Employment • Labor • Civil Rights

Race Discrimination Suit Filed Against Quinn Emanuel Law Firm

On October 28th, former staff-attorney, Kisshia Simmons-Grant, filed a lawsuit against Quinn Emanuel in New York City alleging race discrimination.  Ms. Simmons-Grant worked for the law firm from November, 2006 to August, 2010, as part of a group of 20-25 staff attorneys.  The group was paid on an hourly basis, and Ms. Simmons-Grant claims that they were paid only when the law firm gave them assignments.  

Ms. Simmons-Grant, who is African-American, alleges that she suffered race discrimination because her supervisor routinely assigned more work to the White staff attorneys, even though she was comparably qualified.  As a result, there were several periods of time when she was not paid because she had no work assignments.  Ms. Simmons-Grant alleges that she complained several times, but the law firm did nothing to resolve the situation.  Instead, the law firm constructively discharged her employment by giving her no choice but to quit after she complained of racial bias.

Ms. Simmons-Grant sued for racial discrimination and retaliation in a New York Federal Court.  She seeks unspecified compensatory damages for past and future lost earnings and emotional distress.  Ms. Simmons-Grant also seeks punitive damages for what she claims were willful violations of federal, state and local civil rights laws.

Quinn Emanuel partner Robert Juman called the complaint “frivolous”. 

Contact our office to speak to an experienced NYC employment lawyer regarding employment discrimination, retaliation, constructive discharge and wrongful termination.

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New York Wage Theft Protection Act

 

The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act (the “Act”), in effect April 12, 2011, amends the New York Labor Law to provide greater protections for employees in New York. The Act also imposes tougher penalties for employers who fail to pay their employees overtime or minimum wage.

Increased Employee Notice Requirements

The current Labor Law in New York requires that employers notify all newly hired employees, in writing, of their regular rate of pay, regular pay day, and overtime rate of pay if they are eligible for overtime. The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act (the “Act”) imposes additional notice requirements whereby employers must also include information about how the employee will be paid (e.g., by the hour, salary, commission, etc.) and about the employer’s intent to claim allowances (e.g., tip or meal allowances) as part of the minimum wage.

The required notice to newly hired employees must be provided that the time the employees are hired.  The Act allows employees to recover damages in court against employers who fail to provide such notice within 10 business days of an employee’s first day of work.  Employees may recover $50 for each workweek that the violation occurred or continues to occur (not to exceed a total of $2,500). Employees may also recover litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Employers must also obtain a written acknowledgement of the notice, signed and dated by the employee, and must maintain the employee’s acknowledgment(s) of the notice for 6 years.

The notice must also be updated and revised/updated notices must be provided to employees at least 7 calendar days prior to any changes made to the employee’s pay or other terms contained in the notice (unless such changes are reflected in the employee’s wage statement).

Pay Statements

The Act also requires that employers provide pay statements that specify the rates of pay, basis of pay, and the applicable dates that the wages cover. For employees who are eligible to receive overtime, pay statements must also include the overtime and regular pay rates, as well as the number of overtime and regular hours worked. Employers must also maintain payroll records and pay statements for 6 years under the Act; the current Labor Law requires that these records be maintained for only 3 years.

Employers who fail to provide the required pay statements may be subject to penalties under the Act.  Employees may recover $100 for each workweek that the violation occurred or continues to occur (not to exceed a total of $2,500), plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Anti-Retaliation Provisions

The Act also provides greater anti-retaliation protection than the current New York Labor Law.  In the event of unlawful retaliation, the Act allows the Commissioner to order additional remedies, including liquidated damages (not to exceed $10,000), reinstatement with back pay, front pay where reinstatement does not occur, and injunctive relief designed to stop the retaliatory misconduct.

Civil and Criminal Penalties

The Act permits a recovery for liquidated damages of up to 100% of the total amount of wages due. This means that employees can recover twice the amount they are owed in overtime or wages.  The current New York Labor Law permits liquidated damages of only 25% of the overtime or wages due.  Employees may recover liquidated damages where the employer is shown to have violated the law and the employer fails to prove a good-faith basis for believing it was acting in compliance with the law.

The Act also provides for the recovery of prejudgment interest and attorneys’ fees in any civil action to recover unpaid wages brought by an employee.  Employees may also recover an additional 15% of the judgment owed, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs for enforcing the judgment, where employers have lost in court and still failed to pay overtime or wages due within 90 days.

The Act also imposes criminal penalties against employers that fail to pay overtime or minimum wage. Employers who violate the law may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined between $500 (minimum) and $20,000 (maximum) or imprisoned for up to 1 year.  If a second violation occurs within 6 years of the first conviction, the employer may be guilty of a felony.

Employers who fail to maintain appropriate overtime and wage records may also be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined between $500 and $5,000 or imprisoned for up to 1 year.  A subsequent violation and conviction within 6 years will result in either a fine of $500 to $20,000 or imprisonment for a period not to exceed 1 year and a day, or both.

If you feel you are not being paid the overtime or wages you are entitled to, contact our New York overtime lawyer as soon as possible.

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Gender Discrimination lawsuit Filed in New York City Against Proskauer Rose Law Firm

 

Rosenthal v. Proskauer Rose, 111343-11: Former CFO of Proskauer Rose, Elly Rosenthal, sued the law firm for $10 million for alleged gender discrimination in New York. Ms. Rosenthal claims that after 16 years of excellent performance, the law firm demoted her, denying her pay increases, then wrongfully terminated her employment after she took medical leave for breast cancer treatment. Plaintiff claims that the firm also replaced her with a man who was less qualified than she was.

Ms. Rosenthal further alleges that women are “conspicuously absent” from Proskauer’s leadership, and that the law firm experienced “unprecedented growth” and earned more than $675 million annually during her tenure as CFO.

Ms. Rosenthal was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and took medical leave for treatment, including two surgeries. During her leave, her supervisor notified her that the firm would be reorganizing its administrative staff and that she would be assigned to a new position. Once she returned from medical leave, Ms. Rosenthal claims that she was placed in the newly created position of chief administrative financial officer – in which she was paid less and given less responsibility than had been provided in her previous position. Her supervisor then promoted a man to her previous position of CFO. Ms. Rosenthal alleges that her male replacement had been initially hired to be her subordinate in 2007, and that he did not possess her qualifications, as he was not a certified public accountant and had not lead a financial department. Further exacerbating the employment discrimination, Ms. Rosenthal alleges that when Proskauer moved to a new building near Times Square in New York City, she was relegated to a satellite office eight blocks away. Ms. Rosenthal claims that the law firm later wrongfully terminated her employment, even though she had never received a negative performance review.

Ms. Rosenthal sued the law firm for gender discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. She is seeking $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorneys’ fees.
Proskauer denies all charges.

Contact our office to speak to an experienced NYC employment lawyer regarding employment discrimination, wrongful termination and medical leaves.

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I Really need a Job… But do I have to give up my Facebook username and Password to land it?

With the unemployment rate above 9%, millions of Americans are desperately in search of a job. Yet, is it fair for employers to ask applicants for their username and password to social media sites like Facebook?

Today, more than 50% of employers rely on social media when recruiting applicants. At first glance, why shouldn’t an employer be able to surf the web and gather information from a public site? Certainly, it seems fair to learn if a prospective employee is coming in with questionable judgment. Yet, problems arise when employers go a step further and ask job applicants for access into their password protected accounts. In fact, exactly that happened in Bozeman, Montana. Two years ago, the city of Bozeman passed a law which compelled job applicants to supply their social media usernames and passwords. A public outcry quickly forced the city to do away with the policy.

Privacy settings on social networking sites exist for a reason. Users are able to control to what extent personal information is communicated to the outside world. Sure, the debate over privacy will continue as new technology emerges in the future, but situations such as what occurred in Bozeman are red flags for job seekers. We understand the economic difficulty that many Americans face today. Still, prospective employees ought to be cautious about providing their Facebook username and password to potential employers.

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So many uphill battles yes, but …. Boy, have women come a long way!

Over the course of a decade, changes in social opinion and the economy led to significant advances in women’s roles in society and in history.

Major social changes between 1964 and 1974 allowed women to strive to be more than housewives and homemakers.

“This entire sex for the entire history of the world was regarded as an inferior class of having less rights and less opportunities, with no hope to choose their own destiny in life.

All of this changed in a 10-year period. The idea of fairness in the civil rights era was a key factor in women ascending in the public world.

After those 10 years, however, women still had a long way to advance in society; they were ridiculed, harassed and laughed at for thinking they could do jobs that men had occupied. Even though women were allowed an education, they still faced prejudice in the work place.

Moods began to change in the 1970′s and 1980′s when the economy required two incomes to finance homes and cars. As soon as the birth control pill became available, the rates of applications of women to medical school and law school broke barriers.

It is truly spellbinding to think what women have gone through for women like me to have the right.

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