The recent sad and tragic accident involving a young boy’s death at an outdoor grease trap at a local coffee shop brings to mind the duties employers have regarding safety. Beyond the moral duty to protect their employees and others, the legal sources of those duties can be federal, state or local as in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the State Department of Health (NYSDOH) or the County Department of Environmental Services (DES) respectively.


Department of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta recently stepped down from the position, and President Trump has named Eugene Scalia as his replacement nominee.  Mr. Scalia was previously a lawyer in the Labor Department during George W. Bush’s administration.  Mr. Scalia is also the son of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.


Both the New York State Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act were expanded last Friday to ban race discrimination based on “natural hair or hairstyles,” including, but not limited to, “braids, locks and twists.”  The law, called the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, takes effect immediately.


New York State Governor Cuomo is expected to sign a bill granting employees and former employees the power to lien real and personal property owned by their (broadly defined) employers based on their mere allegation of a wage claim. Entity and individual business owners, as well as managers, executives, supervisors and human resources professionals who control the terms and conditions of employment, and thus also considered employers, could face these liens under the law which will be effective 30 days after signed by the Governor.


The NYS Legislature recently approved changes to the state’s discrimination and harassment laws. Governor Cuomo has indicated that he intends to sign the legislation. Among the major changes are the following:


The determination of the regular rate of pay for employees who are non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and, therefore, eligible for time-and-one-half overtime pay for all hours worked over forty (40) in a week is a crucial and sometimes complicated one for employers under current law.


On April 12, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law the New York Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, which included an amendment retroactively extending the three-year “clawback” provisions of Section 954(a)(3) of the New York Tax Law to certain taxable gifts made by New York residents within three (3) years of death up through the new expiration date of January 1, 2026 (the “three-year clawback”).


As part of the New York fiscal year 2020 budget announced April 1, 2019, Election Law Section 3-110 was immediately amended to allow workers to take up to three hours off of work, without loss of pay, in order to vote in any election.  In a significant change from the prior law, the employee need not establish insufficient time to vote during off hours in order to take advantage of voting leave (previously, most employees were not able to show insufficient off hour time). However, nothing in the law entitles employees to more time than needed to vote.


Last week the Supreme Court accepted three cases that ask whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect LGBT people from job discrimination.  There is disagreement in lower Federal Courts regarding whether sexual orientation and gender identity are included in Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. 


In 2018, fewer discrimination charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission than in any other year in the last decade. In fact, 8,000 fewer charges were filed last year than in 2017. This may seem surprising, given the #MeToo movement, but there are a myriad of reasons why the numbers may be falling.