What is New York’s Scaffold Law?

If you’re naming some of the most dangerous areas of work, then construction work is usually near the top of the list. Even when acting with extreme caution and using appropriate safety measures, there’s always potential for an accident that can cause injuries or even fatalities. Fortunately, there are laws in place that help to protect construction workers and give them certain rights. Specifically, in New York there is New York Labor Law 200, which includes the “Scaffold Law.” Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law (also known as The Scaffold Law) applies to construction workers who have experienced a fall or have been hit by a falling object. 

Strict Liability

New York’s Scaffold Law is the only law of this kind in the country that holds construction site owners and general contractors absolutely liable for scaffold accidents which result in injuries to construction workers. This means that when the owner/contractor doesn’t give the worker all the necessary safety equipment that they’re entitled to and the worker gets injured as a result, then their employer is held completely responsible. This also means that the construction site owner can’t transfer blame for the accident to a foreman or to the worker.  

Generally, this means that the mere act of failing to provide the scaffolding and the other safety equipment that meets the standards of the Labor Laws is typically enough for a worker to be compensated for their damages. 

What Type of Work is Covered?

The owners and contractors must give proper protection to workers who do specific work that is named in the statue. Many types of employees and independent contractors deal with scaffolds daily in their work, including window washers, painters, welders, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, to name just a few. However, Section 240 only covers certain types of scaffold work including the following:

  • Altering
  • Cleaning
  • Demolitions
  • Erecting buildings and erections of safety measures (braces, hoists, ladders, and pulleys)
  • Pointing
  • Repairs

If the worker was engaged in these specific activities, then the law applies to them, but it may also apply to a worker if they weren’t engaged in one of the activities at the time of the accident. In this case, the worker needs to be engaged in work that was in “furtherance of a project” that is one of the activities covered by the statute. 

Some of the specific provisions that the owners must comply with that are intended to protect workers include the following: 

  • A scaffolding which is positioned 20 feet or more above the ground or the floor must be equipped with a safety railing that rises a minimum of 34 inches, which is nearly 3 feet;
  • The railing must be securely fastened to the scaffold to prevent swaying;
  • The safety rail must enclose the full-length and both ends of the scaffold; and
  • The scaffolding must be able to hold 4x its maximum weight. 

Criticism of the Scaffold Law

The unique feature of “absolute liability” that the statute places on site owners and contractors who break the law makes Section 240 controversial. Many opponents have called for reforms because no other state has an equivalent law; they also believe that it raises construction costs for New York. 

Talk to a New York Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve experienced an accident while working at an elevated height and you think that the scaffold law may apply to your situation, then you should not delay talking to an experienced personal injury attorney. They can help you sort out the complexities of the law. If you’re covered, a MOWK personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation that you’re entitled to receive. 

gavel and bool

New York Court System

Why Racial Bias in the New York State Court System Matters to You 

The results of a review of racial bias in the New York State court system were published this month.

 On June 9, 2020, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore of the Court of Appeals and of the State of New York appointed Jeh Johnson as Special Adviser on Equal Justice to review hostile opinions about racial groups in the courts. This independent inquiry arose because of race-related issues across the country, including the death of George Floyd, which resulted in unrest and rioting. 

Results of the Independent Review on Racial Bias 

Not surprisingly, the review found that racial bias exists in the New York court system. The study cited specific examples of bias: 

  • Court officers could not report incidents of unfair treatment because of adverse career consequences or 
  • Court officers yelled more at litigants of color or at those who did not speak English as a first language 
  • Court officers are more likely to require litigants and attorneys of color to show identification or enforce the policy of no cell phone usage against them. 

We at MOWK Law understand that this widespread racial bias against individuals of color or from ethnic backgrounds can result in unfavorable results in court. As this study confirmed, we also understand that employees of color or ethnic employees may be treated unfairly in their employment in the New York court system.

Recommendations Resulting from the Review on Racial Bias IN New York Courts

Mr. Johnson and his team interviewed hundreds of people across the court system. They came up with many recommendations to address and fix racial bias problems that are rampant in the New York court system, including:

  • Court system’s leadership should have zero tolerance for racial bias, applicable to everyone working in the New York court system.
  • All court personnel should be trained against racial bias and informed about cultural sensitivity.
  • Jurors should be educated about biases and prejudices they are exposed to in society, including with specific rules and jury instructions.
  • Court personnel should adhere to a policy restricting use of social media for racially or culturally offensive remarks that reflect poorly on the court system. 
  • There should be better practices to improve complaints and investigations to better handle racial bias and race discrimination incidents.
  • Legislation and rules should be reviewed for possible bias or negative impact on people of color.

What this means for You

Have you been involved in the New York court system on a civil matter or criminal defense matter? If so, have you had a negative experience due to your race? Would any of the Special Adviser’s recommendations help address your experience in the New York court system? 

Have you been employed by the New York court system and have been treated unfairly because of your race or ethnicity?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may have recourse.

New York Lawyers Familiar with the Court System

If you have gone through the New York court system and have been treated unfairly because of your race or ethnicity, you may want to explore whether you have options to address your outcome. If you have been employed by the New York Court system and have been treated unfairly due to your race or ethnicity, you may have an employment action. 

The skilled attorneys at MOWK Law can help assess your situation. Please contact us for more information.

blurred car dashboard

Common Speeding Patterns of New York Drivers

Whether in a rush, not paying attention to the speedometer, or just blatantly disregarding the law, speeding drivers are a common sight on New York’s roads – with devastating consequences. The NHTSA cited speeding as the most common cause of fatal collisions, and further identified four distinct behavior patterns of speeding drivers. 

Understanding the different patterns helps people to recognize when you or the driver of your vehicle may be engaging in this dangerous driving behavior and take the necessary precautions to avoid it. This reduces your risk of motor vehicle accidents, avoids costly speeding tickets, gives you more time to react to road hazards, and helps you maintain greater control of your vehicle.  

Driver Speeding Patterns

The NHTSA has identified four speeding patterns that affect drivers in New York and the rest of the country: incidental, situational, casual, and habitual.

Incidental Speeding

Incidental speeding is referring to motorists that normally obey the speed limit. However, when they do speed, it’s usually not excessively over the legal limit when they are driving. The drivers also only engage in the behavior on a small percentage of their trips. Breaking the speed limit is usually unintentional, and they don’t continue to speed for the entirety of their trip.

Situational Speeding

A situational speeding pattern occurs when a motorist usually obeys the speed limit, but occasionally goes well above posted limits during a given trip. This is often due to a factor in the motorist’s situation when behind the wheel – this could mean:

  • Oversleeping
  • Medical emergency
  • Traffic congestion that has resulted in delays
  • Being late for obligations that include school, work, or family events

Casual Speeding

Casual speeding, also known as regular speeding, refers to motorists who frequently exceed the speed limit – but generally just for a fragment of their trip. The NHTSA believes this particular speeding pattern is associated with systematic or repeated behaviors of the driver. 

Habitual Speeding

The most dangerous pattern of behavior is habitual speeding. This means motorists who regularly disobey the speed limit – often going very high speeds – for the majority of most of their trips. 

New York Personal Injury Lawyers

Speeding New York drivers not only break the law but engage in negligent, dangerous behavior that puts themselves and others on the road at risk of car accidents resulting in catastrophic injury or death. It’s important to drive safety and within the speed limit, but to take action and hold a speeder who has injured you in a wreck responsible for your injuries. For help recovering the maximum possible compensation for your injuries, contact the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at MOWK Law today. Our attorneys have provided aggressive, comprehensive representation for injury victims for years. We know how to investigate and litigate complex motor vehicle accidents and deliver successful outcomes for our clients. Contact us today with your questions!

person holding employee rights sign

When Can I File a Complaint About My Employer’s Violations of COVID-19 Regulations in New York?

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted New York State and New York City to pass numerous laws and regulations to protect the public, control the spread of the virus, and help responsibly reopen the economy and society. Though New York has progressed several phases into ReOpen NY, the uptick in cases and hospitalizations across the country raises the potential for another shutdown or shelter in place order. If this does occur, it’s important for New York employees to know their rights at work related to COVID-19 regulations. 

Current Regulations

There are currently a number of regulations in place related to the pandemic and workers who do not work remotely. Currently, and presumably if another shut down or roll-back of reopening measures occurs the measures are:

  • If you work for a business not currently permitted to operate in New York State, your employer cannot force you to go to the worksite.
  • Employers must take safety and health precautions, including providing a face covering for you, ensuring compliance with social distancing, frequent cleaning and disinfecting and providing hand washing and sanitization stations.
  • Your employer must make as many adjustments as possible to reduce workplace density and promote remote work. 

There is also a New York law in place that provides sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits for employees who are mandated or under precautionary orders to isolate or quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to COVID-19. This means:

  • Your employer can’t force you to work when sick.
  • If you qualify for paid sick leave under the pandemic laws, your employer must pay it.

Coronavirus Workplace Complaints

If your employer has committed any of these prohibited actions above, you may file a complaint with New York’s Department of Labor to report the behavior and begin investigating your allegations. Your employer is not permitted to retaliate or threaten you if you complain the business is not taking proper safety and health measure, or shouldn’t be open for business. In addition, you may complain when:

  • You’re being forced to work for a business permitted to operate, but:
    • You don’t perform an essential service
    • You’re being forced to report to a worksite when you could have worked from home
    • Your employer isn’t taking adequate health or safety precautions
    • You or a family member are part of a group particularly vulnerable to COVID-19
  • Your employer has threatened or fired you for COVID-19 related reasons
  • Your employer hasn’t paid you wages owed for paid time off, hours worked, or earned sick pay.

New York Employment Lawyer

It’s understandable that both employers and employees have faced difficulties as we settle into a new normal. However, the resurgence of the virus and possibility of another shutdown are good reasons for both groups to review their rights and responsibilities if another lockdown occurs. To make sure you understand the laws currently in place and avoid costly legal missteps in the future, contact the experienced employment lawyers at MOWK Law to learn more about your particular situation. We’re here to explain how the law applies, advise you on your options, and look out for your best interests. Contact us today with your questions to get started.  

police car with lights on

How Has COVID-19 Changed Arrests and Arraignments in New York City?

No matter how it happens, being arrested and awaiting arraignment in New York is never a relaxing time in your life. During COVID-19, though, with limited courtroom availability, fewer staff present in court and holding, and the contagious nature of the disease – especially while being held in close quarters awaiting a court date – are downright anxiety provoking. Considering these very real concerns, it’s important you know what to expect if you are arrested in New York City for any crime until the pandemic is thoroughly under control.

Arrests

Though the police have a strong presence near protests and other hotbeds of activity associated with COVID-19, they still continue to arrest people for other crimes as well. Though arrests themselves for normal crimes are still very much the same as ever, don’t be surprised if law enforcement takes extra precaution when they are required to be in physical contact or close proximity with someone in custody – in short, masks and gloves will likely be worn during an arrest, transport to a station for booking, and during processing when fingerprints, photos, and handling your personal property are necessary. After processing, arrestees are transferred to any of several facilities to be held until arraignment depending on where they are arrested. 

Arraignment

New procedures in place make arraignments vastly different than before COVID-19. In Manhattan, for example, there will likely be fewer people in the courtroom when you appear in front of the judge for the first time. It’s become more common for judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to appear at the hearing remotely through Skype or Zoom and be shown on a large television on screen in the courtroom. Your attorney will be able to meet with you by videoconference before the arraignment starts, and that meeting is still subject to attorney-client privilege. 

After your meeting, the arraignment takes place and the matter of bail, advisement of your rights, and setting your next court date. If you are released without bail, you leave custody as normal. This is becoming more common in misdemeanor cases as opposed to leaving someone in custody to come up with bail before allowing their release.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Any arrest should be appropriately worrisome– and not just because you have been taken into custody and are put into close contact with other individuals during a pandemic while your case moves to arraignment. Additionally, a criminal record can last a lifetime even though COVID-19 will pass in the future, so it’s important you retain skilled, knowledgeable counsel like the experienced criminal defense attorneys at MOWK Law to try and secure your release from custody as quickly as possible and fight for the best outcome in your case. Contact us today to learn more, have your questions answered, and get out in front of a bad situation. 

US Patent and Trademark Office

Do I Qualify for the USPTO’s Expedited Patent Appeals Pilot Program?

Anyone who has ever dealt with the government when applying for a patent knows how slow the process can be. However, that may be changing for good. At the beginning of July this year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a pilot program called the “Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program” intended to fast track original design, plant, and utility patent application appeals. The program is a follow up to the Track One prioritized examination program, which successfully streamlined priority applications for both utility and plant patents. 

Goals of the New Pilot Program

The USPTO hopes the new program will advance applications more rapidly and streamline the process of ex parte appeals that take place in front of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The hope is that an application accepted in to the Fast-Track Program will have a decision on their appeal in no more than 6 months from the official acceptance date of their appeal into the Program. 

Guidelines Related to Program Acceptance and Length

Not everyone will be able to participate in the program. Currently to apply, an applicant must:

  • File a petition once the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issues the applicant a notice their appeal is on the docket
  • Pay a $400 petition fee

At the date the program launch, the USPTO stated the Fast Track program would run until the earlier of 500 petitions have been granted or July 2, 2021. At the end of the program, the USPTO will evaluate the results to determine whether the program should be finalized and made permanent as-is, or if additional changes are needed to make the program sufficiently successful. However, considering the success the Track One program had in a different stage of the patent application progress, it’s unlikely the program will fail and need additional work. 

New York Intellectual Property Lawyers

Anyone involved in creation of intellectual property knows the painstaking, time-consuming process and headaches involved in dealing with government agencies to get a grant of protection in the form of a trademark, copyright, or patent. Even though the process is slowly becoming streamlined, it remains to be seen if the new program implemented will be successful. Even if it is, the process is still complicated and can be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the process. For advice on the patent process, help with the application, or counsel if you find yourself dealing with an appeal of your patent application, experienced counsel can make all the difference. Contact the experienced New York intellectual property lawyers at MOWK Law today to let us answer your questions, learn more, and get started. 

person holding mask over a model of a house

What to Know About New York’s Updated Guidelines for Residential Real Estate Sales Showings During Coronavirus

As New York and the rest of the country have begun slowly emerging from stay at home orders in place to protect against the Coronavirus, real estate professionals are looking towards updating the way they conduct elements of residential real estate sales transactions. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has issued recommendations for New York City real estate agents based on guidance from New York State and City Health Departments and the CDC covering nearly every aspect of sales transactions. Below is a brief overview of what you may see in the course of your next residential real estate purchase. 

Accessing the Property In-Person

If in-person showings are imminent, not only are agents to abide by building and management protocols for showings, it’s also recommended they obtain signed limitation of liability forms from anyone visiting the property in-person. The form advises of potential COVID-19 exposure risks and requires the signatory to assume the risk of visiting the property. 

General New York Real Estate Showing Precautions

Agents should require everyone attending an in-person showing to complete a health screening questionnaire to determine if anyone:

  • Has received a positive COVID-19 test in the last 14 days
  • Experienced any COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days
  • Knowingly been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for or had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days

To comply with Fair Housing regulations, any agent taking this step must uniformly implement it with everyone prior to all in-person showings.

Not only are social distancing guidelines to be followed at all times, agents showing any spaces too small to conform with the 6-foot guidelines should schedule additional showings to accommodate all parties. 

Seller’s Agent Requirements and Guidelines

Per the CDC and other health authorities, there are some protocols a seller’s agent must comply with when in-person showings occur:

  • No handshakes.
  • The seller’s agent must clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces and areas before and after each appointment
  • The seller’s agent must also provide hand sanitizer or soap and paper towels to all visitors on arrival. 
  • The seller’s agent may not permit a buyer or their agent to touch anything in the property except essential surfaces such as handrails. 
  • The seller’s agent should, when possible, open windows to introduce fresh air.
  • The seller’s agent, along with all other parties, must wear face coverings. Failure to bring a face covering may be cause for cancellation or postponing the showing without penalty or prejudice.
  • Anyone may cancel without penalty or prejudice if they are presenting COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms. 

New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying residential real estate in New York was complicated enough prior to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. The alternation of the showing and sales process has made it difficult to keep up with what is expected of you not only as a potential seller or purchaser, but as a real estate agent as well. If you are unsure of your rights, responsibilities, or the process of residential real estate sales in the current climate, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law are here to answer your questions. We can evaluate your unique situation, provide counsel on the appropriate course of action, and look out for your best interests. Contact us today to learn more and get started. 

MOWK Blog - Trial Rights

Speedy Trial Rights for Defendants When New York Criminal Courts Close

In consideration of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, government agencies all over the United States have taken drastic measures to avoid gatherings and encourage social distancing to prevent the further spread of the virus. In response to the evolving crisis, New York has dictated all non-essential state court functions be postponed until further notice, which means courts have resorted to video to remotely preside over arraignments and suspended prosecution of many criminal cases where trials are being delayed. For criminal defendants it raises Constitutional questions about potential violations of their rights.

Speedy Trials

The sixth amendment of the US Constitution grants individuals the right to a speed trial by the jury of their peers. New York enacted speedy trial laws permitting different time frames by which different criminal case types must be ready for trial. Currently:

  • Felonies must be ready for trial within 6 months
  • Class A misdemeanors must be ready within 90 days
  • Class B misdemeanors must be ready within 60 days
  • Violations must be prepared within 30 days

Violations of these speedy trial laws can result in dismissal of criminal cases.

Exceptions to Speedy Trial Rights

Not all cases fall under these guidelines. Criminal defendants consenting to adjourn a case to a future date will extend the time limit, as the time of adjournment doesn’t count when calculating this requirement. However, sometimes courts will still dismiss a criminal case for violating the constitutional right to speedy trial defendants possess in these cases.

Considerations During Court Closures

If a defendant agrees to adjourn their case until a later date, it can assuage some concerns about whether their right to speedy trial has been violated. However, the question remains the extent to which a court closure and criminal case delay – the length of which is not yet certain – sufficiently violates their rights and merits a dismissal.

Law enforcement and some New York district attorneys have searched for alternate solutions which might avoid constitutional rights violations and address coronavirus concerns by saying some arrests and some prosecutions for low-level nonviolent offenses like shoplifting would not go forward. However, for defendants in custody awaiting trial or who have been arraigned and are out on bail, the future is not so clear.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being arrested and charged with a crime is disconcerting for anyone, but the potential for exposure to coronavirus in cramped jails and suspension of court hearings leaving defendants in limbo and with their constitutional rights violated is even more unsettling. To protect your rights, it’s critical to work with someone who has your best interests at heart who understands how to fight for your rights. The criminal defense attorneys at MOWK Law understand how stressful your situation is and will work to bring about a speedy resolution for you in these uncertain times. Contact the experienced team today to have your questions answered and get started.