new york employment lawyer

Things not to say to an employment lawyer

We’re a busy employment law firm.  We get tons of calls from potential clients.  Their claims run the gamut of employment law – discrimination to unpaid wages, severance and retaliation.  We try to help as many people as we can.  But there’s only so much that can be done.  If you are thinking about calling an employment lawyer, here are some things you might not want to say.

1.       This case is newsworthy.  Really?  OK, quickly, name one employment law case in the news right now.  How many can you recall ever being   in the news?  Chances are your case is not newsworthy either.  That “bad publicity” you think that your employer is afraid of, is not nearly as big of a concern as you think.  Very few cases make the news. 

2.       I am entitled to a significant payout.  More likely than not, you are entitled to nothing.  You are almost certainly an employee at will.  The only way you are entitled to compensation is if you have an agreement (e.g. contract, collective bargaining agreement, company policy, etc.).  Otherwise, you have to fight for a payout (let alone a “significant” payout).

3.       The company has tons of money.  Your company did not get “tons of money” by handing it out.  Just because your company can afford a generous settlement, does not mean that it will pay a generous settlement.  The richest companies are often the stingiest.

4.       Why did I get fired?  That’s for you to figure out.  To be sure, the role of employment lawyer includes doing an investigation.  But if you don’t have a rough theory of your case when you first call an employment lawyer, put down the phone and think things through.  To come up with a “theory of the case,” you need to think about your narrative – what happened to you at work, and why you think a lawyer should be helping you out.  Were you fired because of your age, disability, sexual orientation, medical leave?  Were you paid for all of your overtime?  If you don’t have a theory lined up before you call, you are not ready.

5.       It’s a long story.  No its not.  Maybe your whole story is a long one, but when you call an employment lawyer, cut to the chase.  “I was treated unfairly because … ,” “I was fired because … ,”  “I am entitled to compensation because … .”  These are not long stories.  Yes, of course, we will have to fill in the details, and details matter a lot, but when you first call – get right to it.  The rest can be filled in from there.
 

 

Required Forms for New Hires in New York

What are the required forms for new hires in New York? If you are an employer in New York, there are several forms that you should have each of your new hires fill out under New York and federal law. The following post sets forth the required forms for new hires in New York.  If you need help with these, or any additional forms (like wage statement forms, performance improvement plans, offer letters, contracts, severance agreements, personnel manuals, etc.) we can help.  Call or e-mail us.  We have attorneys standing by.

Our firm drafts custom tailored documents for businesses throughout the country, and we do it on a flat fee basis - and can usually prepare your forms within 24-hours.  For a list of some of the documents we can prepare for you as well as pricing, click here.

  1. Form I-9, Eligibility to work in the United States. This is one of the required forms for new hires in New York. You must verify that each new employee is legally eligible to work in the United States. So, have each new employee you hire fill out a Form I-9. Here is a link to Form I-9 and the Employer Instructions: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-9.pdf

  2. Form W-2. This is one of the required forms for new hires in New York. You are required to get each employee's name and Social Security Number (SSN) and to enter them on Form W-2. (This requirement also applies to resident and nonresident alien employees.) You should ask your employee to show you his or her social security card. You may, but are not required to, photocopy the social security card if the employee provides it. Here is a link to a sample W-2: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw2.pdf. To e-file the W-2 and verify the name/SSN of employee via Social Security Administration, please visit: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/

  3. Form W-4, wage Withholding Allowance Certificate. This is one of the required forms for new hires in New York. To know how much income tax to withhold from your employee's wages, you should have a Form W-4 on file for each employee. Ask all new employees to give you a signed Form W-4 when they start work. Make the form effective with the first wage payment. A Form W-4 remains in effect until the employee gives you a new one. Ifan employee claims exemption from income tax withholding, he must give you a new Form W-4 each year. If an employee gives you a Form W-4 that replaces an existing Form W-4, begin withholding no later than the start of the first payroll period ending on, or after the 30th day, from the date you received the replacement Form W-4. Here is a link to Form W-4: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf

  4. Form IT-2104, Employer Allowance Certificate (NYS). This is one of the required forms for new hires in New York. This form must be completed to withhold New York State taxes, if working within New York state (depending on the employee’s withholding, IT-2104-1 or IT-2104-E must also be completed). Here is a link to Form IT-2104: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/current_forms/it/it2104_fill_in.pdf. If the employee is a nonresident of New York, he needs to complete Form IT-2104-1: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/current_forms/it/it2104_1_fill_in.pdf. And if the employee is claiming exemption from withholding for New York State personal income tax, he must complete Form IT-2104-E: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/current_forms/it/it2104e_fill_in.pdf.

  5. IRS Form 940. You must file IRS Form 940 to report your federal unemployment tax for any year in which you paid wages of $1,500 or more in any quarter or for any year in which an employee worked for you in any 20 or more different weeks of the year.

  6. Report each new hire to state new hire reporting agency. General Information about new hire reporting: http://www.tax.ny.gov/bus/wt/newhire.htm. You can either report the new hire online (https://www.nynewhire.com/index.jsp) or mail in Form IT-2104 (online reporting or hard copy mailing info set forth at general info website above).

  7. Forms required by New York Labor Laws. There are other forms mandated by the New York Department of Labor. To see which forms are applicable to your business and employees, please visit: https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS53.pdf

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Should I Sue My Employer?

Should I sue my employer?  Maybe. Speaking in very general terms, there are three major categories of laws protecting employees. These categories are: (1) discrimination law, (2) leave law, and (3) wage payment law. Below is a very brief discussion of each:

  1. Discrimination: Discrimination against individuals on the basis of their membership in a protected class is illegal. Protected classes include: gender, race, disability, age, national origin, religion and others. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on their protected status. The discrimination can be failure to hire, decisions related to pay, discipline and decisions to terminate employment. The principle is that you cannot be treated differently than similarly situated employees on the basis of your protected status.
  2. Leave: Certain employees are entitled to leave by state and/or federal law. If you are entitled to leave, it is illegal for your employer to interfere with your leave, or retaliate against you for taking leave.
  3. Wages: There are also many wage payment laws which govern how your employer must pay your wages. These laws relate to payment of overtime lawful deductions from wages, and what constitutes “work” such that you have to be compensated.

If you are having issues with your employer, you should speak to an employment lawyer. You may have a viable lawsuit against your employer, and a good employment lawyer can help guide you in reviewing your situation.

should I sue my employer?
should I sue my employer?

How do Employment Discrimination Lawsuits Work?

This post is probably more for the lawyers out there who are curious about employment discrimination lawsuits, but below is a (relatively) simple breakdown of how these cases are analyzed.  Most employment discrimination cases are analyzed by what is called a McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework. Under this burden shifting framework, there are 3 burdens, which shift between Plaintiff/Employee) and Defendant/Employer).First Burden: Plaintiff/Employee has a burden of production with respect to a prima facie case of discrimination.

  1. Burden of Production: This means you have to “show,” but not prove.
  2. “Prima Facie Case of Discrimination” “Prima facie” is Latin for first impression. So you have to show (burden of production) a first impression case (prima facie) of discrimination. To do this, Courts require Plaintiff/Employee to show (not prove) four elements:
    • Plaintiff/Employee belongs to a “protected class”
      • “Protected class” is a characteristic of a person which cannot be targeted for discrimination. This includes: race, gender, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, and more.
    • Plaintiff/Employee suffered an “adverse employment action”
      • “Adverse employment action” means something bad happening at work. This includes: termination of employment, harassment (but it has to be pretty bad), demotion, suspension, etc.
    • Plaintiff/Employee is “qualified for the position”
      • Typically this is only relevant for failure to hire cases, as opposed to “wrongful termination” cases. If Plaintiff/Employee worked at a job and was subsequently terminated, they are almost always “qualified for the position.”
    • Adverse employment action occurred under circumstances “giving rise to an inference of discrimination”
      • “Giving rise to an inference of discrimination” means something which makes it plausible that the action taken against the employee was related to his or her protected class. Evidence can include being replaced by a person outside the protected class, timing, comments by supervisors and/or decision-makers.

If Plaintiff can meet this burden of production, the burden then shifts to Employer/Defendant Second Burden: Defendant/Employer has a burden of production to produce a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for the adverse employment action.

  1. Legitimate, non-discriminatory justification. This means the employer has an obligation to come up with a reason for the termination, demotion, etc., other than the protected class.

Third/Final Burden: Plaintiff/Employee has a burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant/Employer’s stated reason is pretext for discrimination.

  1. Preponderance of the evidence. This means more likely than not. 51%.
  2. Pretext. This means that the reason put forth by Defendant/Employer is bs, and the real reason for the adverse employment action was discrimination. This is where discrimination cases are won and lost.

At the end of the day, the burden is on Plaintiff/Employee to show that, irrespective of the reason, discrimination was the real reason (or at least a big part of the real reason) for Defendant/Employer’s decision to terminate the employee. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We welcome calls from potential clients as well as fellow attorneys in need of guidance.

 

 

Have I Been Unlawfully Terminated?

Wrongful Termination
Wrongful Termination

We get this question frequently. Fortunately, there is a simple answer: there is no such thing as wrongful termination. However, under some circumstances, the decision to terminate an employee may be unlawful.

Below are the two most common examples of what most people refer to as “Wrongful Termination”

  1. Discrimination. When someone’s employment is terminated because they belong to a protected class (like age, race, gender, disability, etc.), the decision may be unlawful.
  2. Retaliation. Generally speaking, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for engaging in a protected activity. Protected activity includes making an internal complaint of discrimination (it doesn’t have to be about you), or some other illegal activity going on in the workplace. Even if the complaint is incorrect, it is illegal to retaliate for making the complaint.

It’s never easy to prove discrimination or retaliation. You are never going to see a memo that says “let’s fire all the old people.”  Instead, these cases are typically won and lost on circumstantial evidence. This evidence often includes a comparison between how a protected (e.g., older) employee was treated as compared to a similarly situated employee outside of the protected class (i.e., how a younger employee was treated).

If you think you are being treated differently than employees who are outside of your protected class, you should consult with an attorney. While an employer does not have to be fair, it is illegal to make decisions which are influenced by discrimination or retaliation. A New York wrongful termination lawyer can help you understand your rights and fight back.

Contact us today for a free consultation and protect your rights.