We Stand Tall Against Goliath
The Law Office of Peter A. Romero advocates on behalf of workers who have been subject to discrimination, harassment and unlawful pay practices.
We handle all types of employment matters, including:
- Prosecuting harassment, retaliation and employment discrimination claims
- Advising employees about their rights
- Negotiating employee contracts and severance agreements
- Helping disabled employees obtain workplace accommodations
- Recovering unpaid wages, including overtime pay
We are committed to providing quality legal services, with the highest degree of dignity and professionalism.
Representative Cases on Behalf of Employees
The following are a few cases that are representative of our legal work involving employees:
Court Denies Motion for Summary Judgment and Allows Employee’s Disability Discrimination and Retaliation Claims to Proceed to Trial
The Law Office of Peter A. Romero PLLC represented an employee who alleged that she was singled out for punishment because of her disability and complaints about harassment based on disability. The employee alleged that after she returned from a medical leave of absence she was individually punished for failing to meet new sales goals, even though no one on her team met his or her goals, and that her employer used this as a basis to fire her. The employee claimed that although she was the most productive member of her team, she was the only one punished for failing to meet monthly sales goals. While her employer claimed it fired her because of her history of poor performance, the Court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment on her claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights law. The employee’s doctors’ notes made it clear her medical condition impaired her ability to participate in major life activities such as working, lifting, and bending. Thus, she satisfied the definition of disability under the ADA, NYSHRL, and NYCHRL. The Court found that a reasonable jury could conclude that the employer’s explanation for the employee’s termination was pretextual. The evidence of pretext included a lack of documented performance issues before she employee became disabled, being singled out for failing to meet monthly sales goals, and the employer’s failure to follow its own disciplinary policy. As to her retaliation claim, the Court noted that the six-week time period between the employee’s complaint to Human Resources about discrimination and her termination was sufficient to create an inference of retaliation. The court found the company’s motivation for firing her was in dispute for substantially the same reasons as discussed with respect to her discrimination claim.
CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT ALLEGES HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT BASED ON RACIAL ABUSE
May 20, 2019
A hostile work environment claim is a claim that an employer or school made the environment hostile to the employee based on sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or because of some other illegal bias. Unfortunately, many employees are required to work in hostile environments in which they are humiliated, insulted and bullied. Attorneys Peter A. Romero and David D. Barnhorn have devoted their practice to representing employees in employees in harassment, discrimination and retaliation lawsuits. Below are links to articles about our current lawsuit brought on behalf of a Black educator in a Long Island School District who was subject to offensive racial jokes and racial “Jim Crow” era symbols. Among other things, the teacher’s Caucasian colleague taunted her by insisting that she “translate slave talk” and Caucasian students ridiculed her by calling her “Aunt Jemima.”
Plaintiffs sued Harvest under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) and New York Labor Law (“NYLL”). Plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a class action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, which was granted. The Court certified a class consisting of all current and former non-exempt hourly employees who worked for Harvest at any time from the six (6) years prior to the filing of the lawsuit to the entry of judgment in the case. Rivera v. Harvest Bakery Inc., 312 F.R.D. 254, E.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 2016. Plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment as to Defendants’ liability pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment be granted in all respects, except as to the statute of limitations and liquidated damages under NYLL prior to November 24, 2009. On September 4, 2018, United States District Judge Arthur D. Spatt adopted the R&R in its entirety.
The Law Office of Peter A. Romero PLLC represented a group of employees who worked as delivery drivers and helpers for a New York furniture company. Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against their employer Raymours, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The plaintiffs were bound by an arbitration agreement that purported to shorten the statute of limitations to a 180-day statute of limitations for asserting a claim. Raymours moved to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, asserting that the statute of limitations provision was unenforceable and should be severed.
The Hon. Joseph F. Bianco, United States District Court, Eastern District in New York granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part. The Court found that the provision of the arbitration agreement purporting to shorten the statute of limitations was unenforceable and therefore severed the provision from the agreement. The Court held that the employees were entitled to move forward with their wage claims, even though they brought the claims past the 180-day deadline provided in their employment contracts, because the contract deadline is shorter than the deadline available under federal wage law, so it impermissibly curbs the employees’ right to fully recover unpaid wages.
The Law Office of Peter A. Romero PLLC represents a class of employees who worked as cooks, dishwashers, pizza makers, counter staff, servers and busboys at La Scala Restaurant in Commack, Long Island. The lawsuit alleges several violations of the New York Labor Law, including that the employer failed to pay its employees overtime at the rate of one and one-half times the regular hourly rate of pay for hours worked after 40 hours in a single workweek. The lawsuit also alleges that the employer failed to pay “spread-of-hours” pay when employees worked a day that lasted longer than 10 hours from its start to its finish. On February 11, 2019, the Hon. Vincent J. Martorana, J.S.C., granted Plaintiff’s motion for class certification and ordered that notice of the lawsuit be sent to all full-time non-exempt employees who worked at La Scala at any time between February 6, 2011 and February 6, 2017.
If you or a person you know worked for the Defendants named in the lawsuit during the time period of February 2011 – February 2017 or has information that may be relevant to this case, contact the Law Office of Peter A. Romero PLLC as soon as possible.
Description: Disability Discrimination
Ms. Cohen sued her former employer alleging it had discriminated against her because of her disability by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation in the form of light duty or additional time for recovery. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing her claim of discrimination in employment on the basis of disability.
Outcome: Summary Judgment Reversed – Cohen Was Entitled to a Jury Trial
Mr. Romero appealed the dismissal to the Appellate Division, which reversed the dismissal of Ms. Cohen’s claims because the employer failed to establish that it had engaged in a good faith interactive process that assessed Ms. Cohen’s needs as a disabled employee and the reasonableness of her requested accommodation.
Description: Sex Discrimination
Cathleen Apicella brought suit against her employer for alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206, and New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), N.Y. Executive Law § 296. Ms. Apicella alleged her employer discriminated against her when it demoted her from the position of supervising pharmacist to staff pharmacist, cut her hours, and placed her in a “floater” pool.
Outcome: Summary Judgment Denied
Mr. Romero represented Ms. Apicella, who had twenty years of experience as a supervisory pharmacist when she was demoted to staff pharmacist and replaced by a man. The demotion resulted in a change in duties and diminution of responsibilities. Around the time that she was replaced by a male, Ms. Apicella’s supervisor remarked that he knew she wanted time with her kids and the proposed transfer to another store would be a great opportunity for her to spend time. The Court agreed that that such stereotyped remarks about a woman’s role in the family, and how that interacts with her work, may constitute evidence of discriminatory intent. First, the comment was made by the district manager, who had authority to determine staffing decisions. Second, the remark was made during a meeting in which Ms. Apicella was told that she either had to transfer to an overnight position or accept a demotion. Third, a reasonable jury could find that the comment about whether the offered position would better accommodate Ms. Apicella’s family responsibilities demonstrated gender-stereotyping. Finally, the comment was made during the meeting in which the adverse employment decision was made as part of the employer’s attempt to convince Ms. Apicella to accept a different, but less desirable, position.
Thus, the Court found that a reasonable could conclude that Ms. Apicella was demoted because of sex discrimination. Therefore, Ms. Apicella was entitled to present her case to a jury.
Description: Retaliation for Opposing Discrimination
Mr. Welch suffered from various medical conditions, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (“HCM”), bipolar disorder, hiatal hernia, restless leg syndrome (“RLS”), sleep apnea, and depression with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Because of his disabilities, he made various requests for accommodation under the American Disabilities Act (“ADA”). He sued his employer, alleging that UPS discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, and also retaliated against him for complaining about that discrimination.
Outcome: Award of Compensatory Damages
Mr. Romero represented Mr. Welch at trial. The jury found that UPS retaliated against Mr. Welch by requiring him to work in a significantly more difficult work area, which would adversely affect his physical conditions. Thus, the jury found for Mr. Welch on his claims of retaliation under the New York State Human Rights Law and awarded him $200,000.00 in compensatory damages.
Description: Disability Discrimination
Mr. Derosa sued his former employer alleging that his termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court dismissed the case based on its erroneous conclusion that Mr. Derosa was judicially estopped from showing that he could perform the essential functions of his job with reasonable accommodation because of certain statements he had made on his application for disability benefits.
Outcome: Summary Judgment Reversed – Derosa Was Entitled to a Jury Trial
Mr. Romero appealed the decision to the Second Circuit, which reversed the dismissal of the case. The Court of Appeals held that nothing Mr. Derosa had said in his disability application forms had contradicted his position that he was able to perform the essential functions of his job with reasonable accommodation.
Description: Sex Discrimination
Audrey Jackson was temporarily appointed to a vacant supervisory position. She increased productivity and her manager was pleased with her performance. However, Ms. Jackson’s male subordinates protested her appointment. They called her names and refused to take orders from her. Eventually, Ms. Jackson’s manager removed her from the supervisory position because of the disruption her appointment was causing and replaced her with a male. Ms. Jackson’s employer subsequently posted a vacancy notice for a supervisory position. Instead of Ms. Jackson, the employer hired a less qualified male for the position. Ms. Jackson sued her employer for gender discrimination, alleging violations of federal, state and local laws.
Outcome: Summary Judgment Denied: Jackson Was Entitled to Her Day in Court
Mr. Romero represented Ms. Jackson. The Court found that a reasonable jury could find that the failure to promote Ms. Jackson was motivated by sex discrimination in part because of her male co-workers’ opposition to her temporary appointment. They referred to Ms. Jackson as “bitch” and “ho.” In addition, Ms. Jackson’s manager believed that she was among the most qualified for the supervisory position but told her that she would not be promoted to supervisor because it was “not the right time” for a woman. Moreover, for a period of at least five years, there had not been a single female in the supervisory position. Thus, Ms. Jackson was entitled to her day in court.
Plaintiff alleged that HSBC Bank USA, N.A. (1) discriminated against her by terminating her because of her actual disability, record of disability, and/or perceived disability—namely, depression; (2) HSBC retaliated against plaintiff by terminating her for expressing her intention to file a formal complaint against her supervisor at work; and (3) HSBC subjected plaintiff to a hostile work environment based upon her disability. The Court concluded that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence with respect to her claims of discrimination based on disability, claim of a hostile work environment based upon disability, and claim that defendant retaliated against her for threatening to bring a formal complaint or lawsuit against her supervisor.
Representative Cases on Behalf of Employers
EMPLOYMENT LAW: FROM A TO Z
The Firm provides advice on all areas of employment law, with an emphasis on litigation avoidance strategies, preventive personnel practices, and policy audits to ensure compliance with laws affecting the workplace. We help companies achieve efficient, cost-effective resolutions to workplace disputes.
We advise business owners on state and federal employment law, help companies deal with difficult or problem employees, draft employee handbooks and policies, draft employment agreements and separation agreements, and offer guidance to employers on all matters involving the workplace in order to help them avoid disputes. The best time to contact a lawyer is before a dispute happens.
When a problem does arise, we provide aggressive representation and work to minimize your organization’s potential risk. We vigorously defend companies facing accusations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wage violations.
Examples of Case Results for Employers
The New Jersey Appellate Division held that an employee may be liable for taking clients to a new employer, even without an agreement not to compete, and the new employer may also be liable for being a “willing player” in the former employee’s disloyal activities. The employer had sued its former employee and his new employer for disloyalty, tortious interference, and unfair competition. The trial court granted summary judgment dismissal to the employee and his new employer, and the employer appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the centers’ disloyalty, tortious interference, and unfair competition claims, found that the employee had a duty of loyalty to the employer even if he didn’t sign a covenant not to compete. While an employee may arrange for new employment with a competitor while he is still employed, he may not solicit the employer’s customers or engage in other acts of secret competition while he’s still employed. The court found that there was enough evidence to establish not only that the employee breached his duty of loyalty to the employer but also that executives of his new employer knew about and were “willing players” in his tortious activities.
An employee filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 24, 2007, and another with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) on July 26, 2007, alleging discrimination based on sex and disability. She then filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, which the employer removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. At the close of discovery, the employer moved for summary judgment dismissing all of the employee’s claims. The District Court granted the employer’s motion and the employee appealed. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the claims by the District Court.
Petition Against the Commissioner of Labor
State of New York Industrial Board of Appeals, Docket No. PR 10-145
The employer filed a petition with the Industrial Board of Appeals to review an Order to comply under Article 19 of the Labor Law that the Commission of Labor issued against him directing him to pay a total amount due of $169,559.77 in wages due, with interest at 16% per annum calculated to the date of the order and civil penalties. After a hearing, the Board found that the Wage Order did “not reflect a reasonable or valid approximation of the hours worked” by the Claimant, whose testimony it found incredible. While the employer did not maintain the payroll records required by law, it nevertheless met its burden to disprove the employee’s claim based in part upon inconsistencies it showed in her testimony. As a result, the Wage Order was revoked and the Board found that the employer owed no wages for overtime.
An employee sued her former employer alleging employment discrimination on the basis of her race and age, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. The employee claimed that she was passed over for promotion and was terminated as a result of her race and age, was subjected to a hostile work environment and was retaliated against for raising complaints of race and age discrimination. The employer filed a summary judgment motion seeking dismissal all of the claims. The Court granted the motion in its entirety and dismissed all of the employee’s claims.
The Appellate Division First Department granted the employer’s petition to annul a determination by the Division of Human Rights finding it liable for an allegedly hostile work environment and awarding $250,000 in damages. As Gladstone observed, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” The Court held that the employer was prejudiced by a substantial delay between the filing of the complaint and the Division of Human Rights determination and annulled the determination.
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