Architectural Columns

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Meet Hamere!

Hamere Debebe stands in front of law books.

Satter Ruhlen Law Firm’s Fall 2023 intern is Hamere Debebe, who comes to us through Professor Grant Reeher’s Political Science Internship course at Syracuse University. Originally from Addis Abeba, Hamere is a Senior at SU, studying Political Science, and she is deeply engaged in understanding the complexities of the legal system and its societal impact.

This is not Hamere’s first experience working in the legal industry; at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, she immersed herself in policy research and writing, focusing on issues affecting Roma and Travellers. In New York City, as a Youth Advocate at Harlem Youth Court, she gained practical insights into the juvenile justice system. These experiences have been crucial in shaping her understanding of legal processes at different levels.

At Satter Ruhlen Law Firm, Hamere’s enthusiasm for labor law, fueled by witnessing the benefits of unions in her family, has led her to explore the procedural aspects of legal work. She has delved into various legal activities, and found herself particularly drawn to arbitration cases. These cases, distinct from the trial cases she was accustomed to, offered her a richer perspective on alternative dispute resolution. “Seeing these cases unfold, especially after the intense clerical and research efforts, was incredibly fulfilling,” Hamere reflects. “The process of attorneys negotiating and presenting their cases via a neutral arbitrator, brought a new layer of understanding to legal negotiations and resolutions.”

Hamere states that internship with Satter Ruhlen Law Firm represents a significant milestone in her evolving legal career, especially as she prepares for law school. Her experiences at the firm have not only deepened her understanding of legal principles but also allowed her to explore new areas of law.

We’ve had a great time working with Hamere this semester!

Noncompetes, nondisparagements, and NDAs, oh my!

You may have been hearing a lot recently about “noncompetes,” “nondisparagement,” and “NDAs” (or “confidentiality”) agreements. [1] These are three types of restrictive covenants. Restrictive covenants are rules that employers impose on employees both during and after employment. The effects of restrictive covenants range from slightly annoying to totally unfair restriction on an employee’s ability to make a living.

Several states, including New York, are on the brink of passing legislation banning noncompete clauses – talk to a lawyer in your state to find out whether you have state protections against those clauses.

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in the process of creating a rule that would ban noncompete clauses. The Chamber of Commerce and other employer backed organizations are protesting the rule and even threatening to sue the FTC even though the notice and comment period is still open. The FTC considers noncompete clauses (not surprisingly) impediments to competition, and wants to ban them because they “block workers from freely switching jobs, depriving them of higher wages and better working conditions, and depriving business of a talent pool that they need to build and expand,” says FTC Chair Lina Khan.

Recently, the National Labor Relations board (NLRB) ruled that some types of confidentiality and nondisparagement provisions interfere with former employees’ Section 7 rights. Confidentiality agreements could prevent former employees from discussing terms and conditions of work, such as wages. Those types of discussions are essential for union organizing. Likewise, nondisparagement clauses could prevent former employees from having important conversations with each other about unsafe or unfair working conditions, which are also protected by the National Labor Relations Act.[2]

Employees should always consult with their union representative or a workplace attorney when they are presented with anything that the employer wants them to sign. But with the law changing how employers can use non competes confidentiality and non disparagement clauses, it’s more important than ever to get good legal advice. Always consult with an attorney before signing an agreement at work!

[1] Confidentiality agreements are also known as nondisclosure agreements or NDAs.

[2] This is not the first time that the NLRB has concluded that restricting former employees speech is illegal; this analysis had a brief heyday under the Obama administration as well.

Meet Jorge!


Satter Ruhlen Law Firm is pleased to introduce this year’s Peggy Browning Fellow, Jorge Salles Diaz. Jorge’s career in public interest started in the immigrants’ rights movement six years ago. After spending some time supporting immigrant workers at poultry packing plants in Mississippi in the aftermath of a large immigration enforcement raid in 2019, he decided to join the labor movement. Since, he has been involved in a number of labor advocacy groups including Global Labor Justice, Workers’ Dignity Project, and the Farmworker Team at Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center.

Jorge says: “I strongly believe that a militant labor movement is the answer to many of today’s global challenges. As such, I am very excited to have the opportunity to work closely with unions and employees in their fight for their rights. I could not think of a better place to learn how to be a union lawyer than Satter Ruhlen. So far, I have had the opportunity to work on briefs, arbitrations, memos, client consultations, and many other important tasks which will serve as invaluable experience in my preparation to become an attorney. I am incredibly grateful to Sarah, Mimi, Sue, and McKenzie for hosting me this Summer!”

Welcome, Jorge!


Meet McKenzie!

Satter Ruhlen Law Firm welcomes Office Manager McKenzie Coufal to the team! McKenzie runs the office, keeps track of attorneys, and keeps us organized. When you call our office you’ll realize why we’re so lucky she’s joined us – she’s empathetic, easy to get along with, and very focused on finding the right information for the caller. Welcome, McKenzie!  #WorkersRights #syracuse #LawFirm #LawFirmNearMe

Sticky: About this Blog, Disclaimer

Please note that the information contained in this blog is for informational purposes and is not to be considered legal advice. This blog does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship. Satter Ruhlen Law Firm makes no representation that the information herein reflects the most current state of the law.  This blog is not a substitute for consultation with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.  If you would like to discuss your particular circumstances with us, please set up a consultation by contacting the Satter Ruhlen Law Firm at 315-471-0405 or through our website ( We look forward to walking you through your workplace rights.

There’s some sketchy stuff going on at work. What can I do?

This is a guest post by our summer Peggy Browning Fellow, Jorge Salles Díaz. Jorge joins us from Vanderbilt University Law School. Stay tuned for more on Jorge – coming soon!

At-will employment has long been the default in the United States. What this generally means is that, unless you have a union or an employment contract, your employer can fire you or demote you for almost any reason. But there are exceptions.

If your boss asks you to do something you believe is illegal:

In the state of New York, your boss can’t fire you, threaten you, or penalize you because you won’t do something that you believe breaks a law or regulation, as long as your belief is reasonable. See NY Labor Law § 740(2). In this context, reasonable means that an ordinary reasonable person in your position could also believe that the activity you are being asked to do is illegal.

The law that protects workers in these situations covers both employees and independent contractors and is applicable to employers of all sizes. See NY Labor Law §740(1).

If you are retaliated against by your supervisor because you refused to do something you reasonably believed to be illegal, a judge may, when applicable, order your employer to stop the behavior, impose a $10,000.00 fine, grant you back pay, reinstatement, and may also ask your employer to pay for your lawyer. The employer may also be liable for punitive damages if the violation is willful. See NY Labor Law § 740(4).

Fair warning:  Employees who bring frivolous claims may be ordered to pay the employer’s attorneys’ fees and costs – which often amount to six figures.  So before you file a big court claim, it’s a good idea to speak to a workers’ rights attorney in your jurisdiction.

If you witness something illegal and you want to report it:

If you witness something that you reasonably believe breaks a law or regulation at work, you generally must report it to a supervisor before going to the authorities to be protected by the worker protections available in New York. See NY Labor Law § 740(3). The employer, in turn, cannot retaliate against you if you come forward to report activity you reasonably believe to be illegal. This requirement doesn’t apply in some special cases, such as when:

  • there is an imminent and serious danger to public safety
  • the employee reasonably believes that reporting to a supervisor would lead to the destruction of evidence
  • the activity could endanger the welfare of a minor
  • the employee reasonably believes that reporting to a supervisor could lead to physical harm to the employee or someone else
  • the employee reasonably believes that the supervisor is already aware of the illegal activity and will not stop or correct it.

See NY Labor Law § 740(3).

New York labor law protects workers who report illegal activity to the government or to the employer, but not to the media or other third parties. See NY Labor Law § 740(2)(a). If you tell the media about illegal activity going on at your workplace, you can possibly be fired or retaliated against by your employer unless you are protected by another statute.

The same protections that exist for workers who refuse to do illegal activity exist for workers who report illegal activity to a supervisor or to the government. The law covers both employees and independent contractors and is applicable to employers of all sizes. See NY Labor Law §740(1). Under the law, a judge may, when applicable, order your employer to stop the behavior, impose a $10,000.00 fine, grant you back pay, reinstatement, and may also ask your employer to pay for your lawyer. The employer may also be liable for punitive damages if the violation was willful. See NY Labor Law § 740(4).

If you have witnessed something that you believe might be illegal at work and you want to come forward, it is a good idea to talk to a workers rights lawyer first, especially as this law includes penalties for bringing frivolous claims!

Meet Conor!

Conor Murphy interned with Satter Ruhlen Law Firm the 2023 spring semester through his Political Science Internship Course at Syracuse University, taught by Political Science Professor and Campbell Public Affairs Institute Director Grant Reeher.

Conor is from Sarasota, Florida, and is completing his freshman year at Syracuse University, majoring in Policy Studies. He has a special interest in non-profit and government work; he sits on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota and oversees political strategy as the political liaison. Conor has worked for a number of politicians in Florida as a speechwriter. His interest in law began his sophomore year of high school, when he worked at the State Attorney’s Office of Florida’s Twelfth Judicial Circuit as a Support Associate. At the State Attorney’s Office, he saw the opportunities attorneys have to get justice for victims, and how impactful a resource they can be in peoples’ darkest moments. Conor says, “I was instantly addicted and quickly decided I’d like to make a career of helping people navigate the legal system.”

Conor wanted to intern at Satter Ruhlen because, while he had already explored the world of criminal prosecution, he hadn’t yet had a chance to work in the private sector. Conor had no previous experience with labor law, but found it both appealing and consequential to help clients navigate times when their livelihood is being threatened. He has loved his experience. Conor says, “I felt honored to work closely with such skilled attorneys.”

Something Conor has particularly enjoyed is the opportunity to hear from clients face to face through consults. “I feel that sometimes the all-important ‘human element’ can be alienated from legal proceedings when all your information is coming from piles of discovery. Seeing clients and hearing about the hardships they’ve endured face to face really inspires your work and helps you gain a more complete understanding of the issues at hand; namely, their real impact.”

It’s been a pleasure hosting Conor at Satter Ruhlen Law Firm!

So, my manager just called me into the office…

Ever wonder what your rights are when you get the dreaded call to appear at a meeting with your manager or someone from the human resources department? The answer is…well, it depends, so read on!

If you are a union member, you have the right to union representation during an “investigatory interview” if you reasonably believe the meeting might lead to discipline. These are your Weingarten rights, named after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that created this protection for union members. Employers violate a union member’s Weingarten rights if they proceed with an investigatory interview while refusing to honor the member’s request for union representation.

Most any meeting may be an “investigatory interview” that triggers Weingarten rights, provided the following occurs:

  • A manager, representative of management, or supervisor wants to question an employee;
  • The questioning requires the member to defend, explain, or admit misconduct or work performance issues, including absenteeism and tardiness;
  • The employee reasonably believes that the investigation may result in discharge, discipline, demotion, or other adverse consequence to their job status or working conditions; AND
  • The employee requests a union representative.

Not every meeting triggers Weingarten rights, and it can be tricky to determine if the meeting checks all the boxes to amount to an “investigatory interview.” If you are a union member, it is a good idea to ask for union representation. If you are denied union representation, keep track of everything that happens during the meeting and, as soon as the meeting is over, write detailed notes of everything that happened and contact your union representative and share what happened.

As of this writing (March 6, 2023), Weingarten rights only apply to union employees, but that has changed in the past, and whenever the presidential administration changes, there is a chance that the scope of Weingarten rights may change. For example, the NLRB recently held that strike replacement employees are entitled to Weingarten protections.

So, definitely speak with a lawyer to find out if you have Weingarten rights today. Meanwhile, the benefit of Weingarten rights is one of many reasons to remain #UnionStrong!

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!


Can the boss require you to be screened?

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

217 S. Salina St., 6th Fl.,
Syracuse, NY 13202

T: 315-471-0405
F: 315-471-7849

Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. This site is published for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  This site neither creates nor implies an attorney-client relationship.

Find us on Mastodon: