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White Plains, New York, Employment Law Blog

Wells Fargo may have retaliated against New York employees

Wells Fargo recently came under fire after employees exposed a series of scandals. Accused of charging customers in New York and elsewhere for unnecessary products, the company is also facing another onslaught of accusations, this time for workplace retaliation. Several employees claim that they were fired for whistleblowing.

Back in July 2017, Wells Fargo admitted that it had charged hundreds of thousands of customers for unnecessary car insurance. The bank was able to do this by purchasing collateral protection for borrowers, which was permitted if the borrower failed to purchase liability coverage. However, Wells Fargo charged around 570,000 auto loan customers for coverage, even though they had already purchased insurance from a third party. Approximately 20,000 customers had their motor vehicles repossessed at least partly because of the high cost of the insurance they had been forced to buy.

Uber accused of driving workplace discrimination against women

Whether in small towns with limited public transportation or booming cities with vast networks of buses and taxi cabs, Uber seems to be everywhere. The ride-sharing company shook up much of the transportation industry in New York and elsewhere, but some people claim that the company is not as forward-thinking as it claims to be. After dealing with past workplace controversies, Uber was recently accused of workplace discrimination.

In a lawsuit filed by three women -- two of whom no longer work for the company -- Uber is alleged to have engaged in ongoing discrimination against people of color and women. All three women worked as software engineers, but claim that they were treated much differently than their male counterparts. Unjustified lower performance scores, fewer opportunities for professional advancement and assignments to tasks below their skill level were all apparently normal aspects of their employment.

How should employers address employee complaints?

Managing employees can be one of the most challenging -- and important -- elements of running a business. This can be particularly true in situations involving complaints of workplace harassment or discrimination.

Navigating these situations can be tricky for employers, as they may be uncomfortable, confusing and upsetting. However, it is crucial that employers across New York take seriously their legal responsibilities when it comes to preventing and responding to claims of workplace misconduct. If you are a business owner, then you should know you can do this in a number of ways.

A surprisingly high amount of employees feel bullied at work

Bullying does not stop in grade school. It can continue into adulthood, found in office environments and businesses. Bullying looks a little different as an adult, but it still makes the victim feel disrespected. A surprisingly high amount of American workers feel bullied on the job. According to a USA Today article, 29 percent of employees say they have been bullied by coworkers or bosses.

Spotting bullying among employees

New York VA patients might benefit from whistleblower

Raising the alarm over improper practices in the workplace can be difficult, especially as most people understand that many whistleblowers face unfair retaliation. Retaliation in New York is not always clear-cut, and can be more subtle than firing or demoting the whistleblower. A dentist who works in a Veterans Affairs clinic claims that she is the victim of whistleblower retaliation and, as a result, has been unable to see patients.

The VA clinic dentist blew the whistle over impractical logging and maintenance of medical records, which she claimed caused significant delays in treatment and forced many veterans to travel hundreds of miles for dental care. She pointed out that staff were unable to access their electronic record system, and instead had to fax paper forms filled out by hand to then be entered electronically elsewhere. This process took days and weeks, leaving one patient with a mouth lesion waiting 11 weeks for a biopsy approval. When requests were denied, they were never even filed.

Should New York workers sign employment contracts?

Employers hold much of the power during the hiring and separation processes. Potential candidates and new hires are often required to sign contracts when being considered or offered a job. These documents can be complex, especially for the typical New York worker who simply wants to understand what he or she is signing.

Severance agreements are often portrayed as an easy choice for workers, who need only sign the document and receive their guaranteed pay or benefits after separating from their place of employment. While most do provide some type of severance pay for employees who have been with the company for some time, the agreements often contain many provisions that can impact future employment opportunities. Confidentially clauses, noncompete agreements and other provisions can prevent individuals from easily moving on to another job, especially in the same industry or field.

New York whistleblowers are protected by OSHA

Whether it's the possible presence of asbestos, improperly stored chemicals or lax safety protocols, workers are usually some of the first people to bring workplace issues to the attention of their bosses. Most would expect that their employer and subsequent higher ups would take safety issues seriously, but unfortunately the opposite is often true. Some New York employers would rather ignore these violations and allow the problems to persist.

An employee does not become a whistleblower simply by complaining about a problem to their boss. It is not until they have notified their bosses and other superiors at the company that the opportunity to become a whistleblower arises. This is done through notifying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Although typically efficient at handling the problem, taking this step can have serious implications for workers.

Workers in New York vulnerable to paid sick leave violations

For some workers, paid sick leave is the only way they can take time to manage an illness while still earning enough to pay their bills. Unfortunately, even when paid sick leave is legally guaranteed -- such as in New York City -- many employees skirt the law. In the city, the number of complaints regarding paid sick leave violations rose by about 10 percent since 2016.

Many of the complaints were for employers' refusals to pay for sick leave when employees were absent from work. Others were retaliated against after taking sick leave, and lost their jobs. Certain workers reported more employer violations than others, with minorities who earn under $50,000 annually experiencing over twice as much paid leave discrimination.

New York detectives file suit over racial discrimination

A police department is under fire for its allegedly discriminatory promotion practices. In a recently filed suit, multiple black detectives allege that they were passed over for promotions despite excellent performances. The New York City Police Department has not responded to the claim that it purposely promoted white detectives over their black peers, even when they were less qualified.

In 2011, three detectives went to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with their discrimination complaint. The EEOC released a 2016 report that indicated black detectives were treated unequally when compared to their white peers, although it is unclear why it came five years after the initial complaint. This report backed up the detectives' claims that, despite receiving recommendations from superiors, they were victims of racial discrimination.

Does my New York employer owe me overtime?

Understanding how much an individual should be paid and the methodology for determining that amount should be straightforward for everyone, but this is unfortunately not always the case. Wage disputes regarding overtime are not uncommon when employers fail to act within the law or purposely withhold relevant information. New York employees can determine whether they might be owed overtime pay according to the Fair Labor Standards Act's test.

The FLSA is a federal law. The test, which consists of three parts, is used to determine whether an employee is nonexempt, at which point the worker would fall under the protection of the FLSA and be entitled to pay for overtime work. Overtime pay, as most people know, is paid at time and a half for time worked over 40 hours within a week's period.

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