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Thumbnail image for Female.Freelancer.Employee.Checkbox.DPC.2.28.16.jpgMisclassification of workers in the healthcare field is a hot issue and it is an area where many practices make a misstep leading to potential exposure involving the Department of Labor (DOL). Many practices treat physicians, doctors, dentists, therapists or similar professionals as independent contractors instead of as employees. The New York State DOL can investigate your practice’s workforce classifications. Depending on the circumstances this can raise some legal concerns. The New York Court of Appeals decision, In Re Concourse Ophthalmology Associates P.C., 469 N.Y.S.2d 78 (1983) discusses the proper employment status for multiple ophthalmologists working in a professional corporation. The court issued the following test for medical providers in determining whether an employee-employer relationship exists for purposes of the Unemployment Insurance Law:
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DOL.Audit.in.Hand.Dollar.Photo.Club.1.18.16.jpgIf you are an employer in New York State, you are subject to the NY Unemployment Insurance Law except for minor exceptions. It is important to understand your obligations and responsibilities (ideally) before you are audited or sued by a former employee in an employment law claim, both of which can be distracting and expensive for a business. It has been estimated that NYS conducts over 10,000 audits per year and employers can face tens of thousands of dollars in monetary exposure. Our experienced Award Winning NYS Employment Law Attorney has counseled employers regarding preventative issues and defense issues. Contact our office for a confidential consultation to understand your situation. Possible areas of exposure can include misclassification of your workers (improperly treated an independent contractors), paying your employees off the books, etc. It is important to get counsel before you classify a worker because the consequences can often impact a group of employees and have significant penalties and fines. Furthermore, the audit can trigger additional governmental inquiries (IRS, NYS Labor Department Labor Standards Division which handles minimum wage and overtime complaints, etc.) In short, this is something companies should try to get in front of and if that is not possible – companies should examine their legal exposure quickly and make any corrections to their practices if necessary. Lack of knowledge or an innocent error is not necessarily a defense in a misclassification case.

AN EMPLOYER’S OBLIGATIONS REGARDING AN AUDIT IN GENERAL

Section 575 of the New York State Unemployment Insurance Law requires that every employer keep records of each person in its employ, including the name, social security number, and the amount of remuneration paid to each, and that such records shall be open to inspection at any time and as often as necessary by duly authorized representatives of the Commissioner of Labor.

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Audit.Magnifying.Glass.Dollar.Photo.Club.jpgCompanies who use freelancers, contractors, consultants, day laborers or any other workers who are not categorized as employees must exercise extreme caution. The NYS Labor Department and other agencies have stepped up their enforcement efforts to investigate companies’ practices and whether workers are properly classified in all industries. An innocent error can lead to a multitude of problems for businesses including but not limited to a class action lawsuit and monetary damages in the form of unpaid payroll-related taxes, unpaid overtime wages, and failure to provide employee benefits (vacation pay, health insurance, etc.) Companies should carefully examine a worker’s duties and determine the proper employment characterization before work is commenced. There are different rules that apply to employees and contractors. In general, employees are issued a W-2 tax form, provided with Wage Theft Prevention Act Notices and paid accordingly to applicable federal and state labor laws. Conversely, in general, contractors are issued a 1099 tax form, have some expertise, and are not supervised or controlled by the business.
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Penalty.Picture.Dollar.Photo.Club.1.4.16.jpgOur New York Workers Compensation Defense Attorney has been asked these questions along with others by small business owners and household employers. In general, Pioneer Credit Recovery Inc. is a collection agency that is an agent of the New York State Workers Compensation for certain cases. In general, Pioneer has been engaged by the State to collect monies owed pursuant to a penalty or judgment issued by the Board for an employer’s failure to carry workers compensation insurance coverage. Pioneer does work for other clients and its work is not limited to workers compensation related issues. Below is a text from a letter that Pioneer sent to one of our clients. Here is a link to an article on frequently asked questions regarding a penalty. Our Award Winning NY Employment Law Attorney has helped our clients save over TWO MILLION DOLLARS in the aggregate and are happy to speak with you to see if we can help you.

Since we have not received payment on your delinquent account, this notice serves as final notice. Failure to resolve your debt may result in the filing and execution of a judgment against you and/our business as allowed by The New York State Workers Compensation Law and the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Enforceable by the New York State Workers Compensation Board. A judgment against you and/or your business is a matter of public record. Please take this opportunity to resolve your account voluntarily.

An employer’s failure to provide workers compensation coverage is punishable by fines and/or criminal prosecution. A Stop Work Order may be issued. The cost of workers compensation insurance coverage is very reasonable compared to the legal cost of defending and possibly losing a civil suit for the injury of an employee.

Please take this opportunity to resolve your account voluntarily. We encourage you to contact our office and allow us to inform you on the options available to resolve your debt in compliance with the New York State Workers Compensation laws and avoid unnecessary penalties in the future.

Know.Your.Rights.Dollar.Photo.Club.3.9.15.jpgIf you have received such a letter or have any questions about your workers compensation issues, feel free to contact us for a confidential consultation at (800) 893-9645.
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Know.Your.Rights.Dollar.Photo.Club.3.9.15.jpgMany small businesses or new business make a dangerous mistake in their early stages by using a template employee handbook or something found online. There is no such thing as one size fits all employee handbook. The laws can vary by an employer’s size and geography. For example, if an employer has multiple offices in New York and New Jersey, some policies may need to be different for similarly situated employees in different states. Employers should consult with an experienced employment law attorney to carefully craft their policies and procedures. Below are some common issues to be aware of:
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Money.dollar.photo.club.1.3.16.jpgA major change is on the horizon for business owners and employees under the federal labor law. The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently announced the publication of its final rule amending overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which will take effect on December 1st of this year. The new regulation will more than double the annual salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 for determining whether certain white-collar employees – those in executive, administrative, professional, or certain IT positions – are exempt from FLSA overtime rules.
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Thumbnail image for Severance.Agreement.Lawyer.DPC.3.4.16.jpgOur Award Winning New York Severance Agreement Lawyer has counseled employees and former employees of Pepsico including its affiliates, subsidiaries or related companies (i.e., Frito Lay, Quaker Oats, etc.) Pepsico, which has its headquarters in Purchase, Westchester County, is one of the largest food and beverage producers in the world and reportedly has more than 270,000 employees. In recent years, the Company has instituted some layoffs. If you have been affected by a layoff or a job separation for other reasons (e.g., termination for cause, resignation, discrimination, harassment, retaliation), you should consult with an experienced employment lawyer to learn your rights and options.

Although companies in general are not required to provide severance pay, many do primarily in order to obtain a general release of claims. If you have been presented with a severance agreement, it is important to have it reviewed by an attorney before you decide whether to execute it or not. We have discussed severance issues before and some prior informational posts can be found here and here. Some issues to consider:
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Employee.Freelancer.DOL.Misclassification.Lawyer.Notepad.DPC.3.10.16.jpgHave you received a notice from the NY Labor Department regarding an audit confirming your compliance with labor laws? Audits and investigations are on the rise. If you have received a notice, the first steps you take are critical to defending your business and protecting your interests.

1. Understand what the audit is about. Speak with an experienced employment lawyer first. We have represented small businesses and household employers in New York State and can help you understand the process.

2. Start gathering your documents and information together. Are your general ledger and payroll related documents in order for the past three years? Strong contemporaneous documentation can help you and conversely, the lack of records can be problematic for a number of reasons.

3. One of the main inquiries may be whether you used any independent contractors, paid workers off the books or misclassified any of your workforce?
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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Sexual.Harassment.Posterboard.jpgOur Award Winning New York Sexual Harassment Attorney has commented and written extensively on sexual harassment in the workplace. In the 25 years since sexual harassment took a very public face in the form of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and his accuser, Anita Hill, the public at large has grown more familiar with the term- and some even understand its broader meaning. But there’s so much more to sexual harassment than is commonly understood. So let’s explore: what exactly is sexual harassment?

Preliminarily, Federal, New York State, and many local laws all prohibit discrimination based on sex (which, in this instance, the term can be used interchangeably with the word “gender”). While different levels of law have varying levels of application to types of employers (e.g. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal statute, applies to employers with 15 or more employees, whereas some local laws apply to employers with 4 of more employees), under all laws, sexual harassment has been deemed to be a form of discrimination based on sex.
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Thumbnail image for Pregnancy.Discrimination.Woman.in.Office.Dollar.Photo.Club.12.5.15.jpgLast week, a woman (“plaintiff’) filed a lawsuit against the Procter & Gamble Company (“P&G”) and alleges that she was fired because of her pregnant condition and in retaliation for her reasonable accommodation requests. Specifically, she alleges that she worked as a beauty style and sales associate for Dolce & Gabbana (which P&G owns) and was fired because her pregnant look did not convey the image that the Company was seeking and the Company did not want to provide her with the requested accommodations. The plaintiff alleges that she was required to adhere to “strict image rules” regarding her physical appearance. She alleges that one manager said that “pregnancy is not part of the uniform.” She further alleges that she was denied requested sit down breaks in a nearby work location. Her doctor had suggested she take due to her medical condition. A short time later, the plaintiff was fired for work-related issues. The plaintiff alleges that the basis for the termination was a pretext for pregnancy discrimination and was done in an unlawful retaliatory manner. This is a new case and bears following. There have been many other cases where an employee claimed that he or she was fired because the Company only wanted a specific look or image. In fact, courts have rejected that The case was filed under the New York City Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy in any aspect of employment. Click on this link for a fact sheet from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on pregnancy discrimination.

If you or anyone you know has any questions about the rights for pregnant workers or an employer’s obligations under the law, contact our office for a confidential consultation.

Disclaimer: Thank you for visiting our Blog. This blog provides general information and thoughts about various employment law issues primarily in the New York Tri-State area and occasionally in other areas. You are welcome to read the posts. However, do not construe any content on this blog as legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. Again, we provide the content only for informational purposes. You should not make decisions based information on our blog since the application of the law depends on the facts and each situation may be different. In addition, the law in most jurisdictions is different and changes constantly and we make no representations that any information on our blog has been updated. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from an experienced attorney in your state or jurisdiction. From time to time, a blog post may discuss a legal case – please note that the post may not contain the most to update information on the case as developments may have occurred after it was created.
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