Is your Parenting Plan back to school ready?

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Schools are reopening and are operating with new changes in the classroom and virtually. Parents must adapt and ready to navigate this new and fluid environment. Aside from preparing for the unknown school year, parents going through a divorce should consider how the changing environment and new way of school will effect their parenting time with their child(ren). Even parents who have parenting plans in place already may want to modify these plans to update them to include terms related specifically to their child(ren)’s daily education.

The following thoughts may be helpful to include in any new or updated divorce agreements and parenting plans:

(1) Whether one or both parents will make the decision if the child(ren) attend school in person or virtually and if optional, for how many days per week. And whether the decision is one for a short period of time or will continue for the entire school year.

(2) If virtual learning, will one or both parents be responsible for/ present to assist with the child(ren)’s learning/ education? (i.e. help them log in online; make sure they understand, do and submit the assignments; etc.)

(3) Will one or both parents be responsible for assisting with homework?

(4) Will one or both parents be able to work from home should the child(ren) have to quarantine or if the school closes? Or will one or both parents hire someone to assist with the child(ren)’s schooling at home while the parents are at work? Will that be someone from the family or will it be an additional cost and if paying the person, which parent or both will be responsible for any additional costs.

(5) Will one or both parents make the decision to change the child(ren) from in school learning to virtual learning? And if virtual learning, will that be for the whole school year or a quarter? Or how often will the decision be considered or changed? Does the child(ren) have any input into the decision?

(6) Will the child(ren) be able to see both parents if the child(ren) or parent(s) are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus?

(7) Will the child(ren) be able to attend college? Rent an apartment? Stay in a dorm? Will the parents agree to pay the same tuition if online learning at a university rather than in person learning at a college?

While there are a multitude of questions and unknowns in the current pandemic, some issues can be mapped out for the parents and the children so that there are a few less levels of mystery and anxiety for the parents and the children.

Click on this link to review other items of consideration in preparing a parenting plan.

Parties willing to discuss and resolve these issues can do so with the help of a mediator. If you seek assistance with preparing or modifying your Parenting Plans, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or sheree@donathlaw.com or by clicking here.

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New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law – Who Does it Apply to and How/When Does it Accrue?

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In April, New York enacted mandatory sick leave laws to go into effect on September 30, 2020. While the law goes into effect at the end of the month, employees cannot start using any accrued sick leave until January 2021.

The amount of leave depends on the size of the employer and the employer’s net income from the prior year. The same is true as to whether the employee is entitled to paid or unpaid sick leave.

Employers must count both full-time and part-time employees. It still unclear whether employees that work outside of New York would also be included in the count.

How is the amount of time due to employees calculated?

Employers with4 or fewer employees in any calendar year and a net income of $1 million or less = at least 40 hours of unpaid sick leave in each calendar year

Employers with 4 or fewer employees in any calendar year and a net income of more than $1 million = at least 40 hours of paid sick leave in each calendar year

Employers with 5 -99 employees in any calendar year = at least 40 hours of paid sick leave in each calendar year

Employers with 100 or more employees in any calendar year = at least 56 hours of paid sick leave in each calendar year

An employee is to be paid their regular rate of pay or minimum wage, whichever is greater.

How is sick leave accrued?

Sick leave is accrued at a rate not less than one (1) hour for every 30 hours worked.

Unused and accrued sick leave can be carried over to the following year. However, employers can limit the amount of time used in one year to 40 hours or 56 hours during one calendar year. The law does not require payment of unused, accrued sick time upon an employee’s departure.

Employers can also frontload the sick leave an employee is entitled to, but if they do, they cannot then reduce the amount of sick leave based on the actual time worked by the employee.

Sick leave will begin to accrue on September 30, 2020 to be used starting January 1, 2021. For those employees hired January 1, 2021 or after, the sick leave can be used once it accrues.

What are some reasons an employee can use New York Paid Sick Leave?

Employees can use sick leave:  

(1) to care for an employee or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or mental health condition, whether it has been diagnosed, or requires medical care at the time the leave is requested; or

(2) for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an employee’s or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or for preventative care for the employee or family member; or

(3) when an employee or the employee’s family member has been a victim of domestic violence, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking receives assistance, attends events related to this experience, or takes any other action(s) to protect the health of safety of the employee or employee’s family member.

NYPSL also offers definitions of relevant terms such as “family member”, “parent” and “child”.

Must employers keep records of the sick leave? Yes.

Employers must keep records of sick leave provided to employees for six (6) years. Employees can make oral or written requests for the leave. The employer is obligated to provide a summary of the leave accrued and used by the employee. Employers cannot require employees to disclose confidential information pertaining to the request.

Can an employer retaliate against an employee for their use of NYPSL? No.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who use NYSPL. Employees must be returned to the same position, same pay and other terms and conditions of employment they maintained prior to their use of the sick leave.

It is expected that the Department of Labor will provide additional guidance and regulations to assist employers/employees with this new law.

There are other leave laws that are currently in effect, including, without limitation: FMLA, New York Paid Family Leave, Family First Coronavirus Response Act, New York City Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law.

For more information about your rights and options, contact Sheree Donath at sheree@donathlaw.com or at 516-522-2743.

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Does Hybrid/Virtual Back To School = A Hybrid/Remote Work Schedule?

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As parents try to navigate the evolving requirements for their children to go back to school, they are also faced with the hardship of wondering what will happen with their employment. Faced with uncertainties about the number of days children may attend school in person or virtually, causes anxiety about their working relation. Some employers have extended work from home situations into next year, while others are mandating a return to in office work.

As school opening plans remain fluid, employees may want to engage in discussions with their employers now to determine their options and what will work best for the employer and the employee. In an effort to maintain a positive working relation, below are some possible options that employers and employees should consider:

(a) a full work from home option

(b) partial work from home option, with the flexibility to alter days in the office and working from home

(c) a flexible work schedule allowing employees to work different hours or different days to complete their work

(d) a modification of the employees schedule from a full time to part time schedule

(e) determining if the employer has or will provide onsite childcare or if the employee can bring their child to work with them

(f) seeking a childcare allowance as part of the employee’s compensation

(g) seeking a leave of absence

The above list is not an exhaustive list, but rather suggestions of how to modify an employee’s current work situation and would need to pertain to each individual situation.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employees can also seek time off to care for their children due to the closures of schools. For more information on the FFCRA click here.

Employers must be careful to abide by the laws in allowing parents to care for their kids. Employers making decisions regarding employees requests for accommodations must do so in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion. Failure to do so, may result in claims of gender, familial status and/or caregiver discrimination and retaliation, amongst others.

Employees working from home may also be entitled to expense reimbursement for those expenses associated with the cost of a home office (i.e. computers, printers, ink, pens, paper, etc.). This too should be discussed with the employer to determine what the employer’s expense plan may require for reimbursement.

For counseling and guidance on your current work situation or to find out your options, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.com.

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Virtual Divorce Mediation – How Does It Work And What Should I Expect?

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If your divorce mediation will take place virtually, there are a couple of things to consider. While divorce mediation typically occurred in an office setting many are now being conducted virtually.

To make your mediation process effective and successful, consider the following:

(a) The parties must act good faith. Both parties attending the mediation must want the mediation to work and be willing to work together to achieve that goal. If the parties do not act in good faith then the process will not be successful. The result – the parties will have wasted time and money.

(b) It should be clear to all attending the mediation who is on the virtual mediation. At the onset, the parties should disclose if they are alone or if they have counsel or any other person present with them. There should not be any unknown guests attending the mediation session. This sometimes occurs if the parties do not ask this questions in advance or if the party does not put on their video during the session.

(c) The parties should agree in advance, and be clear, as to whether the session is being recorded. It should be clear from the beginning that there will be no surreptitious recording of any of the sessions.

(d) The parties can be physically together or in different physical locations. The parties may be attending the mediation from the same house. If so, they can decide prior to the mediation if they are comfortable sitting in the same room with the mediator in another location or if they prefer to be in different physical locations in the same house or elsewhere.

(e) The parties should ensure they have a clear connection. Wherever the parties choose to log into the virtual mediation session, they should try out their connection prior to the mediation. It is important that the parties can hear and communicate clearly so their position can be known, heard and discussed.

(f) The mediator can do break out sessions with the parties or can create separate times to speak with each party, as needed.

(g) The parties should be prepared for the mediation. To help prepare for the mediation you may want to review the following articles: Divorce Mediation Checklist – Topics to Help You Prepare for Your Mediation and Divorce Mediation Checklist – What Documentation Should I Gather Before My Mediation?

(h) If there are children involved, you will need to come to terms on a parenting plan during your mediation. To help you prepare for a parenting plan discussion, you may want to review the following article: What Should be Included in a Parenting Plan?

Virtual mediation can be as successful as regular mediation. Mediation, however, is only successful if the parties are truly interested in the process, willing to allow the process to work, willing to compromise, willing to work together and willing to come to joint decisions.

For more information on mediation or to set up a mediation session, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.com.

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Some Helpful Links for Employers and Employees as Workplaces Begin to Reopen With Social Distancing Requirements, Among Others

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While many businesses will continue having their employees work remotely from home, others will begin bringing employees back to the workplace shortly. In doing so, there are guidelines that employers must follow and information that employees should be aware of upon their return.

The below links are provided to help both employers and employees to know their rights and obligations. These are meant to offer some guidance to the workforce, but is not an inclusive list of resources.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus

https://www.eeoc.gov/coronavirus

https://dhr.ny.gov/coronavirus-discrimination

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/media/covid19.page

Feel free to contact Sheree Donath for answers to questions that are specific to your rights as an employee and what you can or should expect from your employer.

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What is Your Ideal Job Offer? Rank Your Priorities

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Amidst the uncertainty in today’s world, one thing you can do is determine what your ideal job would look like if you had the ability to choose or create that role. Whether you are currently working from home, are working part time or are presently unemployed, now is a good time to reflect upon life and assess what is truly important to you in the future. In doing so, one thing to evaluate is what you want (or expect) from your job or your employer. There are many items to consider. Some of the considerations may be essential and others nothing more than a dream, but ultimately, if you don’t know what you are looking for, then you will never be able to achieve your goal.

So during this period of reflection, take the time and rank your job priorities. Below is an non-exhaustive list of items for consideration. Review them, consider them, then make a list in order of importance to you. This list is not in any particular order and is not meant to sway your decision as to importance. What is valuable to you, may not be valuable to your spouse, friend, relative, colleague, or a stranger on the street. This list is meant simply to assist you in creating your own categorization of what you are looking for in the currently changing world and job market. In creating your list, keep this thought in mind: in order to be truly happy with my job/career, I would like my job to offer … . Now start to create a list that you can use to obtain your goal.

Start your list with, “I am seeking the following from my job/career” and begin ranking your priorities so that you can negotiate these terms into your next offer letter/employment contract.

(a) How are you looking to be compensated? salary, commission, bonuses, equity, stock options, deferred compensation

(b) Will you receive or do you need health insurance?

(c) Are you looking for a flexible work schedule?

(d) Are you looking for the ability to work from home?

(e) Will you be required to relocate yourself and/or your family?

(f) Will you be subject to restrictions on your future employment (i.e. no non-solicitation or non-compete provisions) or will you have the freedom to change jobs?

(g) Are you going to be an at will employee or will you receive a contract with a set term of employment?

(h) Will you receive severance if you are terminated without cause or resign for good reason?

(i) Do you want/need paid vacation time? Paid sick leave? Paid time off?

(j) Are you looking to be a partner? Owner? Employee? Consultant?

(k) Do you want a specific title?

(l) Is this a position with promotional opportunities?

(m) Will you have direct or indirect reports? Do you want to manage others?

(n) Will you receive expense reimbursements?

(o) Are you being offered perks like gym membership, car allowance, monthly stipend, free coffee, etc.?

(p) Will you be working in a collaborative work environment?

(q) Do you have the ability to work on your own and without much oversight?

(r) Is there frequent business travel or no business travel at all?

Remember in making your list, that the above is not exclusive, so do not forget to add additional items to your list that are not listed above but may be extremely important to you.

Click here to contact Sheree Donath to schedule a consultation to obtain assistance in negotiating terms of new employment or if you have received a job offer that you would like to have reviewed, discussed and negotiated.

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Important Information to Understand the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

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The United States Department of Labor released guidance regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which goes into effect on April 1, 2020.

For more specific information related to this act, review the questions and answers posted at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

Donath Law, LLC is available to answer any questions that employees have regarding this new act or the current state of their employment. For assistance, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.

Coronavirus and How to Navigate/Modify Custody Arrangements and Parenting Plans – Creating a Temporary Parenting Plan

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In this time of uncertainty, many questions have arisen regarding joint custody and whether parenting plans that are in place should be followed or modified. Many parents are considering putting a Temporary Parenting Plan in place. Some of the issues being addressed in a modified/temporary plan include, among others:

(a) whether the children should stay with one parent for a certain period of time or if they should continue with the custody schedule in place;
(b) what happens if one of the parents gets sick;
(c) whether both parents will continue to have joint decision-making authority over health matters for the children;

If you decide to modify your parenting plan and determine that the children will remain with one parent, think of alternative arrangements so that the children will not miss quality time with the other parent. Try setting up times for the children to spend time reading or playing virtual games with the other parent by facetime or some other app that allows them face to face contact. Consider modifying your summer schedule and vacation schedule to allot for the other parent to have substantial time with the children once things get back to a more normal routine.

If you do modify the parenting plan, it should be done in writing. It should also be clear that there is an end date to this plan and that the original parenting plan would resume at that time. The end date can be a specific calendar date or something like when the children go back to school or the end of the school year. A date can also be set to determine if the modified plan needs to be extended. The children should be informed of the new temporary plan so that there is no confusion or added disruption to their lives.

A Temporary Parenting Plan can be put into place by the parties or with the help of a third party. For those seeking assistance in modifying their parenting plan, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw to schedule a time to speak.

The current health crisis should not be used as a means to alienate the other parent and ignore the custody arrangements and parenting plan you have in place. It is a time to try to keep your children safe and healthy.

Coronavirus and the workplace. What does this mean for me?

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One of the concerns with the current outbreak is how will the coronavirus affect the employee, the workplace and future employment. Employees and employers have many concerns about the changing environment and the unknown. So how will this new landscape be navigated? What should employees expect?

Per OSHA guidelines, employees are entitled to “workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Employers should remind their employees of their policies regarding sick leave. Employees should understand their rights if they get the virus, have to care for someone who was diagnosed with the virus, or are concerned about being in the workplace with others who may be in contact with those with the virus. Employees may be protected by Federal FMLA, NYS FMLA, or worker’s compensation if they got sick at work or during business travel.

Employees should be made aware as to whether they will receive pay during any required leave(s) of absence.

Employers should review their travel policies and the requirements that employees travel for business and to conferences and share this information with their employees so that the employees are aware of what to expect.

Employers must abide by the laws and company policy and reiterate their policies regarding, among others, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, anti-retaliation, and anti-bullying, in the workplace.

Employers should determine if their business allows for employees to work from home? Are all employees able to work from home? What happens if the employee’s children’s school closes? Employer’s policies, should be clear, consistent and non-discriminatory.

Employers should be mindful of requesting and requiring employees to provide too much medical information from their employees. Any medical information/exams must relate to the job and must be in line with privacy and discrimination laws.

The New York Attorney General’s office has recently issued guidelines specific to the coronavirus and the workplace. To view these guidelines click on the following link: https://ag.ny.gov/coronavirus.

For more information on your rights and options in the workplace during this time of turmoil, contact Sheree Donath at sheree@donathlaw or at 516-522-2743 to schedule a consultation.

Does Your Employer Have a Policy Prohibiting Workplace Romance or Requiring Co-Workers in a Personal Relationship to Sign a Love Contract?

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In an effort to protect against claims of sexual harassment, conflicts of interest, favoritism, retaliation and to ensure objectivity in the workplace, many employers maintain a policy that prohibit employees from engaging in a personal relationship with each. Other employers are taking a different approach and requiring employees engaged in a personal relationship to sign a “love contract.” So what do each of these mean and what is allowed at your company?

Your Employee Handbook may contain a “non-fraternization” policy. Such policy prohibits employees from engaging in a “office romance”, i.e. romantic or dating relationships, cohabitation, or marriage with a colleague. An employee’s violation of the policy may result in an employee’s transfer or termination. Alternatively, the policy may require that if a personal relationship does ensue, that the employees disclose this relationship to HR. Steps can then be taken by the Company to eliminate any real or perceived appearance of authority between the employees. The policy may allow continued employment by both employees, provided the employer ensures that there is no direct reporting relationship between the employees. If there is a direct reporting relation, the employer may reserve its right to transfer or terminate the employment of one of the employees. Employers may also have policies that limit knowledge of the relationship between the employees in the workplace, i.e. policies that state no kissing, no hand holding, no public displays of affection.

Some employers understand that employees who spend 40+ hours together may result in employees engaging in a personal relationship and feel that having a “no-fraternization” policy is not realistic for their company. Instead these Company’s require that employees in a personal relationship sign a “Love Contract“. A “Love Contract” is also known as a consensual relationship agreement that both employees are required to sign.

Love Contracts require that the employees acknowledge they are in a consensual, romantic relationship and that this relationship will not affect their jobs at the company. The agreement will require the employees to acknowledge the Company’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and the Company’s Anti-Harassment Policy. The employees agree not to take actions that will affect the other’s employment either positively or negatively, including not to take actions that will result in a conflict of interest and not to seek a position that would result in a reporting relationship between them. The Company requires the employees to acknowledge that if a conflict of interest is created or determined then one of them may need to be transferred, demoted, resign or be terminated.

Love Contracts also may require, among others, that the employees acknowledge that there will be no acts of favoritism; that the employees agree to notify the Company if the relationship ends; that the Love Contract is confidential and not intended to invade the employees’ privacy, but just to affirm that the employees will follow Company policies; and that if the romantic relationship ends there will be no workplace retaliation of any kind.

Employers have these policies to help protect the employer from potential liability and from claims of sexual harassment and retaliation, among others. Employers are also concerned about what occurs if the employees break-off the romantic relation and one of the two employees is unhappy with the other. The policies established are done with the intent to limit the Company’s exposure, if any.

Employees involved in an “office romance” or considering dating a colleague should find out what the Company’s policy is on such personal relationships.

A Love Contracts is a binding agreement. Just like an offer letter, employment agreement, non-compete agreement, severance agreement, etc. a love contract is a legal document. Any such agreement, should be reviewed and understood before you sign it.

To learn more about your rights at the workplace contact Sheree Donath at Sheree@DonathLaw.com.