How The New Overtime Law Will Affect You

May 20th, 2016

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The White House recently announced a major change to the current overtime system that will put more money into the hands of middle-class workers. As of December 1, 2016, anybody making less than $913 per week ($47,476 per year) will automatically be eligible for overtime pay at a rate of time and a half when they work more than 40 hours in a week regardless of if they are a salary employee or classified as a manager.

The current threshold is set much lower at a rate of $455 per week ($23,660 per year). Many workers who now earn a salary of more than $455 per week are given some managerial duties or a managerial classification and are therefore ineligible for overtime under the current system. The Department of Labor estimates that this change will have a positive effect for more than 4 million middle-class workers.

What does this mean for you?

If you are a salaried employee making less than $913 per week you will be automatically eligible for overtime. Your employer may choose to:

  1. Pay you overtime.
  2. Limit your ability to work more than 40 hours. This would allow you to make the same amount of money while increasing your free time.
  3. Give you a raise. If you make just under the threshold amount, your employer may give you a raise that puts your base salary just over the threshold so that they do not have to pay you overtime.

What should you do?

No matter what approach your employer takes, you should keep your own record of your hours and check that against your pay stub to make sure they are compensating you for the correct amount of time at the correct rate. It is also a good idea to keep your own record of the vacation/sick days that you use and check that regularly against your employer’s records. This will help protect you against possible wage theft.

What is wage theft?

Wage theft is when an employer does not pay an employee everything they are owed for the time worked. The most common forms of wage theft are:

  1. non-payment of overtime
  2. not paying for all the hours worked
  3. not giving workers their last paycheck after a worker leaves a job
  4. not paying minimum wage

According to the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft costs American workers as much as $50 Billion per year.

What other rights should you be aware of?

You have the right to not be discriminated against in employment matters due to your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Some workers in New York State also receive special legal protections due to the nature of their work. These include:

Volunteer Firefighters and EMTs receive special protections under the New York State Workers’ Compensation laws.

Generally speaking, any injury sustained while performing your duties as a volunteer firefighter or EMT will be covered. Check out one of our previous blog posts on the subject for more information.

Construction workers in New York State are guaranteed a safe place to work

There are several state and federal laws that protect construction workers. One of these laws is New York Labor Law 200, which requires property owners and contractors to fix hazardous conditions and ensure safe work practices. This includes maintaining and storing all equipment to provide adequate protection for workers. The law protects both employees and people who frequently visit job sites.

New York Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law, is a pillar of workplace safety in the state of New York and covers workers who work at dangerous heights or are at risk of injury from falling objects. The Scaffold Law requires property owners, contractors, and employers to provide proper ladders, scaffolds, harnesses, and other equipment, holding them liable for injuries which result from improper or malfunctioning equipment.

New York Labor Law 241 sets safety regulations for many hazards faced by construction, demolition, and excavation workers.  These include slipping and tripping hazards, injury from falling objects or hazardous openings, material storage and handling, demolition and disposal of debris, and more. Property owners and contractors are responsible for any violation, whether committed by their employees, a sub-contractor’s employees, or any other contractor.

If you believe that you have been a victim of wage theft or if you or a family member has been injured at work, please contact us today at 716-852-1888 for a free case evaluation.

 


Frank Dolce on Advisory Board of WNY Occupational Health Center

March 29th, 2015

occupation med_ECMCThe Center for Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine of Western New York has recently opened in affiliation with the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC). It is the first of its kind in Western New York. Occupational and Environmental Medicine is devoted to the prevention and management of occupational and environmental injury, illness, and disability. The Center is home to a full-time Occupational Health Doctor and is designed to assist workers who have been injured on the job or who are suffering from an occupation related illness. Occupational Health Doctors care for injured workers on a daily basis and have training and experience in treating workplace related medical conditions that other physicians do not. The Center accepts Workers’ Compensation insurance, assuring that no injured or sick worker will be turned away.

Partner Frank Dolce, a longtime advocate of workers’ rights and a founding member of the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH), is a member of the Center’s Advisory Board and played a role in securing funding from the New York State Department of Health. He explained the important role that the new center will play in the lives of Western New York’s workers.

“In the past, if you got injured on the job, you would go to the emergency room for a minimal amount of acute treatment and would then get sent on to your primary care physician who almost always refuses to take Workers’ Compensation insurance.” Said Dolce. “Now, with the creation of the Occupational Health Center, if you get hurt, you have a place to go with a physician who is trained specifically to recognize and treat occupational causes of medical issues. It’s a huge win for workers!”

If you need medical assistance because of an injury you sustained on the job or believe that you are suffering from a job-related illness or disability, you should contact the Center for Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine of Western New York today. The Center is located on the first floor of ECMC and can be reached at 716-898-5858.

If you are injured at work, do not hesitate to contact Dolce Panepinto at 716-852-1888 for a FREE CASE EVALUATION.


Special Legal Protections for Volunteer Firefighters and Volunteer EMTs

February 4th, 2015

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Volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs are protected by New York State’s Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law and the New York State Volunteer EMT Benefit Law respectively. As extensions of the Workers’ Compensation Law, these laws protects individuals who sustain injuries while performing these volunteer jobs.

If you are working as a volunteer firefighter or volunteer EMT you may be entitled to financial compensation, even if you do not lose time from work. Types of injuries covered:

  1. Injuries sustained while traveling to and from a call
  2. Injuries sustained during training exercises
  3. Injuries sustained during fund-raising activities
  4. Injuries sustained while executing any of your duties as a firefighter or EMT

If you are injured while volunteering in any capacity you should contact Dolce Panepinto Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Holly Schoenborn and Colleen Malchow. Holly and Colleen have years of experience fighting against insurance carriers to maximize their clients’ benefits. Our services will cost you nothing out of pocket. We only receive attorneys’ fees if you receive financial compensation for your injury. If you do not get paid, we do not get paid.

If you or any of your family members have suffered an injury while working as a volunteer, contact us today at 716-852-1888 for a free case evaluation.


Dolce Panepinto: Committed to Our Community

September 30th, 2014

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Dolce Panepinto takes our commitment to our community very seriously. We are grateful to be in a position to assist local organizations who are dedicated to bettering Western New York. Just as in years past, we have been very active in the local community as we continue to look forward to Buffalo’s bright future.

This school year, Dolce Panepinto donated school supplies to underprivileged children across the City of Buffalo. In cooperation with a number of Buffalo Public Schools, we filled the complete school supply list for over 150 grade school and junior high school students. The firm purchased over 150 backpacks and our employees spent a handful of nights and weekends shopping for supplies and filling backpacks so that students would be able to start the school year with all of the necessary supplies.

Our firm strongly believes that a quality education is of the utmost importance. We understand that the future of our community lies in the hands of our children and we think it is extremely important to supply them with the tools necessary to make the most of their education. Many of the students have since sent us incredibly heartwarming thank you cards and letters. We appreciate their gratitude and hope to expand the outreach of this initiative in coming years.

As part of our ongoing commitment to labor, Dolce Panpeinto was proud to sponsor the Buffalo Laborers’ Local 210 Scholarship Fund Danny Fulcher Memorial Golf Outing. The event raised money for the Local’s college scholarship fund and gave the hard-working laborers a much needed day of fun and relaxation. A number of Dolce Panepinto attorneys participated including longtime Local 210 Laborer Donald Panepinto, and Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Holly Schoenborn and Colleen Malchow. A great time was had by all and we were very happy to have been a part of it.

This past August, an organization known as The Dude Hates Cancer held their annual fundraising bowling tournament. Dolce Panepinto was on hand to sponsor the event and a number of employees formed a team and participated as well. The Dude Hates Cancer holds annual fundraising tournaments in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Buffalo. All of the proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). This year’s Buffalo event raised over $44,000. Since its inception in 2006, the Dude Hates Cancer has raised over $500,000 for the LLS. A great time was had by all and we cannot wait to do it again next year.

Attorney Colleen Malchow recently became a member of the Board of Directors of the Lancaster Youth Foundation, an organization which supports programs and activities that provide opportunities for youth development and delinquency prevention. Ms. Malchow has helped organize a number of successful fundraising activities that our firm was happy to support, including Trivia Night and Teen Idol.

Dolce Panepinto considers it a privilege to be in a position to support these wonderful organizations and initiatives. We are always looking for opportunities to expand our outreach. If you would like to speak to us about a sponsorship opportunity, please contact Carlos Torres at ctorres@dolcepanepinto.com or call 716-852-1888.


New York Guarantees a Safe Place to Work

August 6th, 2013

New York Safe Place to Work - Scaffolding

You may not be aware, but you have the right to work in a safe place in the state of New York.  (When I was a union construction worker, I was unaware of these laws.)  As an attorney, it is my passion to help enforce these laws and protect my fellow workers.

This simple yet essential right to a Safe Place to Work is guaranteed by several state and federal laws. Property owners, contractors and employers must comply with the safety laws or they can be held liable in court.

Workers typically collect Workers’ Compensation benefits for on the job injuries or occupational diseases. However, when those injuries or diseases result from a violation of one of New York’s Safe Place to Work laws, injured workers may sometimes pursue a third party lawsuit and seek damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering that are not covered by Workers’ Compensation claims.

One of these laws is New York Labor Law 200, which requires property owners and contractors to fix hazardous conditions and ensure safe work practices. This includes maintaining and storing all equipment to provide adequate protection for workers. The law protects both employees and people who frequently visit the job sites.

New York Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law, is a pillar of workplace safety in the state of New York and covers workers who work at dangerous heights or at risk of injury from falling objects. The Scaffold Law requires parties with the resources and knowledge of safety to provide proper ladders, scaffolds, harnesses and other equipment. Labor Law 240 applies to property owners, contractors, and employers, holding them liable for injuries which result from improper or malfunctioning equipment.

New York Labor Law 241 requires owners and contractors to comply with the New York State Department of Labor’s Industrial Code. The law sets safety regulations for many hazards faced by construction, demolition, and excavation workers.  These include slipping and tripping hazards, injury from falling objects or hazardous openings, material storage and handling, demolition and disposal of debris, and more. If you have any injury on a construction site, it is important you talk to experts like us to determine whether you were denied a safe work site.  Property owners and contractors are responsible for any violation, whether committed by their employees, a sub-contractor’s employees, or any other contractor.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces federal regulations that provide employees with a safe workplace. If an employer fails to follow these standards, they can be subjected to investigations and possibly fined.

If you or someone you love was injured as part of a construction project of any kind, let us help you. If an employer, owner, or contractor violated one of these Safe Place to Work laws, Dolce Panepinto will help hold them responsible. Just contact us, and we will use every available law to help you and your family get the justice you deserve.

– Marc Panepinto

Image credit: Pat Guiney on Flickr

 

 

 

 


Join us for Clean Air Coalition Night at the Bisons’ Game!

August 2nd, 2013

Buffalo Bisons logo

It’s always nice when you can have fun while supporting a great cause. You are in luck, because one of those opportunities is coming soon. Please join us on Thursday, August 8 at 5:30PM for Clean Air Coalition Night at the Bisons’ game. Tickets are only $11, and proceeds go to support the Clean Air Coalition of Western NY. It’s a double-header, so there will be plenty of action at Coca-Cola Field that night!

One principle we all share at Dolce Panepinto: the courtroom is not the only place to fight for a better, safer world. There are plenty of worthy causes in our community, and one of them is the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. I am a board member because I firmly believe in the organization’s important mission.

The Clean Air Coalition develops grassroots leaders who organize their communities to run and win environmental justice and public health campaigns. The Clean Air Coalition was formed by residents of Tonawanda, NY who took action against Tonawanda Coke, a local foundry coke plant that was releasing carcinogenic emissions into the atmosphere. Recent air samples had contained benzene levels which were 75 times higher than the pertinent EPA guideline. The Clean Air Coalition’s efforts eventually won the support of elected officials and led to a federal raid and the indictment and conviction of Tonawanda Coke’s environmental control manager. The legal battles continue to this day.

The Clean Air Coalition isn’t just about holding polluters accountable, it’s about making positive changes to improve the environment and public health. Current campaigns include: improving Buffalo’s emergency planning system; reforming campaign finance laws; dealing with the West Side’s asthma epidemic; and more.

This is an organization which is working for the benefit of all the citizens of Buffalo and Western New York. Like most charitable or public interest groups, the Clean Air Coalition is only able to do its work because of donations and volunteers. Every little bit counts. So if you don’t have plans for August 8, come out and support a group that is fighting for environmental justice.

– Sean Cooney

 

 

 

 


Contingent fee agreements explained

July 16th, 2013

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It’s not uncommon for attorneys to receive questions about billing and payment. This is especially true in our line of business where payment is dictated by a contingent fee arrangement. This is quite understandable; most of our clients at Dolce Panepinto, P.C., are working-class people with families. They know the importance of sticking to a budget, and they want to make sure they can afford the cost of litigation – particularly when medical bills and other expenses are accumulating. (Incidentally, clients who are trying to find ways to save money should take a look at the American Bar Association’s tips on reducing legal fees and expenses.)

So what is a contingent fee arrangement? A contingent fee arrangement is an agreement between an attorney and a client where the client agrees to pay the attorney a percentage of any money recovered through a favorable verdict or settlement. Under a continent fee arrangement, the attorney pays all the costs and absorbs all the expenses related to pursuing the lawsuit, including, but not limited to, filing fees; time spent conducting legal research, drafting and filing motions; negotiating settlements; preparing and trying the case; and expert witnesses.  If the attorney does not recover any money, then the client does not owe the attorney anything.

A contingent fee arrangement is a cost-effective way for a plaintiff to finance a lawsuit. At times it may actually be the only way to finance a lawsuit because a plaintiff might not otherwise be able to afford it.  After all, litigation can be very expensive and there are lawful tactics used by defendants and insurance companies to make the process take longer, thereby increasing the cost. Contingent fee arrangements are commonplace in personal injury cases such as automobile accidents and workplace injuries.

Dolce Panepinto, P.C., is happy to represent our clients on a contingent fee basis because our clients deserve the chance to have their day in court. Our clients have endured significant (and often expensive) hardship and don’t need the extra burden of trying to raise money to file a lawsuit. But the mere fact that we offer a contingent fee arrangement does not separate us from the competition. What does separate us is our decades of experience, our tireless work ethic, our commitment to representing working families, our strategic team approach to every case, and our proven results.

It is important for potential clients to understand the significance of slogans like “No Fee Guarantee.” It is simply a marketing tactic used to quickly explain the contingent fee arrangement, which is widely used by law firms all over the United States. There’s nothing wrong with describing a contingent fee arrangement that way. In fact, it is an accurate representation of the arrangement. But it should not be used to distinguish between law firms. We hope you choose us, not because of the contingent fee arrangement we offer, but because of our experience, work ethic, commitment, and proven results.

Image credit: Out.of.Focus on Flickr

 


New Medical Treatment Guidelines from the New York State Workers Compensation Board

June 12th, 2013

I’ve been a workers compensation attorney since 1987 and have assisted thousands of families through difficult times. I’ve helped them minimize financial damages resulting from an accident and enabled many of them to keep their homes. I’ve developed good working relationships with the judges on the compensation board and with the attorneys representing insurance companies. I get a great deal of satisfaction from helping people who have been injured through no fault of their own navigate the rather impersonal workers compensation system.

I’m here to tell you that all my experience, professional relationships and desire to help still aren’t enough to guarantee the best possible representation for my clients. I also have to pay attention to developing trends in workers compensation, especially court cases and new laws and regulations.

We have a moral duty and professional obligation to stay up to speed on new laws and changes to existing laws. In 2010, the New York State Workers Compensation Board released new medical treatment guidelines which put stringent limitations on physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. These guidelines were recently modified, rolling back some of the tougher requirements.

Being a workers compensation attorney requires constant attention to pending cases and proposed new laws, but it pays off for our clients. Not only are we able to provide guidance to our clients – we are able to advise the chiropractors and doctors who treat them. So when a medical provider has questions about which forms need to be filled out or which treatments require prior authorization or a variance from the new medical treatment guidelines, we are able to advise them based on decades of experience plus the latest information.

Dolce Panepinto will be offering complimentary training sessions for groups of medical providers to guide them through the new medical treatment guidelines for mid and low back injuries. These training sessions will help chiropractors and other medical providers understand the new requirements and set up proper procedures. Medical providers who are interested in this training should call us at 716-852-1888 or email us at lawyers@dolcepanepinto.com.

In closing, I should note one of the things I really like about working with Dolce Panepinto: the team approach to representing our clients. It’s a great group of tough, smart attorneys that works together instead of passing off responsibilities. We all have our different professional focuses and as a result are better able to examine the interplay between different areas of law like workers compensation and personal injury. This ensures that our clients receive the best possible legal representation and often better outcomes for their cases.

– Jeremy Schnurr


Erie County’s Suit against Fannie & Freddie

April 30th, 2013

Residents of Erie County may have recently read about the lawsuit Dolce Panepinto filed against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the county’s behalf. We believe that Fannie and Freddie, as publicly-traded companies, are not entitled to the same state tax exemptions as federal agencies. By not paying the same taxes that every other Erie County resident or private corporation must pay, Fannie and Freddie have deprived the county of more than $2 million in much-needed revenue.

Our participation in this case has been met with some resistance, with skeptics questioning our expertise since our website doesn’t list mortgage our housing law among our practice areas. These skeptics are either unfamiliar with the nature of this case or deliberately misleading the public. This case is about arguing the meaning of a statute that determines how corporations are chartered. This case comes down to litigation against well-financed corporations, and we will use our partners’ 106 combined years of experience doing precisely that to vigorously pursue judgment for the residents of Erie County.

It has been suggested that our firm was somehow given a no-bid contract to pursue this case due to past political campaign contributions. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We offered to represent Erie County after studying similar cases unfold in other states. For roughly a year, we followed related litigation and consulted with law professors and other experts around the country. After deciding that Erie County had a viable claim against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we approached county officials.

Knowing that the county could not afford the upfront costs of litigation, we took the case on a contingent fee basis. That means we take all the financial risks as we invest our own time and money into the pursing the lawsuit. If we prevail, we will make a percentage of the money Fannie & Freddie must pay to the county. If we lose, we won’t recover any of the time or money we invested. Either way it won’t cost Erie County taxpayers a dime.

Money is central this case, but it has nothing to do with political donations. Rather, it’s millions in tax revenue our community desperately needs – money for schools, parks, law enforcement and other critical services. We are talking about a very commonsense principle of fairness here:  giant, publicly-traded companies worth billions of dollars should have to pay taxes just like the rest of us.

We have the same mindset when we represent our other clients – people who have been injured on the job or who have lost a loved one or who are facing mounting medical bills. We routinely represent working-class individuals who would otherwise have no means of seeking just compensation through our legal system. Just as we are happy to represent individual working families, we are honored to represent the working families of Erie County.

Residents who are interested in the lawsuit should stay tuned – we’ll be sure to post about major developments.