harassment or retaliation The EEOC New York District Office Regional Attorney Burstein pointed out that the abuse was pervasive and that upon learning about racial harassment, employers are obligated by law to ensure it stopped. The EEOC New York District Office Director Kevin Berry emphasized that retaliation against the employee who complains against discriminatory behavior is one of the EEOC’s top priorities when reviewing claims. Another EEOC Trial Attorney, Kirsten Peters reminded employers that even one utterance of a racial slur by a supervisor in a workplace constitutes a hostile work environment and can be legally actionable based on recent case law. At the First Sign of a Discrimination Dispute, Consult with an Employment...

New York City Faces Lawsuit for Trying to Enforce Menu Labeling Law

Although the federal menu labeling law was passed as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, it has been stopped from going into effect several times. It was originally going to become effective in 2016. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) postponed menu labeling for a year in May 2017, the new date for it to go into effect was established as May 7, 2018. Despite the federal delay, Restaurant.org reported that the New York City government intended to go ahead and enforce the labeling law anyway, and enforcement would begin on August 21, 2017. However, the Restaurant Law Center along with the Food Marketing Institute, National Association of Convenience Stores and New York Association of Convenience Stores filed a lawsuit against NYC. They alleged that the city was in violation of federal law and was attempting to preempt federal governance. Details of the Federal Menu Labeling Law The menu labeling law requires establishments, which are part of a chain with 20 or more locations and which do business under the same name and basically offer the same menu items, to provide calorie and nutritional information for standard menu items. This requirement applies to self-service food and food on display. Consumers must be given the information in a “direct and accessible manner to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices.” (FDA on food labeling) Some foods are delivered to restaurant chains as completed products and already contain calories and other nutritional information in the packaging. Other foods require nutritional analysis and lab testing, which can incur expenses for the restaurant and other establishment chains. This law...

NYC New Job Salary History Law: Keeping Your Hiring Practices Legal

A New York City job salary history law was recently passed, which goes into effect in October 2017. Business owners should be aware of this fact and ensure they keep their hiring practices in lockstep with the new change. CNN Money  reported that employers no longer are allowed to ask prospective job candidates about their previous salaries. According to Mayor De Blasio, the law hopes to lessen the gender pay gap that exists in salaries. At the signing ceremony, the mayor said, “This is about fixing a broken history. This is about overcoming years and years of discrimination that held people back.” Why Job Salary History Questions Tend to Promote Unequal Pay When a business bases its pay on previous salary history and the history is already unequal pay, it simply perpetuates the inequality. This change speaks to the U.S. Census fact that in 2015, for every dollar men earned, women in comparable positions earned 79.6 cents. What Changes Will Employers Have to Make? They must eliminate any questions on job applications that ask about previous salary. They must train hiring managers to refrain from asking about job salary history and refocus the hiring interview on salary expectations instead. To keep the hiring practice uniform, it’s possible that New York companies with offices in other cities may incorporate the change there as well. New York Is Not Alone in This Change According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, over 20 other states are also considering passing similar laws that would prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s pay history. At a federal level, The Paycheck Fairness Act is...