Employment & Labor

A new report in Pensions and Investments should be an eyeopener for sponsors of 401(k) and 403(b) plans who haven’t yet gotten the message that even responsible fiduciaries can be sued. I previously wrote that 2020 promises to be a banner year for 401(k) plan litigation. Now P&I reports that fiduciary liability insurance premiums are up 35% as a result of costly awards and settlements. Plan sponsors are also being required to pay more-P&I gives an example of a $2 million payment- just to be able to renew policies. This trend can only accelerate as 2020 fiduciary breach lawsuits continue…
Mayor De Blasio recently signed legislation amending NYC’s paid safe and sick leave law. The new changes took effect on September 30, 2020 and bring NYC’s law more into line with NYS’s paid sick leave law. Key Changes to Be Aware of The key changes in the law that employees in NYC should know about are the following: Employees begin accruing leave immediately upon starting a job and can use the leave as soon as it is accrued; the previous requirement that an employee work for 80 hours to be eligible for safe/sick leave has been removed. Employers with…
Is bullying illegal? The short answer is no. However, bullying in the workplace can constitute as unlawful harassment if it leads to a hostile work environment and/or if it is on the basis of a protected category, such as sex, race, religion, nationality. What Is Bullying and How Is It Different From Harassment? Bullying is defined as a pattern of an undesired and aggressive behavior “that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Bullying can take verbal, social, and physical forms. According to the CCOHS bullying in the workplace includes verbal comments or actions in an effort to “mentally hurt…
Partners Sandra Cohen & Carol Buckmann were recognized in the “Elite Boutique” category for their achievements in establishing a leading boutique focused on providing sophisticated advice on employee benefits, executive compensation, health plans, and pension plans. This honor was published in the National Law Journal October 2020 issue. Sandra and Carol co-founded Cohen & Buckmann in 2016 after recognizing that, even though their practice skill set is usually found at large Wall-street type law firms, many other firms also deserve sophisticated ERISA and compensation advice for their clients and transactions. Cohen adds, “We have since become the go-to employee benefits…
Do private equity funds engage in a trade or business?  If so, and if those trades and businesses are part of a controlled group as defined in ERISA, they could be liable for unfunded pension liabilities of their portfolio companies. These issues have been litigated in four separate decisions by federal courts in the First Circuit. The courts were ruling on a multiemployer plan’s attempt to collect withdrawal liability from two Sun Capital Partners funds. The funds had invested in a bankrupt portfolio company called Scott Brass. After the most recent decision found that the funds were not liable, the…
Emilio’s Pizzeria & Ristorante, located in Long Island, New York, is facing criticism after the owner reportedly insulted and physically attacked a gay employee. Michael Abenante had worked at Emilio’s as a waiter since 2017. Abenante, who identifies as gay, wore the wrong shoes to work in November 2019. In response to this mistake, the restaurant owner, Emilio Branchinelli, allegedly yelled “F—king f—got, I’ll murder you!” Then, Branchinelli allegedly kicked Abenante in the back and punched him in the face. Abenante lost a tooth due to this physical altercation with his boss. After this serious violation of his dignity and…
         Amira Donahue, 16 years old, works as a hostess at Olive Garden in Evansville, Indiana. Amira was serving a table during a normal Saturday night dinner rush when something horrible happened. Her table asked Amira for hot water, and immediately after, the customers bursted into a racist tirade. The table publicly expressed that they preferred a white server over Amira, who is African American. The manager complied with the customers’ request and reassigned a new white server to the table. Afterwards, one woman at the table made comments about Amira to one of Amira’s coworkers. Amira later recounted to…
I previously wrote about a lawsuit filed against Abbott and recordkeeper Alight by a participant whose account was reduced by $245,000 when a hacker assumed her identity and requested distributions. (Bartnett v. Abbott Laboratories, 1:20-cv-02127)  According to the complaint, the hacker was assisted by an Alight employee when the account password couldn’t be changed online. Many were hoping that this lawsuit would clarify the law in this area, and particularly the responsibilities of plan sponsors and recordkeepers. There has now been a preliminary decision in that case. Abbott Defendants Are Dismissed. The plaintiff named Abbott Labs as a defendant, but…
Too often, large employers violate the workplace rights of flat rate contract drivers. The good news is that these drivers are winning lawsuits around the country to get back their rightfully earned wages. If you are a flat rate contract driver, keep reading to learn how you can protect your rights now so that you may have a more successful lawsuit in the future.  1. Keep Your Receipts Keep all of your receipts for any work-related expenses. Flat rate contract drivers often use their own vehicles for work, which can result in these types of costs. For example, common expenses…
Cohen & Buckmann is pleased to invite you to join this FREE Seven Seminar Lunch & Learn Series: Buy, Sell, or Hold: A Guide for Selling or Buying a Business.  Even if you are not yet ready to make a move this information-packed series is a roadmap to selling your business. Each hour-long session begins promptly at noon.  MARK YOUR CALENDAR TO JOIN US (link to register is below): Session 1: IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME TO SELL? Wednesday, October 7 Session 2: HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT BUYER? Wednesday, October 21 Session 3: WHAT IS MY BUSINESS WORTH?  Wednesday, November 4 Session 4: WHAT DO BUYERS LOOK…
Great Hearts Western Hills, a public charter school in San Antonio, Texas, faced intense criticism after firing an employee for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask to work. According to a CNN article, Lillian White, an art teacher at the school, lost her job for wearing a face mask that displayed “Silence is Violence” and “Black Lives Matter” messages across the front.  Considering the current social movement surrounding racial issues in the country, White explained that she wanted to show her support for her Black students and fellow faculty members. The school, however, had a different reaction than White…