Fire Department Discrimination Against African American Non-Firefighter Employees

Fire Department Discrimination Against African American Non-Firefighter Employees by James Vagnini{Read in 2:30 minutes} The New York City Fire Department is filled with extremely brave men and women, some out in the field and many behind the scenes. While there is certainly a long and illustrious history of dedication and incredible courage, unfortunately over the years there have also been repeated allegations of racial discrimination. As recently as 2014, the city agreed to pay $98 million to settle what is known as the “Vulcan” case to address allegations of racial bias against New York City Firefighters.  Now, in a federal lawsuit, our firm, Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP and Washington D.C. based Mehri & Skalet filed on behalf of civilian workers of the FDNY and a federal judge ruled that the case can move forward.Continue reading

Supervisor sues Omni hotels, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation when she reported it

A former supervisor with Omni Hotels & Resorts has filed suit against the Dallas-based company, alleging sexual harassment and saying the company broke federal laws governing equal pay.Continue reading

Augusta Golf Club Opens Its Doors to Women

gender discrimination Quietly and confidently, IBM has stood up for social change and progress. The company is supportive of same sex unions, especially in famously homophobic areas of the world like North Korea. The powerful corporation was key in instituting racial diversity in its workforce long before it was politically or culturally popular, its Equal Opportunity Policy remaining virtually unchanged since 1953. International Business Machines has been a strong proponent in putting women in places of power. One of the lead designers on the original IBM PC—which, along with the automobile and airplane stands as one of the greatest consumer inventions of the 20th century—was female.
While the company’s reputation as a computing powerhouse has been overshadowed by Microsoft and then Apple in the past twenty years (IBM left the personal computing almost a decade ago), it remains a singular voice in computing, and in progressive social policy.
IBM’s voice got even louder back in April. IBM has been a longtime sponsor of golf’s Masters Tournament, held at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The Club has always admitted IBM executives as members—until IBM hired its first female CEO, Ginni Rometty, in January 2012. Many thought that the Club should admit Rometty as a member, finally divesting itself of its historically male-only policy. The Club refused, garnering a media firestorm and threats to IBM’s sponsorship of the Masters. The Augusta was famously silent in defending its policies—until today.
Women admitted to the Augusta National Golf Club
In an about-face, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and high-octane businesswoman Darla Moore, were admitted as the first two women to be granted membership to the August Club. Strangely enough, the Club has made no decision as of yet to admit Ginni Rometty (IBM continues to sponsor the Masters).
Golf and Social Progress
The Augusta Club’s longstanding sexist policies symbolize one of the ugly truths about golf: it is the United States’ least progressive sport. During Tiger Woods’ peak in the late 1990s, some clubs decided to admit minority members for the first time—a full thirty-five years after Alabama schools were integrated. As much as the PGA touts its progressive policies, golf remains glaringly behind the curve in terms of social progress.
Is It Legal for Golf Clubs to Discriminate?
The Augusta National Golf Club’s policy of not admitting women is, according to U.S. law, legal and legitimate. However, in many segments of our national culture, especially the workplace, discrimination is highly illegal. If you feel you have been discriminated against due to gender, race, sexual orientation, or religious belief, call the Law Offices of Valli, Kane and Vagnini to speak with a trained professional.

The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 – Eliminating a Catch-22

law, jobs, unemployment, The Fair Employment Opportunity Act,  NYC employment attorneys
NYC employment attorneys have pointed out that the Equal employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public hearing. A disturbing trend triggered this hearing. Several companies had been discriminating against job applicants who were unemployed. These job applicants had been excluded from any hiring consideration. Some even ran ads saying that a candidate would only be considered if employed. Ads would have statement like “Unemployed candidates will not be considered at all” or “No candidate will be considered by client if not currently employed, whatever the reason.” The same NYC employment attorneys also point that however disturbing and discriminatory this may seem, it is legal. At least for now.

The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 is designed to prohibit employers and employment agencies from using unemployment as a sole factor to screen out or exclude job candidate.Employment, job, economy, job search,  NYC employment attorneys
In this time of severe recession, many workers are merely victims of the economy. However, as NYC employment attorneys have noted, many employers hang on to the outmoded idea that unemployed people are somehow damaged, are poor workers and weak links.
Employers and staffing firms are not correcting this issue on their own. In fact, the NELP says that these firms are continuing to deny job openings to unemployed candidates.
This is a demoralizing double whammy to those who have lost a job and learn they will not be considered for new openings because they are not working. This old Catch 22 states that you have to have a job to get a job. The fact is there are currently highly qualified, skilled, experienced workers who cannot seem to get their foot in the door because they lost a job through no fault of their own. The NYC employment attorneys state that this makes no sense from a business standpoint.Employment, job, economy,
The Fair employment Opportunity Act of 2011 is designed to stop employers and employment agencies from discriminating against job candidates who are not working. The job search environment is already tough. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there is one job opening for every five unemployed workers and the job crises has a long way to go.
The NYC employment attorneys are confident that this new legislation will eliminate the discriminatory practices that are making a long term unemployment problem even worse. Apparently, this legislation has strong support and, if enacted, unemployed job candidates should get a fairer shot at job openings.

Employment and the Expansion of Disability Claims

New York Employment AttorneyThe rules issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) expand the protection granted employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These rules were authorized by the ADA Amendments (ADAA) and were passed by Congress in 2008. The results are a significant expansion of the number of individuals claiming ADA protection.
Americans with disabilities are a large and economically disadvantaged group. The goals of ADA mandates are similar to civil rights. One goal is to make sure people with disabilities have access to employment. In the past, employers traditionally shut out disabled people from employment. A second goal is to increase job opportunities for disabled. As a group, people with disabilities earn less than people without disabilities. Employers that will be affected. Employers that employ 15 or more employees who work for at least twenty calendar weeks within a year. The EEOC points out that tracking this can become rather complicated and recommends staying in close communication to ensure compliance. Broad is the protection. The ADAA has expanded the definition of “disability”. As a result, employees will have a much easier time when seeking the law’s protection.
Do I fall under this broad coverage? According to the EEOC, an individual with a disability is a person who:
Long Island Employment Attorney

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Has a record of such an impairment; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

The key is how limited you are in performing your major life activities. For example, doctors may have diagnosed you as being clinically depressed. However, you may not be qualified for coverage because you are not substantially limited in performing major life activities.
 What are my rights?If you are covered under the ADA, your employer must make “reasonable accommodations” as long it does not cause the employer “undue hardship”. Undue hardship for the employer means it would cause significant difficulty or expense. Reasonable accommodation can take many forms, but some common examples are included here:

  •  Part time and job sharing
  • Flexible schedules
  • Time off for doctor’s appointments, support groups and therapy
  • Flexible break time to meet individual needs
  • Additional leave time

Discrimination Attorney New York
 Filing a Charge. If you think an employer has discriminated against you because of your disability, you may file at the nearest EEOC office or find an experienced employment attorney. If you have no office in your area, it can usually be over the phone.

Dionne v. Floormasters Enterprises, Inc. and the FLSA.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which controls Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, recently ruled that plaintiffs may not recover attorney fees, as they normally would be entitled to under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), in situations where the defendant-employer pays plaintiffs all the actual damages, liquidated damages, and interest owed to them outside of a negotiated settlement. In Dionne v. Floormasters Enterprises, Inc., the plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging overtime violations by the defendant. The total amount of damages sought by the plaintiff, including liquidated damages as provided under the FLSA and interest, amounted to $3,000. After the plaintiffs filed the suit, the defendant tendered a payment to the plaintiff for the full amount they were seeking, “in the interests of expeditious resolution of Plaintiff’s claim and efficient use of this Court’s time and resources.” After tendering this payment, the defendant moved to dismiss the claim as moot, since even if the employer was found to be liable, the employer would not have to pay any additional amount to the plaintiff. The court granted the defendant’s motion, dismissing the case with prejudice. However, the employer did not compensate the plaintiff for attorney’s fees and costs, and the court’s dismissal of the case means that the employer’s liability for its illegal conduct was never established.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that it was owed attorney’s fees, which go above and beyond the $3,000 that the defendant tendered. The FLSA provides attorney fees for the plaintiff, if the plaintiff proves that the employer violated the FLSA wage and overtime laws in his or her suit. Since the only reason that the defendant paid any amount to the plaintiff is that the plaintiff brought a lawsuit, the plaintiff felt he was entitled to the reasonable attorney’s fees that he incurred in bringing the suit and facilitating the payment.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that this is a classic application of “catalyst” test, which states that “a plaintiff should be found as prevailing if its ends are accomplished as a result of the litigation even without formal judicial recognition, there is a causal connection between the plaintiff’s lawsuit and the defendant’s actions provided relief to the plaintiff, and the defendant’s actions were required by law.” However, the Court notes, the Supreme Court rejected the “catalyst” test in 2001 in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, which requires that plaintiffs demonstrate that such a payment alters the legal relationship between the party’s in order for the plaintiff to be considered the “prevailing party.”
Since the plaintiff is not considered the “prevailing party” as decided in a court of law, it reasons that the plaintiff is not entitled to attorney’s fees as provided by statute.
Even though the 11th Circuit here seems to break new ground, the facts of this case may limit its applicability going forward. For example, the Court distinguishes cases in which plaintiffs are awarded lawyer’s fees and costs following the court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, where the dismissals incorporate the terms of a settlement between the parties. It is very likely that where there is a settlement between the parties that has been incorporated into a court order, Dionne may not apply. This is supported by the Supreme Court in Buckhannon, which states that judicial imprimatur, or the court’s seal of approval, is a necessary part of establishing a prevailing party in a lawsuit.
Importantly, in this case, the defendant never admitted liability, paid the full amount of damages sought by plaintiffs (including unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and interest), and never entered into a settlement agreement, let alone a settlement agreement that was entered as a court order. For this holding to be applied against plaintiffs in the future, a defendant would have to provide the full amount of unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and interest sought by the plaintiff. While in this case that amount was only $3,000, in many cases that amount may be much higher, and many defendants may be unwilling to pay the entire amount of the damages that plaintiffs seek in lieu of a negotiated settlement.

Protect Your Privacy in the Workplace

Employers are utilizing new technologies to monitor employees on computers, telephones, email and video.  There are very few federal laws that protect a worker’s privacy.  Therefore, if you are using company owned devices your employer can legally read your email conversations, listen to your personal telephone calls and check what websites you are visiting.
According to a 2007 American Management Association’s “Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey”, 73% of employers monitored email messages, 66% scrutinized Web surfing, 48% watched over video surveillance, and 45% checked keystrokes and computer files.  In some cases, employees are unaware of the company’s privacy policies and are being monitored oblivious to the watchful eye.
Because privacy rights are virtually unregulated, it is the employee’s responsibility to become informed of the company’s policies and to regulate their usage on company devices.  Privacy policies can be presented in memos, employee handbooks or at meetings.  It can even be as simple as a sticker on a computer or phone that displays the company’s rights to surveillance.
Always be mindful of what you say and do at work.  Improper usage of employee technology can lead to termination.  Therefore, it is important that anything that is private is communicated through personal devices or emails.  Use a mobile phone or pay phone for personal calls, and create your own personal email for discussions that are not work-related.  Be wary of your social network sites as well.  According to a 2009 survey, 60% of executives believe they have a right to monitor employee’s social networking sites to see how employees portray themselves online.  Don’t ever bad-mouth your workplace or boss on social networking sites, as there are no laws to protect you from termination.
If you believe that your employer is monitoring you for discriminatory reasons, it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. If you are being monitored more than other employees, or are being isolated as the sole employee being watched, file a complaint with HR and document any instances that attest to your claim.  It may be advisable to consult an attorney if workplace discrimination is present.
If you are pursuing a legal claim against your employer, or even if you are just contemplating one, the most important way to protect yourself is to always use personal means of communication when contacting your attorney or a prospective attorney.  Attorney-client communications may not be privileged if they are taking place over your work phone, email or other device owned and monitored by your employer.
Always assume that your workplace communications are being monitored, and protect your rights by avoiding personal conversations on company property.