Several years after legislation was first introduced, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act into law on March 31st, 2021, making New York the state to have most recently legalized recreational marijuana use by individuals who are at least 21 years old. This act has been several years in the making, with medical cannabis use having been legalized in 2014 and minor marijuana related offences having been decriminalized in 2019. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act goes into effect immediately, raising crucial questions about its implications for employment law in New York.
Originally, Section 201-d of the New York Labor Law prohibited discrimination in employment based on a person’s lawful, off-duty “recreational activities” or “political activities.” The MRTA expands upon this by explicitly making it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against persons who legally use cannabis before or after working hours, off the employer’s premises, and without the use of the employer’s property.
Despite this amendment, the MRTA is not intended to “limit the authority” of employers who enact or enforce policies related to cannabis in the workplace. Employers are not in violation if their employees are impaired by the use of cannabis at work, if the employer would be violating federal statutes (where marijuana is still illegal), or if the employer would be otherwise violating any state or federal mandates, including the loss of government funding or contracts.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect for employers is the need to identify “specific articulable symptoms” of cannabis use in the workplace to take action against impaired employees, although driving under the influence is strictly prohibited. New York is currently in the process of forming the Office of Cannabis Management which might further clarify details of this act at a later point. Employees who claim that their rights have been violated under Section 201-d may file a private lawsuit for equitable relief and damages.
Employers have many factors to consider, including reassessing pre-employment drug screenings, clarifying policies that might assess articulable symptoms of marijuana use, and readjusting any policies currently in place. Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt can aid clients in administrative proceedings involving labor and employment related claims arising under federal, state and local laws, and in arbitrations involving claims arising under collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts. Our Labor and Employment clients range from large public corporations to small privately owned businesses and individuals. To learn more about our capabilities and the employment cases we handle, click here.
If you are seeking legal counsel or help with a litigation or other claim, call our Employment Law Practice Group at 914-287-6144.Read More
Since 1937, Bleakley Platt & Schmidt has provided our clients and the community quality legal services. We represent clients from New York City through the Hudson Valley and beyond, leveraging decades of experience to achieve first-rate results.
Our years of experience and success speak for themselves, particularly in litigation practice for both local and national businesses. Our litigation practice areas include commercial litigation, construction, environmental, personal injury, product liability, toxic tort, and more. We also provide counsel on litigation avoidance as well as pre-litigation advice. We have supervised and managed a wide array of complex cases and can call upon other practice groups in our organization for their expertise.Read More
In July 2020, the State of New York passed the Truth in Lending Act, designed to improve transparency in borrowing costs. The bill requires clearer language from lenders so that businesses can more easily compare financing offers. According to the Responsible Business Lending Coalition, the bill requires all lenders to disclose annual percentage rate and repayment terms for loans. This law has important ramifications for lenders and has triggered further changes to State law regarding commercial finance.
In December 2020, for example, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law commercial finance legislation that mirrors the Truth in Lending Act’s disclosure requirements. Set to take effect June of 2021, the law requires disclosures of APR, payment amounts and fees, and terms of repayment for transactions of $500,000 or less. The law will provide for a penalty of up to $2,000 for each individual violation and up to $10,000 if the provider is found to have willfully violated the law.
The Truth in Lending Act and other recent disclosure laws further complicate the already treacherous landscape of local and national laws lending institutions must navigate. Compliance with these laws is essential to avoiding lawsuits. Bleakley Platt & Schmidt represents both foreign and domestic banks and financial institutions, agency lenders, municipalities and borrowers. Our expertise is available for any group that seeks clarity in lending law requirements.
Our firm has decades of experience and market knowledge that allow us to offer sophisticated and cost-effective counsel in commercial financing transactions. Some of our areas of expertise include secured or unsecured financial lending, commercial loan restructuring, lender liability litigation, and more. Read more about our commercial finance offerings here. Call Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt’s Commercial Finance Practice Group today at 914-287-6102.Read More
Amidst many changes in the transition from a Trump to Biden presidency, one that stands out in particular is the nomination of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as labor secretary. Mayor Walsh, a former leader of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council and former head of the Laborer’s Union, boasts widespread union support and mirrors Biden’s agenda for a worker-friendly labor department. This nomination could have widespread impact on current construction law standards for New York builders.
One possible change is a reworking of certain OSHA regulations and other standards. With Biden’s administration promising to quickly control and squash remnants of Coronavirus, Walsh could potentially expand infectious disease standards, requiring ICRA-type infection risk assessment and control plans beyond construction at health care facilities, medical vaccination, and medical removal protection paid to employees. It will be crucial for stakeholders to have clear, concise legal contracts in regards to infectious disease emergencies to continue construction operations.
Another consideration is the increased need for force majeure provisions, either written into an existing contract or as a freestanding provision. As governmental forces move in to control the pandemic, construction projects in New York face the potential for mandatory reduced workforce, delayed construction, or the prospect of another round of closure of non-essential construction work. Stakeholders must have clear and practical guidance in place around potential rework, project time delays, and poor performance, so no affected parties are caught by surprise.
Lastly, the Department of Labor’s new rule for determining independent contractors, set to go into effect March 2021, might be rescinded by the new administration. The rule decides worker classification on an “economic reality test” focused primarily on whether a worker is economically dependent on an employer, making it easier to classify a worker as an independent contractor. As independent contractors are not given the same benefits as employees, Walsh could take steps to expand protections to independent contractors for minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and overtime pay.
Regardless of the shifting tides in government and the legal changes at hand, Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt remains committed to protecting our construction clients during any phase, from development to execution. We are well-versed in local, state, and federal legislation. Our team is highly skilled in drafting and negotiating contracts, resolving payment disputes, prosecuting and defending damage claims, and any other hurdles you might face. To learn more about our capabilities and the way we can protect you, click here.
If you are seeking legal counsel or help with a litigation or other claim, call our Construction Law Practice Group at 914-287-6165.Read More
Mr. Rodriguez, a native of Yonkers, focuses his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, municipal law, intellectual property and real estate. He currently serves as the Yorktown Town Attorney, acting as legal counsel to the Town, its elected officials, department heads, and its various boards. He is also a Director of Lifting Up Westchester, a non-profit that helps Westchester residents overcome the challenges of poverty, homelessness, hunger, health and education, and Friends of Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters, a non-profit committed to sustaining the legacy of George Washington.
Before joining Bleakley Platt, Adam was the Director of Real Estate for Westchester County, where he negotiated complex commercial real estate transactions valued at over $100 million. Prior to his appointment as Director of Real Estate, he was an Associate County Attorney working on a number of high-profile cases, including the County’s affordable housing settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, LLP is Westchester’s preeminent law firm, with a more than 85-year legacy of providing superior legal counsel to residents and businesses of Westchester and Rockland Counties, as well as the entire Hudson Valley and Fairfield County, CT. To learn more about the Firm’s services, visit https://www.bpslaw.com/, or contact its offices at (914) 949-2700.Read More
In the next few years, infrastructure and construction are expected to be among the most promising sectors contributing to post-pandemic economic recovery. Their prominent role is due, at least in part, to the $275 billion funding plan introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in February 2020. In order for these projects to receive funding and approval to begin, however, they will have to comply with environmental laws and regulations.Read More
As 2020 draws to a close, many private companies in our region are struggling to maintain profits and remain viable during the severe recession caused by the pandemic. With several promising vaccines for the COVID-19 virus becoming available now, most business leaders believe that the pandemic will end this summer and the economy will rebound sharply in the second half of 2021. For many businesses, however, this may be too late. Private mergers and acquisitions activity in the Hudson Valley likely will accelerate in 2021 as local business owners evaluate the viability of their companies as currently structured and operated in the post-pandemic business environment. Some will be able to reconfigure business operations and others will seek to enter into corporate restructurings with competitors to survive, or to salvage remaining assets and good will value.
Local business conditions are affected by national issues and trends. The Biden administration is seeking to raise corporate and estate taxes, the likelihood of which hinges on which party retains control of the U.S. Senate. According to a recent study by Deloitte, 61% of U.S. dealmakers expect M&A activity to return to pre-COVID levels within the next 12 months. See, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/mergers-and-acquisitions/articles/m-a-trends-report.html. Many perceive pent-up demand, the need for business restructuring and high savings levels as conditions for an extremely active private mergers and acquisitions market in the second quarter of next year.
The Corporate Practice group at Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt is ready to assist business owners evaluate their options in light of this uncertain environment and the fiscal and business carnage left by the pandemic. Our firm has represented closely-held businesses in the Hudson Valley for over 85 years and offers high caliber representation at competitive rates. We coordinate our representation among various practice areas that are implicated in private mergers and acquisitions, such as corporate finance, employment and labor law, trusts and estates, intellectual property and litigation. In addition, we offer experienced business counsel in alternatives to traditional merger and acquisition transactions, such as strategic contracts, joint ventures and partnerships. Joint ventures and strategic partnerships can enable businesses to reposition themselves to respond successfully to changed business environments without owners losing control of their companies or selling or diluting their equity.
Our experienced attorneys provide counseling and representation in corporate finance, partnership matters, joint ventures, corporate restructurings, private mergers and acquisitions transactions and venture capital. To read more about our corporate law services, click here. Let our team of expert corporate law attorneys assist you and navigate your business through these challenging times. Call us today at 914-949-2700.Read More
As health care workers and long-term care facilities prepare to brave winter, the flu season, a possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections and regulatory scrutiny, enforcement and possible litigation, they can prepare by reviewing their corporate compliance plans and updating them as necessary to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations and to mitigate liability risks. It is particularly important to review and update corporate compliance plans this year for compliance with extensive federal and state health guidelines during COVID-19.Read More