75 new detectives to protect the Bronx

New York City and the NYPD has stated a victory in finding that the number of homicides has gone down, but in the case of what has become New York’s most violent borough-the Bronx-the NYPD has gone to new lengths to bring it up to par with Manhattan and the rest of the five boroughs.

According to the New York Times, the NYPD announced last week that they would be sending close to 80 new investigators to the Bronx. A study published by New York Times analyzed deployment data showing that officers in the Bronx dealt with the highest felony caseloads in the five boroughs. The New York Times study published just a few weeks prior to this announcement determined that “Precinct Detectives in the Bronx last year carried out more than twice as many violent felony cases on average as detectives in Manhattan or Staten Island, and over 50 percent more than those in Brooklyn or Queens.”, noted in the article linked below. The study also showed that budgetary resources are being invested elsewhere, such as counter-terrorism instead of the deployment of officers. This ultimately resulted in the Bronx not feeling the same relief of lower crime rates that were felt in Manhattan and the rest of New York City. The decision to deploy the 75 white-shield investigators, who are on track to become gold shield detectives, has been met with support from NYPD officials and the Bronx District Attorney as well as criticism from other New York City public officials. Letitia James, the City’s public advocate, expressed that this problem in the Bronx had been ignored for too long. The NYPD Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce, has told New York Times that the deployment should be underway by the end of the month.

Within the last year, there has been a growing trend of readjusting the staff of jails and prisons to keep the facilities safer for both Correction’s Officers and inmates, and a trend of public employee reform in general. This year began with legislative measures being announced to protect transportation workers and construction workers, and it looks like this trend has now transferred over to the Police Departments. This also comes in the wake of the new contract agreement between Mayor de Blasio and the PBA, the first in 5 years.

Police to Strengthen Force in New Yorks’ Most violent Borough

MTA gets First Female Interim Executive Director

2016 wrapped up successfully for the MTA and their former CEO and Chairman, Tom Prendergast. Two successes, namely, were the construction of the Second Avenue Subway and the tentative contract agreement with the TWU Local 100. Now, with a new year and new posts to fill, the nation’s largest transportation system will see their first female Interim Executive Director, Veronique Hakim.

Veronique Hakim has been appointed to the leading position from Governor Cuomo. Hakim has close to 30 years of experience with public transportation, not just at the MTA but also with New Jersey Turnpike Authority and New Jersey Transit. She served as Executive Director of the NJTA in 2010 and was named to lead the NJT in 2014. This is no small feat, considering NJ Transit is the largest statewide public transit system in the nation. Hakim had a hand in integrating the MetroCard into the subway systems along with leading several large construction projects as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. In handling the MTA’s multibillion-dollar construction program, not only did she oversee the creation of the Second Avenue Subway Station, but also the LIRR East Side Access and the Number 7 Subway Extension. She is also currently the President of New York City Transit, a position Prendergast was in before he was Chairman and CEO of the MTA. In an article on TheCheifLeader.com, Governor Cuomo gives his praise. “Ronnie Hakim is ready to embrace the challenge of running the nation’s largest transportation network during this transition,” Mr. ­Cuomo said in a statement. “She is a true transportation professional who has dedicated her life to improving the commute for millions of New Yorkers, and I am confident that in this new role she will continue doing that as we reimagine and modernize the MTA for the 21st century.”, Cuomo said to The Chief Leader.

Please see the article linked below for further information.

Cuomo Gives Hakim Shot To Take Helm at MTA

 

 

Nassau County COBA fighting poor jail searches

An internal investigation into a former Nassau County jail nurse has reportedly been mishandled and Nassau County COBA President is fighting for answers.  After a long series of letters, articles, press conferences, and investigations, former Nassau County Jail nurse Chantiel Cox was charged and arrested February 3rd, 2017 for smuggling contraband to inmates.

Nassau County COBA President Brian Sullivan received a series of letters from the Nassau County DA’s office painting a disturbing picture of an obstructed internal investigation of the former nurse. She and two other accomplices were allegedly smuggling razorblades, cellphones, synthetic drugs and other items to inmates. She initially was fired, without charges, from the jail following an internal investigation of the smuggling ring. Prosecutors weren’t formally made aware of the internal investigation. According to a video from Ucomm.com of a press conference that took place last month, the Nassau County DA found out through outside sources and then demanded a briefing from jail administration.  Following the briefing, the DA’s office conducted its own investigation and then later arrested and charged Cox.  An article on Ucomm.com paints a history of negligent facility searches and a general trend of searches being carried out poorly when violent situations arise. The same article states that for nearly a year after having knowledge that the nurse in question was bringing contraband into the correctional facility, there was no facility-wide search ordered for weapons, drugs, cell phones or other items.

A series of letters from the Nassau DA’s office sent to the Nassau County COBA President dating back to December of 2015, as referenced by Newsday, is what set the Union’s appeal for another investigation into motion. Prosecutors learned of the smuggling ring in December 2015 after the DA’s office was alerted by outside sources about the scheme. Chief Assistant DA, Albert Teichman, followed up by saying that not only was the investigation immediately conducted but that even though the sheriff’s initial investigation was mishandled, “the failures were non-criminal”. Ultimately, he later stated that he also asked County Attorney Carnell Foskey that all county agencies be reminded the police or prosecutors ” must be notified of any potential criminal investigation”, as quoted from the Newsday article about this case published in January. There was no question during this correspondence that the DA’s office or police should have been formally and properly consulted about the initial internal investigation.

The mishandled investigation into this matter only facilitates the unsafe landscapes of jails for inmates and correctional staff alike. If individuals who work inside these correctional facilities are overworked and understaffed, it creates a dangerous environment. Someone taking advantage of their access to secured and controlled spaces to further distribute materials, some that inmates can make in the jail without outside help, perpetuates the already vicious cycle of violence in jails. For more information about this case, please see the links below.

 

Correction officers union calls for probe of Nassau sheriff’s office

DA: Jail contraband probe involving nurse ‘mishandled’ internally

When the Sheriff Obstructs Justice

Nassau COBA holds Press Conference at the Nassau Legislature

 

 

 

Transportation Workers Protection Act announced

New York, on both the state and city levels, has been hard at work reforming employee protections. Recently, City officials have been proposing legislation to protect construction workers. The effort has received wide support from other City officials and the Buildings and Construction Trade Council of Greater New York. The individuals supporting the bill also felt some push-back from the NYC Housing Authority.

Now the same effort has been introduced to the transportation sector. Recent measures have been made by Governor Cuomo to protect employees of airports. Similar to the bill mentioned above for construction workers, this piece of legislation also stresses preparedness and protocol for emergency response personnel so they can carry out their duties more efficiently. The proposed bill, to be titled the Transportation Workers Protection Act, will specifically include airport workers in the list of protected employees. An article, linked below, on WorkersCompensation.com, states, “Under current law, on-the-job assaults against transit employees – including bus operators, train operators, ticket inspectors, and conductors – are considered Class D felonies. However, current law does not specifically include airport workers in this category of transit employees. This new law will remove any ambiguity and explicitly include airport workers among those whom an assault against would result in increased penalties.”

The plan to draft the legislation was announced on January 25th by Governor Cuomo with the company of Hector Figueroa, President of Airport Workers’ Union 32JB.

NY Gov Announces Legislation to Protect Workers at NY Airports

Bill proposed to protect, better train New York City construction workers

In the past two years, thirty city construction workers have passed away as a result of work-related accidents. It goes without saying, even one life lost is one too much. Gary Labarbera, President of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, wrote an article for Daily News New York that supported the bill proposed by three New York City leaders to protect construction workers. “Housing and Building Committee Chair Jumaane Williams and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca have submitted a bill, with the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, that would promote worker safety by requiring that construction workers have such skills and training.”, said President Labarbera to Daily News New York. As the saying goes, knowledge is power and union construction workers are thoroughly trained through NYSDOL-approved programs. The bill, if passed, will call for a more thorough training of both union and non-union workers. Labarbera also stressed a NYCOSH study released in January determined that the quickly growing percentage of minority workers face a statistical likelihood of getting injured or killed on a worksite. He added that the study found that Latinos were the most at risk for work injury or fatality. Although painting a picture that correlated work injuries with non-union worksites, that minorities were more likely to get injured than their non-minority counterparts, and that statistics proved that the numbers of minority workers jumped 70% in a 10 year period, no mention was made about the type of worker that was on either type of worksite. This was most likely because, in the bigger picture of what the bill intends to do, the worker and work site isn’t in question. The bill advocates for worker and worksite protection, period. “As unionized construction workers supporting this Council bill, we are proud to stand as advocates on behalf of the sector’s entire workforce, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and union or non-union status.”, Labarbera proclaimed in the article for Daily News New York.

Just a few days prior to Labarbera contributing his article to Daily News New York, a number of officials from the NYC Housing Authority released statements against the bill, reasoning that it would strip jobs from non-union construction firms, among other issues addressed.

Please see the articles below for more information.

City Council can protect NYC workers from construction accidents by mandating better training

NYC Buildings Department opposes bill requiring training program for construction workers

NYCHA tenants fear apprentice plan would create less diverse construction workforce

Workers’ Compensation & Sole Proprietors

A sole proprietorship is defined as a business owned and operated by one person. As per the New York Workers’ Compensation Board, the following points apply to people who are sole proprietors of a business:

  • If a sole proprietor doesn’t have employees, they can apply for workers’ compensation coverage but are not legally required to have it.
  • If they do have employees, they are initially excluded from this coverage. However, they can have themselves “elected” to be covered. In order for this to happen, the sole proprietor would have to file a C-105.32 with the insurance carrier.
  • A sole proprietor would be considered an employer.  If they choose to hire individuals to work for their business, need to have themselves elected out of the coverage they are currently under (if they are insured). This is different than a person hiring an independent contractor for a service. The individual seeking the service is not considered to be the employer of the person providing the service.

Etsy, an online marketplace, allows individuals to buy and sell various handmade and vintage goods. It started 12 years ago and had a reported 10-1 ratio of buyers to sellers at the end of 2014. This service is massively popular and is a great way for an individual to start their own business. Since sellers on the website are not “employed” by Etsy, who should they turn to if they get hurt while creating goods for their shop? This is a rather important topic if one considers the massive uprising of entrepreneurial businesses in general, not just online marketplaces. If someone has such success with their sole proprietorship or entrepreneurship that it becomes their main source of income, they should absolutely apply for workers’ compensation insurance. Mainly due to the fact that personal health insurance is not obligated to cover accidents that happen as a result of work, or in a workplace. Hospitals also typically ask how the injury happened. If a carpenter who owns their own business is building something for a paying customer and sustains a nasty injury, they wouldn’t need to pay out of pocket for their medical care. They would also get compensated for time lost from working on the goods they build or services they provide. If a persons’ entrepreneurial venture stands for the lion’s share of their income, this would be particularly important. According to an article on the Forbes website, linked below, the number of single-person businesses jumped nearly 4% between 2013 and 2014.

The standards for sole proprietorship and workers’ compensation are determined at the state level, so this could differ from one state to another. If you are a sole proprietor and are seeking workers’ compensation, make sure to check with your state’s workers’ compensation system!

How Visionary Entrepreneurs Are Creating Million-Dollar, One-Person Businesses

 

 

 

 

New contract agreement pending between MTA, TWU Local 100

At midnight on January 15th, the contract between MTA and TWU Local 100 expired. After several rocky weeks of negotiations, the MTA and TWU Local 100 found common ground on Monday, January 16th. Although still in the process of ratification, the union’s Executive Board voted 37-6 in support of the agreement according to the TWU Local 100 website. The union heads have expressly stated their support for the tentative contract. An article in The Chief Leader states that once the union members get the contract, the full and final vote on the acceptance or denial of the agreements will take about two weeks.

This comes in the wake of a difficult year for the MTA and TWU Local 100. In November, one employee was critically injured and another was killed on the same day while setting up warning lights for overnight construction. This event was undoubtedly at the forefront of the issues addressed during negotiations. A common theme was that union members did not feel properly compensated for the daily risks they take and possible hazards they are subjected to while operating public transit. The contract’s new guidelines were made to create safer environment for all workers. Several accomplishments of the contract were highlighted on the TWU Local 100 website. Some of them were the 5% raise rate over the life of the contract,  more comfortable uniforms, and lengthened healthcare coverage for workers’ dependents. There are also some benefits specifically for women, considering the ever-growing rate of women in this field. Some of these include improved locker rooms and changing facilities as well as private, comfortable spaces for new mothers to pump breast milk. On top of the supported negotiations, another win was that the tentative agreement has been made before the current MTA President, Thomas Prendergast, is set to retire.

However, members did have their criticisms about certain issues-specifically in relation to the raise and the pensionable bonus at the end of the now-tentative contract. Currently on the table for member approval are two 2.5 % raises and a $500 pensionable bonus once the contract expires. “A survey of several Local 100 members who were on the job last week, and did not want their names used, ranged from an upbeat “I can work with it” to a disapproving “I would have rather had a third 2.5 percent in the third step rather than the $500 in the payout” critique.”, as quoted from The Chief Leader.

TWU Leader Points To Above-Inflation Raises, Other Gains in Pact

Tentative deal reached between MTA, Transport Workers Union

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY & THE NEW FIREARM POSSESSION/PURCHASING RULES

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY & THE NEW FIREARM POSSESSION/PURCHASING RULES

By:       Sean Patrick Riordan, Esq.

I have received several calls and inquiries regarding the “new Social Security Administration Regulations” regarding firearm possession/purchase for those receiving Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits. To that effect, the Social Security Administration has implemented, as of December 19, 2016, new regulations regarding gun possession/purchase by some SSD recipients. As many of my clients are retired uniformed personnel who retain weapons into retirement I certainly understand the anxiety that hearing this news has caused. HOWEVER, Social Security’s new regulations effect very few SSD recipients and will not interfere with the large majority of retired officers’ ability to retain their weapons while receiving Social Security Disability benefits.

The background of the new Social Security regulations is important to understand. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (“Brady Act”) was passed in 1994 and called for the U.S. Attorney General to set up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”), allowing for the immediate background check of those wishing to purchase a firearm. In 2007 Congress determined that the NICS program was not operating properly and passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (“NIAA”). The NIAA required federal agencies that had “any record demonstrating” that a person fits into one of the restricted categories of the Brady Act such agency must provide the Attorney General with its information.

Relevant to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) and our discussion here, the Brady Act prohibits “a person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been admitted to a mental institution” from “possessing, shipping/transporting or receiving any firearm or ammunition.” Therefore the SSA was charged with determining whether it had any information regarding individuals who had been “adjudicated as a mental defective.” Clearly, the SSA does, within the confines of its disability programs, make decisions regarding whether individuals are capable of performing “substantial gainful activity.” Often, as part of these disability determinations, SSD applicants raise psychological impairments which they believe impact their ability to work. However, a mere finding that a psychological impairment has an impact on one’s ability to work does not mean they have been determined to be a “mentally defective” individual. Therefore the SSA came up with a reasonable system in which it meets its obligations under NIAA, while not reporting every SSD recipient with a psychological impairment to the Attorney General. That system is encapsulated in its new rules.

Under its new rules the SSA will report those individuals that meet the following criteria to the Attorney General in accordance with its mandate under the NIAA:

  • The individual is a SSD or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) recipient;
  • The individual was found to meet or equal a Psychological Listing under 12.00 of the Social Security Act;
  • The individual was determined by the SSA to be unable to manage his/her own economic benefit and therefore a Representative Payee has been assigned to manage the individuals benefit on their behalf.

Based on these parameters, the impact of this new reporting system on most SSD recipients is extremely limited. First, an individual has to be determined to “meet a Listing within Section 12.00” of the Social Security Act. Legally, this means that the individual’s psychological impairment, in and of itself, was determined by the SSA to be so severe that no other factor was considered during the determination of whether the individual could perform work activities. This is not applicable to the majority of SSD cases involving uniformed personnel; generally a recipient had other factors considered during the SSD adjudication process. Such factors as an applicant’s other disabilities, age, education level, previous work experience and transferable skills are commonly evaluated in order to determine the individuals work capability. Where these factors were considered in addition to the psychological impairment, these individuals are not subject to the new reporting rules. In other words, only those that have been found to suffer from such a severe psychological disability that nothing else was considered during the SSD process will be reported to the Attorney General under these new firearm possession rules.

Second, the SSA further limits the number of SSD recipients it will report to the Attorney General with the additional criteria that the individual must also have been found incapable of managing their own funds and the SSA appointed a Representative Payee to receive the economic benefit on the recipients behalf. This means that not only does the individual have to meet or equal a Social Security Act Listing but they also have to be found incapable of managing their own funds. This additional criteria further limits the amount of SSD recipients that are affected by the new rules and greatly limits the amount of uniformed personnel that should be concerned with these new provisions.

I do have one concern with the new rules, and it is a concern that is coming to fruition. The SSA has indicated that they will send out, to the SSD recipient, a notification of potential reporting to the Attorney General under the new rules when it is determining whether a SSD recipient is in need of a Representative Payee. A Representative Payee determination is sparked when the SSA has information that the SSD recipient may have a psychological illness that affects their ability to manage their own funds. It is my fear that this notice of potential reporting will go to all SSD recipients being considered for a Representative Payee, rather than those that also meet the Listing criteria noted above. Therefore, some who clearly do not meet the criteria for reporting to the Attorney General may still receive a letter saying that they might be referred to the Department of Justice. In fact, we have already fielded calls from clients saying that they received notification that they may be reported despite the fact that they clearly do not meet the criteria discussed above, so it does appear that my fear is in fact reality. This will cause undue stress for many who receive SSD benefits and retain their weapons post their retirement from their law enforcement position. If you, or any of your members, receive this letter you should immediately consult with your attorney to weigh the likelihood of being reported.

Overall, the impact of the new Social Security regulations are extremely limited as they relate to our law enforcement clientele. If you or your members have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach me anytime, (212) 612-3198 or Sean@nycomplaw.com.

SSD and Gun Ownership Rights

Columbia grad students win battle to unionize

Some time ago, an article titled Timeline of Tug of War for Graduate Student Unions was posted. This past Friday, the rope was pulled a littler harder in the students direction. Graduate students at Columbia University voted 1,602 to 623 in favor of the move to form a union. This union applies to graduate students who work as teachers or research assistants. Their right to be considered employees has been federally protected since late August, and this development now gives their bark a bit more bite. The United Automobile Workers will be representing close to 4,000 of Columbia’s students. This is in response to a petition signed by the private university’s students last summer and ends the back-and-forth history of graduate student unions. Columbia University has been spearheading this fight since August of this year, when their petition helped overturn a 2004 decision by the National Labor Relations Board stating that graduate students could not be granted the power to unionize. “The ruling held that the assistants could not be considered employees because they “are primarily students and have a primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university.”, in an article posted on nytimes.com the week after the ruling was officially overturned. The United Automobile Workers will also be representing close to 1,3000 of N.Y.U. graduate students, who accepted their students vote to unionize in 2013. N.Y.U. students move to join the U.A.W comes just three days after Columbia students won their vote. Aside from these two private schools, the U.A.W. represents roughly 30,000 public university research assistants and teachers throughout certain states. The caveat is that it is public, not private, institutions that can choose to let their student workers unionize. Graduate students who work for their private university are now privilege to all the rights afforded by a union! There is no word yet as to when the contract negotiations will start, but the fact that they are starting is what private institutions have been pushing toward for 12 years. Congratulations, Columbia!

Please see the links below for more information.

Columbia Graduate Students Vote Overwhelmingly to Unionize

N.Y.U. Graduate Assistants to Join Auto Workers’ Union

Grad Students Win Right to Unionize in an Ivy League Case

TWU Local 100 sparks changes after recent MTA death

This past November, one MTA track worker was killed after being hit by a subway train and another was seriously injured. Subway train service was up and running while the two men, Jeffrey Fleming and the late Louis Gray Jr., were putting up yellow warning lights-the lights that were supposed to help avoid this same tragic situation. In a deal established earlier this month between the MTA and the TWU Local 100 union, the MTA has agreed to halt all subway activity whenever workers are setting up warning lights prior to construction projects in areas that are deemed particularly dangerous. Another condition to the deal is outlined in an article on TheChiefLeader.com-“According to the agreement signed by the MTA and the union, there has to be a look-out whose only task is to maintain visual and audible communications with the flagging crew, which must be at least 50 feet away from the look-out.” The new legal regulations were signed December 2nd to protect flaggers and track workers from putting their lives at risk.  “This is a big win for the safety of New York City transit workers,” Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. “Past efforts to get the company to even slow the trains down were extremely difficult. Now, the trains must not only slow down but completely suspend service and this is unprecedented.”, as quoted from TWULocal100.com. The website also states that the National Transportation Safety Board not only approved of the regulations, but that there was a “24 hour safety stand down” on Wednesday, the 7th, to inform the workers of the new regulations. All non-emergency track work was stopped while the stand-down took place.