New York Wage and Hour Lawsuit Nets $2M to Pizza Delivery Workers

Workers in New York have a right to be paid fairly, not only according to minimum wage and overtime laws, but also in accordance with their employment contracts and agreements. Failure to abide by these agreements is a form of wage theft, and companies will be ordered to pay for engaging in such tactics.
A recent high-profile wage theft case in New York involves a pizza shop franchisee with five shops in Harlem. The New York County Supreme Court has ordered the business to reimburse its delivery workers more than $2 million for unpaid wages, expenses that weren't reimbursed, various damages and interest.

The lawsuit was filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last October. It is the latest in a string of judgments against franchise owners of the same restaurant.

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College Student: I Was Forced to Prosecute My Rapist Alone

After suffering a sexual assault in a Stony Brook University dorm room, she suffered flashbacks, panic attacks and nightmares.
Still, she pushed forward in pursing the case through the university's internal disciplinary procedures. She expected the experience would be difficult and trying. She did not anticipate being forced to prosecute her rapist on her own, despite having zero legal training.

The process reportedly required her to question the alleged attacker on the witness stand, and to also be subjected to cross-examination directly from him.

All this is according to a lawsuit filed against the university for violation of Title IX. This is a federal statute that bars gender discrimination at institutions of higher education that rely on money from the U.S. government. The law also encompasses claims of sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment.

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New York Commercial Litigation Stems From Defective Construction

New York has always been in-demand as far as real estate goes, but when property prices started to soar a few years ago, the rush to build new structures to meet the rising demand was feverish. chrysler.jpg

The problem, however, is that it now appears many of those jobs weren't done correctly. In what appears to be a repeat of the last housing boom, it seems many construction companies were more concerned with meeting deadlines and cranking out more buildings, as opposed to ensuring they were erecting a quality product.

Among the growing number of complaints:

  • Balconies that are cracking;

  • Concrete flaking from the exterior walls;

  • Basements prone to flooding due to inadequate drainage-sewage connections;

  • Inadequate insulation;

  • Water filtration problems;

  • Malfunctioning elevators.

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Labor Groups Demand Easier Collection of Wage and Hour Awards

Every worker has a right to expect their employer will pay them fair wages for work in accordance not only with the employment contract or agreement, but, at bare minimum, in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
Unfortunately, this all too often does not happen. In these instances, when employers refuse to acknowledge the discrepancy, provide back-pay, correct error, or when they engage in retaliatory action as a result of reporting the violation, workers can and should seek remedy in the form of a wage-and-hour lawsuit.

However, when a judgment is secured, sometimes workers may have a tough time collecting. Now, a coalition of labor advocates and public interest legal groups are calling on state and federal lawmakers to make changes in state law that would pave the way for easier collection of stolen wages and other damages.

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Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force Targets Illegal Landlord Acts

City and state officials have founded a task force with the sole purpose of protecting tenants from landlords who bully and harass them in an effort to pressure them into giving up their rent-stablized apartment to higher-paying tenants.
The Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force will be responsible from investigating complaints from tenants that landlords are using certain techniques to force tenants out. The task force will be given the authority to take action on behalf of the tenant and possibly to pursue criminal charges.

Tenant harassment may include (but is not limited to):

  • Intentional denial of services or repairs

  • Yelling, issuing threats or name-calling

  • Physical intimidation or violence

  • Taking tenants to court again and again without good reason

  • Entering an apartment in a non-emergency without notifying tenant in advance

  • Conducting disruptive and potentially dangerous repairs that aren't necessary

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Airbnb Subject of New York City Landlord-Tenant Lawsuits

Landlords and tenants have been warring with one another over "subletting" units to Airbnb customers. rentalunits.jpg

Tenants who do so are reportedly violating their lease agreements and city laws, while landlords are accused of doing the same with neighboring units, causing disturbances to long-term tenants.

Meanwhile, the city too has been filing lawsuits, seeking preliminary injunctions against home homeowners operating "illegal hotels" on the apartment-sharing website. That resulted in litigation filed against Airbnb by several unit owners alleging breach of contract for releasing purportedly private information to the city.

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$10M NYC Lawsuit Alleges Teacher Struck Special Needs Student

All parents have a right to trust that when they send their child to school, the teachers, administrators and employees will provide a safe learning environment.
When this does not happen, there are a number of legal theories upon which parents can pursue court action against the district. Those include premises liability law, which requires the city/school to keep the property in safe condition. It can also include some situations in which the child is assaulted, bullied or falls ill and the school fails to control the situation or come to the aid of the student.

A recent lawsuit out of Queens alleges a special education teacher reportedly punched a pupil with a closed fist for allegedly cheating on a test. The 36-year-old teacher has since been arrested on charges of felony assault, harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. A second mother has come forward as well, alleging the same teacher "terrorized" her daughter earlier in the school year. She too has filed a lawsuit.

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NYC Settling Civil Claims, Even Without Lawsuit, Appeal

Increasingly, New York City is settling civil rights claims for sizable amounts before those harmed even formally file a lawsuit.
There was the recent case of a former U.S. Marine who suffered mental illness and died in an overheated jail cell. His family was given $2.25 million in compensation. Then there were three half-brothers, convicted of a murder it was later proven they didn't commit. They received $17 million. In another case, a man who served 23 years in prison before he was proven innocent received $6.5 million.

It's never been unusual for individuals and families who have suffered profound losses as a result of civil rights violations by local, state and federal government employees to receive ample compensation. It's not even all that unusual for both sides to reach a settlement prior to a case reaching the trial phase. What is unique is the fact those wronged never even had to file a lawsuit.

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Tenant Blacklisting Can Follow Renters for Years

Tenant "blacklisting" is something many New York City renters may never have heard of - but which could potentially mar their chances of landing a good location years after a landlord dispute.elder.jpg

The process has been facilitated in recent years by so-called "tenant screening" companies. There are nearly 700 of them across the country. Their "blacklist" is actually a collection of data of lawsuits filed by or against landlords in housing court. It doesn't matter the reason or the outcome of the resolution. A lot of times, a landlord-tenant lawsuit has more to do with whether the landlord is bad, rather than whether the tenant is good.

An example recently detailed in an NPR story involved a father who lived in the Bronx in 2009 with his wife and young son. However, when he discovered rats coming up from the basement into their first-floor unit, he asked managers of the building to take care of the problem. Despite repeated entreaties, nothing was done. Tenant decided to withhold his rent, which can be a powerful tactic to force uncooperative landlords to make necessary and legally-mandated repairs. But what happened in that case, as in so many others, is the landlord turned around and sued the tenant for eviction for nonpayment of rent. Tenant and landlord later settled the case out-of-court, but the lawsuit remained on record.

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NYC Prevailing Wage Law Loophole Cheats School Custodians of $8k Annually

The New York City Council is expected to weigh in on the city's employment practices as they pertain to school district cleaners and other custodial employees.
The problem, say fair pay advocates for the workers, is that some custodial employees are hired to work as "custodial engineers" for the public school district, as opposed to "private contractor custodians," who are hired by the city. The former are paid $19.72 hourly, while the latter are compensated $23.85 an hour.

That difference breaks down to approximately $8,000 annually, and this is despite the fact these workers essentially do the same jobs at the same schools and sometimes are even working on the exact same block.

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Anti-Bullying Law Protects Students in New York

As we embark on the beginning of another school year, some parents are dreading the possibility that their child may face bullying from other students. Parents seek always to protect their children from harm, but this is a situation where parents often feel powerless to intervene.
However, New York City education lawyers know anti-bullying efforts here in New York and across the country have resulted in better, more streamlined response to bullying.

The 2014-2015 school year marks the third since enactment of New York's Dignity for All Students Act (NYDASA), and the second since a major amendment was made encompassing cyberbullying, how bullying investigations must be conducted and how school districts are required to respond.

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New York Special Education Advocates Help Resolve Disputes

September 29, 2014

Parents of special needs students face many unique and difficult challenges. Unfortunately, this is no different when working to ensure their child receives a fair and adequate public education, as required by law.
Our special education attorneys in New York realize this fundamental right is often breached, as evidenced by the fact that the U.S. Department of Education several years ago gave New York one of the lowest ratings for special education services. School districts point to looming budget cuts and lack of qualified teachers. However, parents of special education students recognize this has become an excuse for districts to fail to meet their child's educational needs.

Even if parents don't have solid proof, a special education advocate can help sort through whether your child has an adequate Individual Education Plan (IEP), whether the school placement is appropriate and whether the district has been proactive in securing the necessary level of after-school tutoring and assistive technology that can help students with special needs.

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Age Discrimination Increasingly Prevalent in New York, Beyond

September 27, 2014

An executive order recently signed by President Barack Obama bars the federal government from accepting bids from contractors found liable for age discrimination. The order also bars companies with federal contracts from binding workers to arbitration agreements in age discrimination claims. olderworker.jpg

The idea, Obama later said, is not to penalize companies so much as emphasize the opportunity to follow good workplace practices and legal compliance.

While the order won't affect every company, it's worth noting 1 in 5 American workers are employed at a firm with a federal government contract. What's more, a 2010 Government Accountability Office report indicated contractors responsible for two-thirds of the biggest labor law violations went on to score federal contracts.This order serves to press companies to more carefully craft internal policies and also heightens awareness of the growing problem of age discrimination in the workplace.

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Disability Discrimination in New York City: An Ongoing, Uphill Battle

September 24, 2014

A food service worker, blind in one eye, says he was ridiculed by managers for being a "Cyclops." Another, who suffers from cerebral palsy and a rare condition that makes his nose abnormally large, was routinely mocked, his voice and mannerisms mimicked by higher-ups. These and several others claim evidence their high-profile New York City employer made sure they worked in less desirable, "back of the house" positions due to their disabilities, to ensure customers wouldn't see them. Another says he was transferred to another assignment when he complained of his co-workers' poor treatment.
These kinds of actions in the workplace are not only cruel - they're illegal.

Disability discrimination is barred under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the 2008 ADA Amendment Act (which strengthened protections for disabled workers after years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that narrowed them significantly), the Rehabilitation Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law, codified in N.Y. Exec. L. 290, which has definitions of disability that are even more inclusive.

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New York Gender Discrimination Displayed in Many Forms

September 21, 2014

A great deal of progress was made in the women's movement for equality in the workplace during the 1970s and 1980s.

However, it seems since the mid-1990s, that progress has sputtered, given that, among full-time employees, women earn 77 percent the salaries of their male counterparts. This is true even when we account for the fact that women tend to work in differing occupations, which pay less on the whole. womenworkers.jpg

When women who are as equally qualified as their male counterparts are systematically paid less, overlooked for promotions or given less desirable job assignments, this is unquestionably a form of gender discrimination, barred under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

However, there are many other manifestations of gender discrimination that may be more subtle and tougher to recognize. For example, the EEOC defines sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination. Also, adverse actions taken on the basis of pregnancy and related conditions (i.e., childbirth recovery, nursing, etc.) are considered a form of gender discrimination, barred under provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Americans with Disabilities Act and portions of the Family Medical Leave Act. In some cases, targeting workers on the basis of weight or appearance could also be a form of gender discrimination if such action focuses solely on the female employees.

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