employment lawyer

Is Workplace Dating a Good Idea?

Office Romance
Office Romance

In today’s economy, working longer hours are a way of life for those who want to get ahead or simply stay employed.  For many, these increased demands preclude the ability or desire to spend time dating.  As a result, many employees turn to the workplace to find their romantic partners.   Many single employees wonder whether dating in the workplace is a sensible option. It is no surprise that relationships blossom within the workplace when one considers that many rising stars in the business world are young and single.  Combine that with the close proximity and long hours employees spend together, and it is no wonder that coworkers start to develop romantic relationships.  In some cases, workplace romances have proven to be more successful than those outside of the office – a recent CareerBuilder survey shows that 31% of office romances even progressed into marriages.

But there are just as many pitfalls from office romance as there are benefits.  If you involved in a workplace romance, you consider these questions first.

Does My Company Have a Policy on Workplace Dating?

Some businesses gave policies which strictly forbid dating amongst coworkers.   These polices are typically created to reduce the business’s exposure in the event something goes wrong.  If your company policy states that employees may not have romantic relationships with other employees, then you put yourselves at risk if you continue to pursue the relationship.  You may also forgo rights to file a lawsuit for hostile work environment, sexual harassment, or other claims that may relate to your romantic relationship.   Lawsuits like these cost businesses money, so they build in protections that may limit your options if you choose to ignore them.

Do I Need to Declare My Relationship?

Other businesses might allow romantic relationships, but only if both employees bring the relationship to the attention of the company.  Again, this is usually so the employer can inform you of your rights and responsibilities, but may also require you both to sign a document that you are both consensually entering into the relationship and will not hold your employer accountable should anything go wrong.

Should I Avoid a Relationship with My Boss?

Think carefully before entering into a relationship with either your superior or someone who reports directly to you.  Not only could a relationship like that lead to gossip and discomfort among other coworkers, but there are legal ramifications there, too.  If projects or promotions are awarded within your relationship, others may claim favoritism.  If the relationship ends, there could be animosity or questions about punishment or retaliation.  If the relationship is your priority, consider requesting a transfer into another department so those issues will not cloud your judgment.

While more and more companies are enacting policies on dating in the workplace, it is increasingly important to know your rights and options.  If you are a business owner, enacting such a policy may help to protect you and your employees.  If you are an employee, make sure you know the rules before going forward with a workplace romance.

If you have questions about workplace relationships, the experienced employment lawyers at Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC can help you.  Contact us today for a free initial consultation at 646.524.6001.

Do I Need An Employment Lawyer?

Do I need an employment lawyer? Our experienced New York Employment Lawyers get calls all the time for people who are not sure whether they need an employment lawyer. You cannot bring an action just because you think it was “unfair” to terminate your employment.  There is no such thing as “unlawful termination,” or “wrongful termination.”  Unless you have an employment contract, there is really no such thing as wrongful termination.  So how do you decide whether or not to contact an employment lawyer?

Why …

There are times during the course of your employment when you may need an attorney. For example:

Deadlines: Employment laws are a morass of confusing deadlines and procedural requirements.  If you do it yourself, you might miss something and lose your claim.

Confusing claims: There are some employment laws that you might not know about and there are some laws you think exist, that may not.

Being taken seriously: Some employers will not take you seriously unless you have representation.

Confrontation and advocacy: Some people do not want to find themselves in a confrontational situation or advocating for themselves. Sometimes it’s better to have someone else advocate for you.  Attorneys are trained advocates.

When …

You should contact a lawyer immediately if:

Your current or former employer sues or threatens to sue you;

You are being asked to sign an something that you don’t fully understand, like an employment agreement, non-compete, confidentiality clause, or arbitration agreement;

You have been retaliated against for complaining about discrimination or something illegal the employer has done;

You are not being paid all the wages you’re owed (including time and a half for overtime);

You are misclassified as exempt from overtime or as an independent contractor;

You believe that you have been a victim of discrimination based upon your race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, pregnancy, national origin, color, genetic information, objecting to discrimination, or request for medical leave to care for yourself or a family member.

Do I have a case?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?  The devil is in the details, but the following checklist should be a good place to start:

Cases involving termination, demotion, or suspension without pay

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a claim. Definitely contact us if any of these occurred shortly before you were terminated, demoted, suspended, or otherwise disciplined:

●          You made a worker’s compensation claim shortly before being fired.

●          You recently objected to, refused to participate in, or reported illegal activity or discrimination by the company

●          You recently had surgery, revealed the existence of a medical condition, genetic information or pregnancy.

●          Your employer made a false statement of fact (as opposed to opinion) about you to someone outside the company, such as a potential employer.

●          You recently performed jury duty.

●          You recently served in the military.

●          You recently took family or medical leave.

●          You recently served as a witness in a lawsuit or provided testimony or evidence to EEOC.

●          You recently engaged in activity for the benefit of co-workers with respect to terms and conditions of employment.

●          Your employer fail to pay you for all hours worked, or fail to pay overtime if you worked over 40 hours per week.  Many times, employees are misclassified as exempt and will be owed back wages for up to 2 - 3 years.

Discrimination claims

It is not illegal to discriminate against you for being you. Your boss does not have to like you.  He/she does not have to be nice to you.  However, if the discrimination or harassment fits into one of the categories below, you should contact us to find out more about your rights and your responsibility to report it before you make a claim.

● Race ● Sex ● Sexual harassment ● Religion ● Ethnicity ● Disability ● Age ● Pregnancy ● National origin ● Color ● Genetic information ● Retaliation for objecting to discrimination

If you feel that you have been treated differently than others of a different race, age, sex, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or color you should contact us.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

Pregnancy discrimination is on the rise. Too many people are unaware of their rights under the law. Set forth below are some of the protections afforded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Title VII's pregnancy-related protections include: Hiring:  An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.

Pregnancy Discrimination - Pregnancy and Maternity Leave: 

  • An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statement.
  • If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.
  • Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth. Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave

Pregnancy Discrimination - Health Insurance:

  • Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. An employer need not provide health insurance for expenses arising from abortion, except where the life of the mother is endangered.
  • Pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable-and-customary-charge basis.
  • The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as amounts payable for other conditions. No additional, increased, or larger deductible can be imposed.
  • Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.

Pregnancy Discrimination - Fringe Benefits:

  • Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions.
  • If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions. Employees on leave because of pregnancy-related conditions must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.

Retaliation: It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on pregnancy or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

If you believe you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, please contact us.

Wage & Hour Employment Law for NY Small Business

Small business owners in New York are often so inundated with the day-to-day hustle of increasing revenue, marketing, and actually working, that they often overlook federal and state wage and hour laws.  But be warned: failure to properly pay employees can significantly harm your business.  However, a few simple pointers will go a long way towards avoiding a devastating wage and hour class action: First, pay your employees the minimum wage.  Sounds easy enough.  The minimum wage in New York and New Jersey is $7.25/hour.  But there’s a bill in New Jersey to increase the minimum wage to $8.50/hour (see this prior blog entry).   And make sure to pay the minimum wage for all hours worked (and see this entry).

Also, as we’ve previously discussed, classify your employees correctly (see this entry).  In terms of classifying your employees as exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay, it is advisable to err on the side of non-exempt.  And don’t think that just because you give an employee a title like “manager” it changes anything -- titles are meaningless and what matters is the nature of the work that the employee actually performs (for more detailed information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime_pay.htm).  The same goes with respect to classifying your employees as employees or independent contractors -- err on the side of employee.  To be an independent contractor, the individual must be truly “independent” (e.g., is available to work for other employers, uses his/her own materials, sets his/her own hours, etc. but for more detailed information, please see http://www.comptroller.ilstu.edu/downloads/20-factor-test-for-independent-contractors.pdf).

Keep good records.  It is worth investing in an automated system which tracks employees hours worked and all compensation paid to employees.  This way you can prove exactly how much a given employee worked and how much he or she was paid for their time.

The last point is probably the most obvious of all:  it is better to be safe than sorry.  The potential damages in wage and hour actions can be financially devastating to a small business -- you are better off treating your employees as non-exempt, paying them for all time worked, and when necessary contacting an employment lawyer, than defending a legal battle that will likely not end well.

If you are a small business owner in NY and have any employment law questions, please contact us for a free initial consultation.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is any verbal or physical interaction which is both unwanted and sexual in nature.  Sexual harassment can also take the form of sexual suggestions or explicit language, or a pattern of sexist remarks. According to the EEOC, sexual harassment occurs, "when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

Examples of Sexual Harassment

  • Verbal abuse, jokes or conversations about sex
  • Offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and repartee.
  • Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker's back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee's ability to move.
  • Pressure for sex or dates, or unwanted flirting.
  • Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature.  These can be posters, calendars, signs or clothing.
  • Sexually oriented entertainment at a work related event.
  • Playing sexually suggestive music.
  • Comments on a person’s appearance that make the person uncomfortable because of his or her sex.
  • Unwanted touching.
  • Offering promotions or other job favors for sex, or threatening retaliation for denial of sex.

For more information on NYC sexual harassment, see:  http://www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/html/employment.html

For more information on sexual harassment, see:  http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm

If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, please contact us for a free initial consultation.