Companies with NY employees need to be aware of two recent legal developments which impose new liability under discrimination rules. There are already an array of different federal, state and local statutes which protect employees (and potential employees) from discrimination on many grounds, including sex, race, disability, and even felony conviction status. These rules impact not only New York based companies, but also out-of-state businesses that require New York employers to follow their employment practices.
In our busy lives it’s not uncommon for many employees to send personal emails from their business email account. However, there can be unintended repercussions for both employers and employee in a litigation setting. New York law establishes a variety of “privileges,” which protect parties from being compelled to disclose certain broad categories of communications. Those privileges can be easily lost because of an employer’s email policy, thereby allowing an opposing party to get such emails as evidence.
Both Equal Pay Day and the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball championship games occurred last week. With the popularity of the tournaments, questions have been raised by the media and public about the differences in coach salaries. Within the last six months, the University of Connecticut (“UCONN”) extended the contracts of both of its basketball head coaches — Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma. Ollie, as the men’s team coach has had one national championship during his tenure; while Auriemma, the women’s coach, has won 11 national titles. Despite Auriemma’s impressive record, Ollie received a more lucrative package from UCONN, which is typical in the sports world.
Employers should be aware of a recent court decision regarding their responsibilities in considering an employee’s request for a medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is a federal statute, which applies to employers with 50 or more employees. It requires an employer to provide “qualified employees” with up to 12 weeks of leave in a year for family or personal medical circumstances. The court case which was just decided clarified who is responsible for determining whether an employee is eligible for FMLA and what steps employers have to take before they make a decision about eligibility.
Business owners may not realize that statements by their employees could be used as evidence against the business in litigation. An adversary seeking to introduce evidence of an employees’ statements does not even have to subpoena the employee to testify in court. Instead, the employees’ statements may be admissible hearsay under the rules of evidence. Although this is currently only allowed in limited circumstances, New York State is considering making the rule broader, which could have a significant impact on businesses.
Small businesses can sometimes face significant liability under employment laws because they aren’t aware of the rules that regulate certain employment activities. Even where employers and employees agree to certain employment practices, these practices may nonetheless be illegal if the employer does not comply with applicable regulations. In a previous post, we discussed minimum wage and overtime regulations. Additional areas of concern to business owners include the following:
New York labor law regulates employers of all sizes. However, while large employers typically have experienced HR managers or in-house attorneys to keep them informed of these rules, smaller businesses often lack those resources. The result is that small businesses may run afoul of employment laws and face significant liability. Many situations which commonly arise in smaller businesses don’t seem like they would require a consultation with counsel, but in fact they are governed by regulations and formalities that owners need to know. Some of the top areas which owners should give special attention to include the following: