Sometimes people dream up solutions to serious problems that are so bizarre, they literally take your breath away. To wit, in England, a socialist Member of Parliament recently suggested that in order to solve the problems of sexual harassment and assault on public transportation, trains should have separate cars that are only for women.

The immediate reaction from the pundit class was, unsurprisingly, outrage, with critics calling the idea “old-fashioned sexism” and a form of “apartheid.” One activist compared it to the time when a local mass murderer had been killing women, and one politician suggested that all women should stay home to avoid danger.

Women shouldn’t have to restrict or change their movements when criminals violate laws. That clearly and obviously places the responsibility on the wrong party. The solution is to stop the illegal behavior – and/or to eliminate its root social, cultural and institutional causes — not to normalize it and compel would-be victims to change their behavior and restrict their movements. A saner strategy would involve enforcing laws against sexual assault and harassment and to deter men (and women) from violating them in the first place.

The same moral holds, of course, when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. Solutions should never restrict an employee’s freedom to choose where to work. Instead, laws prohibit what the harasser can do or say.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees who are sexually harassed at work should –
•    Tell the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop; and
•    Report the harassment to management.

Per the EEOC website, “The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor’s harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.”

The Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP team can help you understand your rights and options in a potential sexual harassment case. Call us today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at, to schedule a free intake evaluation.

Nonprofit organizations are allowed to use unpaid volunteers, as long as the volunteers’ work is part of the nonprofit activities of the organization. If, however, a nonprofit organization also runs a commercial business, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that those working in that business be classified as employees and be paid minimum wage and overtime.

An Ohio televangelist allegedly ran afoul of that rule when he used unpaid volunteers in a for-profit buffet restaurant that his church operates. Now the Department of Labor (DOL) has filed a wage-and-hour lawsuit against the church and its leader.

The lawsuit also accuses the televangelist of a slate of other bad actions:

•    Violating laws that restrict the hours minors may work;
•    Incorrectly classifying several managers as exempt employees and not paying them minimum wage or overtime;
•    Ignoring a previous DOL audit that told him he was required to pay the workers;
•    Trying to cover up the whole thing by destroying timecards and payroll reports;
•    Creating fraudulent records by telling workers to clock out and then go back to work.

This case shows that employees and volunteers in nonprofit organizations should be aware of the following:

•    Volunteering without pay is fine, but only when working on the organization’s nonprofit side;
•    If people work in a for-profit business run by the nonprofit organization, the FLSA considers them employees, and they are covered by the same minimum wage and overtime rules as any other employees; and
•    Nonprofit organizations, just like for-profit organizations, are not allowed to attempt to cover up violations or to engage in recordkeeping fraud.

Are you confused about your rights in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP right now at (866) 348-7394, or email the team at, to explore what you can do about an employer who has harassed you or violated other laws, like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or New York Labor Laws (NYLL).

In our last post, we discussed a Federal Judicial Center (FJC) analysis that’s found a dramatic rise in the number of wage-and-hour cases filed throughout the U.S. over recent years.

Drilling down to a more local level, a parallel trend in FLSA actions has occurred here in New York State:

•    In fiscal year 2009, plaintiffs filed 652 wage-violation cases in New York State alone.
•    In the most recent fiscal year that ended in June 2015, plaintiffs filed 1,738 cases – a 2.6 magnitude increase in a little more than half a decade.
•    For workers in New York City alone, the state recovered $11.6 million in unpaid wages for January through July of this year.

The spate of wage and hour activity has attracted serious attention from the media and may be spurring fundamental changes not only in how restaurant and hospitality industry leaders operate but also in how dishwashers, servers, hosts and hostesses and other workers respond to wrongdoing, underpayment and harassment.

A must-read Wall Street Journal article published last month, More Employees Sue Restaurants in Wage Disputes, explains that “workers who say they have been cheated out of wages are increasingly taking legal action against expensive eateries in New York City” and mentions a major case in which: “workers who claimed they were underpaid recently reached a $1.4 million legal settlement with celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, head of the Michelin-starred Daniel and Café Boulud.”

Meanwhile, a July 2nd story in the New York Times, Per Se Violated Labor Law With ‘Service Charge,’ Inquiry Finds, quoted attorney Kirschenbaum, who’s become widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and aggressive wage and hour lawyers in the city: “D. Maimon Kirschenbaum, a lawyer for restaurant workers who has been involved in similar cases, says [these cases] are frequently about profit, not oversight.”

According to the head of a restaurant workers’ advocacy group quoted by the Wall Street Journal, restaurants are more and more demonstrating a willingness to settle, rather than go to trial, because they fear losing.

If you work in a service industry in New York, and you haven’t been treated fairly or paid due wages and overtime, our team can help. Please call our experienced wage and hour lawyers today to schedule a consultation at (866) 348-7394, or email us at

According to an analysis from the Federal Judicial Center (FJC), more workers than ever are filing wage-and-hour lawsuits. These cases are brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes standards for private and government employees pertaining to overtime, youth employment, and minimum wage.

Many FLSA cases involve debates about whether a worker (or class of workers) should be classified as “exempt” from overtime rules. (Per the Department of Labor’s website, “Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek.”)

The employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum have brought many high profile FLSA matters over the past several years. However, our firm is obviously not solely responsible for the flourishing FLSA activity!

In fact, per the FJC analysis, the number of wage-and-hour lawsuits has been rising nearly continuously for the last 25 years. Check out these statistics that show the dramatic increase —

•    In 1990, there were only 1,257 wage-and-hour cases filed throughout the country.
•    By 2007, the annual number had leapt to 6,786 cases.
•    In 2014, that number jumped again to 8,126.

Disaffected, underpaid and abused restaurant and hospitality industry workers have brought a substantial number of the recent cases – perhaps because these industries often support or abet toxic employment cultures.

What accounts for the uptick in cases?

One theory suggests that both the states and the federal government have become more dialed into wage-and-hour violations. Another school of thought argues that workers themselves have become increasingly aware of their legal rights for minimum wage and overtime.

New regulations on white-collar exemptions from overtime rules may spur yet another spasm of legal activity. Workers paid a salary, as opposed to an hourly wage, are not automatically exempt. Overtime exemptions depend on three key elements: salary basis, salary level, and job duties.

For insight into your potential FLSA case, call the experienced wage and hour attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum for a free intake evaluation at (866) 348-7394, or email

Architecture professor and CUNY Dean George Ranalli stands accused of sexual harassment, according to a recent report from the New York Post.

Ranalli, who taught for two decades at the Yale University School of Architecture prior to taking on the role of the Dean of the Bernard and Ann Spitzer School of Architecture for City College, allegedly harassed his office assistant, Ariella Campisi, after an office holiday party in December 2013.

According to Campisi’s story, her boss was driving her home from the party, when they got stuck in traffic on the Westside Highway, following festivities at the Smoke Jazz and Supper Club. Per the Post, the 68-year-old proceeded to rub her knee and thigh “in a sexual manner, right below where her skirt ended” and later asked his assistant: “you look so beautiful. Can I kiss you?”

Campisi allegedly went to school authorities the very next day to report what happened, but when she checked on the case’s progress a year and a half later, she discovered to her dismay that no investigation into her complaint had been launched. Apparently, the people she told reported what happened to incorrect department.

Campisi’s lawsuit against CUNY says that the school engaged in “deliberate indifference” to her complaint. Ranalli – who has been on administrative leave since April from CUNY – has, through his lawyer, denied that the harassment ever took place.

This case illustrates the complex obstacles that can arise after incidents of harassment. Fortunately, those who have suffered sexual harassment or other wrongdoing at the workplace do not have to abide by an unfair system, indifferent administrators, mean bosses or an uncaring office culture. The team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum is here to help. Please call or email us to set up an intake evaluation today at 866-348-7394, or email us at

An early July ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case of Gortat v. Capala Bros offered mostly good news for the plaintiffs, as the Second Circuit affirmed that they were entitled to substantial attorney’s fees thanks to overly aggressive litigation tactics used by the defendants.

The plaintiffs won a trial in 2013 that concerned the fate of seven construction workers who had alleged that Capala Bros Inc., their employer, failed to pay them time and a half overtime, per Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements.

The workers said the company only paid them $15 to $25 an hour, even when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the case was a “garden variety” FLSA matter, but the defendants “turned it into a nuclear war.” The court agreed, sanctioning the defense to the tune of $8,000 for making “ad hominem attacks on Steven Gold, a Magistrate Judge.” The summary order also noted that “delays in the case were due to defendants’ combative and extraordinary conduct that raised many unnecessary disputes regarding case management and discovery as revealed by even a cursory review of the docket sheet.”

As a result of all this finagling behind the scenes, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $293,000 and an additional $583,000 (!) in attorneys fees on top. The Second Circuit trimmed down the attorney award but noted that the excess damages were “amply supported” by the defense’s conduct.

This case highlights the fact that employment litigation in New York can be more akin to street fighting than to gentlemanly cerebral dispute. If you or someone you love needs aggressive, dependable and ethical council, please call or email the New York employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum at 866-438-7394, or email us at

In our last blog post, we reported on New York State’s Fast Food Wage Board’s July decision to incrementally elevate the minimum wage for fast food workers in New York City to $15 an hour.

That change will nearly double the current minimum wage of $8.75 and will likely shake up New York’s restaurant industry. But how, exactly, will this paradigm shift affect things? Will the changes all be good (from the perspective of workers)? Or will there be subtle, potential dangers?

Our New York employment law firm has agitated for better treatment and fairer pay for restaurant workers for years. Our attorney, Maimon Kirschenbaum, has even won the distinction of being known in the press as the “Scourge of Restaurateurs.”

What drives us – what motivates us to work incredibly hard, take on challenging cases and confront powerful businesses and celebrities – is our deeply felt conviction that workers need and deserve fair wages.

Although it’s obviously way too early to tell, here are some potential implications of this minimum wage hike.

Potential Positives

More money in the pockets of workers who need and deserve it. Restaurant workers will need to make fewer heartbreaking choices, such as “should I pay my rent this month or my health insurance?”

A rising tide could lift all ships. The enforced minimum wage might inspire other businesses – including non-fast food restaurants – to pay fairer wages.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. The move could also drive out restaurants (and other businesses) that would never voluntarily treat workers fairly, thus creating a healthier and more ethical ecosystem of companies in NYC.

Potential Undesired Ramifications

A vicious cycle of business attrition? Some critics fear that higher minimum wages will drive fast food businesses out of the city, thus reducing employment options. This dire scenario is unlikely, but exploring the complex economic counterarguments would warrant its own blog post.

Cover for bad behavior? Some restaurant owners and managers might strive to use these new rules to subtly perpetrate other wage and hour violations. For instance – and this is a cartoonish example to illustrate the point – but a restaurant owner might say something to the effect of “now that your minimum wage has gone up, you will no longer be keeping all of your tips.” In other words, an owner might blatantly violate the Fair Labor Standards Act or New York Labor Laws in order to “recoup” some money “lost” as a result of the wage increases.

No matter what happens, the progressive New York employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum will be here to fight for fair pay and fair rights for workers. If you or someone you love would like to speak with us about your employment situation, please email or call 866-348-7394.

In late July, the Fast Food Wage Board in New York State recommended that New York City elevate the minimum wage for restaurant workers to $15 per hour by 2018. Fast food operations in New York state will have to follow suit by 2021.

This bold move – celebrated by political figures like New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton – was approved unanimously by the three member wage board.

The recommendations would have effects on all restaurant chains that have over 30 locations, including fast food joints such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. Currently, New York’s minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. By the end of 2015, that number will bump up (a bit) to $9 an hour.

Franchise owners as well as the New York State Restaurant Association have protested, but both Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio, have strongly advocated this change. Waiving away fears that the wage hike would drive out food businesses from the city, Cuomo said that “[if] McDonald’s says ‘I’m closing stores and moving out of state,’… fine; then we’ll have more Burger Kings. They’re not going to leave the hamburger market in New York City alone; don’t you worry about that.”

As the New York City employment attorneys here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum have argued for years, restaurant workers in our city often have to work incredibly hard to stretch their earnings just to pay the bills and survive, thanks to New York’s relatively high cost of living.

A recent PEW Research Center analysis estimated that New York City’s prices are “22.3 percent more expensive than the national average.”

Unsurprisingly, labor leaders, such as Mario Cilento, the AFL-CIO President for New York State, are celebrating this $15 minimum wage push as progress. Cilento said “a higher wage benefits us all by providing a kick-start to New York’s economic engine, leading to job creation in both the fast food industry and other sectors as well.”

In our next post, we’ll discuss some of the implications and lessons for the restaurant industry.

If you or someone you love has been mistreated by your employer – denied fair wages or subjected to harassment, discrimination or other wrongdoing – please schedule an intake interview with our experienced New York wage and hour attorneys by emailing or calling 866-348-7394.

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how and why the salary minimum for the “white collar” overtime exemption may soon change. In this post, we’ll examine how workers will be impacted by the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new proposed rules.

How Many Workers Will Be Affected

The DOL predicts that if the proposed change becomes final, 4.6 million more workers will become eligible for overtime pay during the first year the change goes into effect. Those millions of workers will include people who are classified as executive, professional, or administrative, and who earn more than $23,600 but less than $50,440 per year (more than $455 but less than $970 per week). Over the next 10 years, an additional 5.6 million more workers could also become eligible for overtime because of this rule change.

When the Change May Go Into Effect

The proposed change will become the law if the DOL issues what’s called a Final Ruling. That is likely to take at least several months. The exact details of the new rule, including the salary minimum, may change from the proposed rule, but the salary minimum is likely to be at least twice as high as it is now.

Employees Beware

While the change, if it goes through, will benefit millions of workers, employees should also anticipate how employers might react. Some employers may try to lower their salary costs either by decreasing the number of workers on staff or by hiring more people to reduce the need for anyone to work overtime. Overall, though, the change should be very positive for many U.S. workers, and our team believes it is long overdue.

Are you confused about your rights in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP right now at (866) 348-7394, or email the team at, to explore what you can do about an employer who has harassed you or violated other laws, like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or New York Labor Laws (NYLL).

Whether or not an employer must pay a worker overtime wages for working more than 40 hours per week depends on a complex series of rules. These rules, which determine which workers are “exempt” from overtime — that is, which workers must be paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours (“non-exempt” workers) and which workers don’t have to be paid extra (“exempt” workers) — may be about to change by the federal Department of Labor (DOL). The implications for the labor market could be quite profound.

The “White Collar” Exemption

One set of rules, aimed at white collar workers, hinges, in part, on the amount of a worker’s annual salary. Currently, federal law classifies workers as exempt (not having to be paid overtime) if these two conditions are met: (1) they receive a salary (not an hourly wage) that is at least $23,600 per year ($455 per week), and (2) their job is primarily executive, professional, or administrative. Recently, the DOL has proposed raising that minimum salary.

Why the Law May Change

The $23,600 salary minimum for the “white collar” exemption has not been adjusted for inflation; it has only been increased once since 1975; and that increase was small. As a result of inflation, a $23,600 salary buys far less now than it did 40 years ago, and many labor economists argue that this amount no longer constitutes a reasonable cut-off point for overtime exemption. The DOL’s proposal would raise the minimum to a floating amount equal to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the U.S. For 2016, that is projected to be an annual salary of $50,440 ($970 per week).

Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP has successfully represented restaurant workers and service workers in diverse industries in many nationally prominent wage and hour cases. Call us today at 1 (866) 348-7394, or email us at, to schedule a free intake evaluations.