Architectural Columns

Posts by Sarah Ruhlen

Meet Tashakee!

Tashakee sitting in front of law books

Tashakee Ledgister is interning with Satter Ruhlen Law Firm this semester through her Political Science Internship Course at Syracuse University, taught by Political Science Professor and Campbell Public Affairs Institute Director Grant Reeher.

Tashakee migrated to the US from Jamaica at the age of 13.  She has lived in NYC and Long Island, and attended high school in Manhattan.  She is now a Junior at SU, majoring in Political Science and Political Philosophy, with a minor in Public Policy.  Tashakee is a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Scholar, and a recipient of the Our Time Has Come and Invest in Success scholarships.  She is a South Campus Community Ambassador and a peer mentor for Dimensions and Orange Success.  In her free time, Tashakee is a member of the Caribbean Students Association and is part of the Kalabash Dance Troup, which performs at local SU games and engages in community service projects.  Recent projects include raising over $2000 for underserved families, and running a supply drive for women affected by the NYCHA fire in Harlem. Tashakee plans to go to law school when she graduates.

Tashakee wanted to intern at Satter Ruhlen Law Firm because, while she had worked on political campaigns and interned in a big law firm, she wanted to learn more about working in a small firm. “When I started working at Satter Law, I didn’t know that I was interested in labor law.  It wasn’t an area that I knew anything about previously, but I find it fascinating.” In fact, Tashakee wrote her midterm paper on how her interested in labor law has developed over the semester.  “One of my favorite activities at Satter Law has been sitting in on client consultations.  It has taught me a lot about putting people at their ease when they are under stress and facing emotional situations that drive them to seek legal help.”

We are impressed with Tashakee’s experience on political campaigns and working with underserved populations.  Tashakee is terrific to work with – she’s curious, engaged, and committed to defending workers’ rights.  Also, she’s a ton of fun!  Thanks for joining us, Tashakee!

 

Vote on Nov. 8! Paid Voting Leave in NY!

Voting Box

If you are a New York Worker, you may be entitled to paid voting leave on November 8.  In New York, if you don’t have four consecutive hours while the polls are open, then you are entitled to up to 2 hours of paid leave to go vote.

Polls are open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. Here’s how it works:

  1. If your shift begins before 10:00 am and ends after 5:00 pm, you don’t have four consecutive hours to get to the polls. That means you are entitled to up to two hours of paid leave to vote.
  2. You must give your employer 2-10 working days’ notice of your intention to take paid time off. “Working day” means a day that your employer is open for business.  Don’t give fewer than 2 day’s notice, and don’t give more than 10.
  3. The employer is allowed to require that voting leave must occur at the beginning or end of your shift.
  4. Your employer may not require you to use earned leave (such as vacation, PTO, etc.) as your voting leave.

Please note:  If your shift begins after 10:00 am or ends before 5:00 pm, then you have four consecutive hours in which to get to the polls, and you are not entitled to paid voting leave. 

The New York State Board of Elections has a handy FAQ available for details.  If you feel that your employer is violating this law, you can contact the New York State Division of Labor Standards (888-4-NSYDOL) or the New York State Attorney General’s Office Labor Bureau (212-416-8700).

Still have questions about New York paid voting leave? Contact a workplace attorney near you!

$3000 Bonuses for New York Health Care Workers

This year the New York State legislature voted to provide up to $3000 bonuses to New York health care workers. Eligible [“qualifying”] workers are front line health care and mental hygiene practitioners, technicians, assistants and aides who make $125,000 or less annually. They must work for a qualified employer, e.g., a provider, facility, pharmacy, or school health center licensed under the New York State Public Health Law. The bonuses are W-2 wages for federal tax purposes, but they will not be taxed by the state.

If you are a qualifying health care worker, you can get a bonus if you work the requisite number of hours during designated six month periods between October 2021 and May 2024.  Bonus amounts range from $500 to a maximum of $3,000 depending on how many hours you worked. You can only get a bonus for two 6-month time periods per employer, and you max out at $3,000.

Qualifying employers are required to claim the bonuses on behalf of their workers.  The employer will require you to sign an attestation of eligibility. Once the employer has the money, they have 30 days to pay you. They are not allowed to use the bonus to offset your regular wages.

See the New York State Department of Health’s guidance for more detailed information on these bonuses.  If you are a qualifying employee and you have questions or concerns about how your boss is handling the bonuses, speak to your union immediately! And if you’re not unionized, contact the nearest reputable worker’s rights lawyer.

Salary History is History in New York

Google “salary history” and you’ll see that nobody loves the question: “What were you making in your previous position?” The good news is that a question about salary history is history in New York State. At the beginning of 2020, New York State Labor Law was amended to prohibit employers from asking the question.

Specifically, employers in New York State may not ask in any manner, during a job interview or otherwise, (viz., in writing, face-to-face, or through an agent) any information about previous compensation and benefits. If the job applicant or employee voluntarily offers the information, the employer is prohibited from relying on that information to determine whether to offer the job or what salary to offer. Current employees who are up for promotion are also protected from the salary history question, although a current employer is allowed to rely on information already in its possession.

Additionally, applicants are encouraged to contact the New York State Department of Labor’s Division of Labor Standards if they believe they have been retaliated against for refusing to provide salary history information in response to a request for it. (From a practical standpoint, if you want the job, it’s wise to have a tactful response ready for salary history inquiries. There are lots of articles online with ideas about how to navigate that situation.)

If you’re faced with a salary history conundrum, speak to an attorney in your jurisdiction to ensure you get the most up-to-date and relevant information.

There are a lot of things to be nervous about in a job application, but in the State of New York, the Salary History Question is not one of them.

Can the boss require you to be screened?

@workplacelawyer Can the boss require you to be screened? #syracuseworkersrights #workplacelawyer #workplaceprivacy ♬ original sound – WorkplaceLawyer

Meet Frank!

 

Satter Ruhlen Law Firm was pleased to have Peggy Browning Fellow Frank Harrison join us as our summer law clerk this year.  Frank came to us from the Michigan State University College of Law, where he will receive his JD in May 2023.  Frank previously interned with Region 7 of the NLRB, where he learned to take witness affidavits and draft other legal documents.  These skills came in handy, as we needed over a dozen witness affidavits for a matter in a very short time period.

Frank helped us prep for arbitration and agency hearings, and did some serious legal research for a couple of federal filings.  He sat in on consultations with potential clients, and offered valuable insights at office meetings.  Plus, he joined us for an extremely loud office outing at Local 315 one Friday evening.

Frank says:  “I knew from the first few minutes of the interview that I wanted to work at Satter Ruhlen. I felt a real connection with Sarah and Sue even before officially being hired on. And I loved working with all three attorneys (Sarah, Sue, and Mimi) and support staff (Mary Jo and Brittany) while in Syracuse. Each has their own unique personality which really added to the overall charm of the experience. I got to enjoy a new city and work with attorneys who clearly care about labor law. It was a great experience, and I would recommend them to anyone — prospective clients and law students alike. It’s a fantastic and dedicated team at Satter Ruhlen.”

Thanks Frank! We enjoyed working with you, too!

Cannabis in the New York Workplace

Cannabis in the New York workplace? New York State has a law about that. satterlaw.com/blog (Picture of a man smoking)

In July 2022, Senator Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act bill was introduced, seeking to decriminalize marijuana federally. There are a variety of reasons the bill may not have the votes to pass, but many states – including New York – have laws that prohibit discrimination against employees who use cannabis… sort of.

So, what are the rules about cannabis in the New York workplace? In New York, employees’ lawful off-duty conduct is technically protected.  And in March 2021, New York Labor Law was amended to specify that lawful off-duty conduct includes recreational use of marijuana.

Does this mean you can smoke up at work with impunity? NOPE. Please don’t do it – you’ll get fired.  (See our previous blog posts here  and here for more information about how marijuana can still get you fired.)  But it does mean that a New York employee who works in a non-safety sensitive position shouldn’t be getting tested for cannabis, and shouldn’t be getting into trouble for off-duty use unless the employee “manifests specific articulable symptoms of cannabis impairment” that interfere with job performance or safety. What are “articulable symptoms of cannabis impairment?” Very good question. Nobody knows. Bottom line, don’t be high at work.

Also, if there are state or federal regulations (for example Department of Transportation rules) that require testing, the employer can still test and take disciplinary action on the basis of a positive test. If you have specific questions about cannabis in the New York workplace, make sure you consult with a New York workplace attorney!

So, the workplace is not going to become a magical mystery tour any time soon.  But what you do after work is starting look a little more like your own business.

Welcome, Brittany!

Satter Ruhlen Law Firm welcomes our new office manager, Brittany Alvarez! Brittany comes to us from Maryland with great qualifications, a sunny disposition, and a lot of energy. When you call the office, you’ll get to talk to her – whether you want to set up a consultation, speak with your representative, or get directions to the office, Brittany is here and ready to help. We’re so excited she’s joined us. Welcome, Brittany!

 

Congratulations, Mary Jo! We’ll miss you!

Congratulations to our amazing and multi-talented Office Manager, Mary Jo Beamish, who retires this week after 34 (that’s not a typo!)  years of service. Mary Jo (or, “the boss,” as we like to call her) has been the glue holding the firm together since its inception. From keeping track of files to knowing where every cent is spent to tracking down attorneys in airports three states away, Mary Jo has performed the unenviable task of corralling multiple attorneys with grace, aplomb, and a healthy dose of humor.

 

The secret to Mary Jo’s long success?  “I can’t imagine a better group of people to work with,” she says. “In a business this size, you become friends with your co-workers.” We can’t imagine a better person to befriend us, Mary Jo.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

New York Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act

Información adicional en español aquí y aquí.

Historically, farm workers have few protections under federal labor statutes, making it difficult for them to unionize, earn fair wages, assert workers’ compensation claims, or enjoy adequate rest periods. At the beginning of 2020, the New York State Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act implemented the following provisions to improve working conditions for farm laborers:

  • Farm workers have the right to unionize. Section 701 of the New York Labor Law has been amended to include farmworkers as “employees” and farm owners as “employers,” and other sections of the law have been amended to give farmworkers some of the same unionization rights as other private sector workers.  Note, however, that farmworkers cannot legally strike.
  • Maximum 60-hour workweeks and overtime: NYLL 163-a limits the workweek to 60 hours for farm workers, and requires employers to pay time and a half for overtime hours. Additionally, section 161 now states that farm laborers are allowed 24 consecutive hours of rest per calendar week.
  • Section 225 of the Public Health Law allows code officers to inspect premises inhabited by fewer than five persons, and to enforce sanitary code requirements for living quarters.
  • Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ Compensation coverage has been expanded to more employees, and notices must be posted in both Spanish and English. Supervisors are required to report injuries to the employer, and employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers who file for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
  • Farm Laborers’ Wage Board: A wage board is empowered to make recommendations regarding overtime rates for farm workers to the governor and legislature.
  • Employers must get a permit to operate housing for farm laborers, which improves the chances that living quarters will be safe and sanitary.

Notwithstanding early legal challenges and the pandemic, farmworkers are starting to unionize and assert their rights.  Recently, vineyard workers on Long Island became the first unionized farmworkers in the state, joining Local 338 RWDSU/UFSW.  This is an enormous stride in the long history of farmworker rights, and it is only the beginning.

In January 2022, the New York Farm Laborer’s Wage Board voted require overtime pay for farmworkers after 40 hours of work in a week–but the Wage Board has not adopted the official report, which would trigger the timeline for the New Yok Labor Commissioner to approve or overturn the vote.  Watch this space.

If you have questions about how your rights might be affected by the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, contact a workers’ rights attorney today.

 

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