Brooklyn Boro

Wage enforcement seminar aimed at helping small businesses

February 27, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rachel Demarest Gold (pictured) and Sharon Stiller are hosting a “Wage and Hour Enforcement” seminar at Abrams Fensterman in the MetroTech Center on Wednesday evening. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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New laws took effect on Dec. 31 that raised the minimum wage in New York state. The new regulations have brought on a lot of confusion as business owners attempt to navigate rules that include 14 different minimum wages depending on region and jobs performed.

Rachel Demarest Gold and Sharon P. Stiller, partners at the law firm Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf, LLP., want to help clear that up for business owners and members of the workforce. The pair are hosting a “Wage and Hour Enforcement” seminar at Abrams Fensterman located at One MetroTech Center on Wednesday, March 1 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Government’s regulatory goals are and should be keeping things safe and fair for society and competition,” said Demarest Gold. “Such massive responsibility, however, must be measured in the context of those who have to comply as well as everything else they must get done to keep the lights on and the doors open every day.

“That understanding is often lost in an agency system where thousands of employees are each charged with a small piece of a massive bureaucratic process,” she continued. “It is now our obligation — as the business owners and their representatives — to get that message across to the authorities while we protect our local businesses and workforce.”

The two-hour talk will focus on the state’s enforcement of minimum wage, overtime, independent contractor, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws. Demarest Gold and Stiller will also discuss several of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s other initiatives and explain how they will impact small businesses.

Demarest Gold explained that growing up within an entrepreneurial family taught her how hard business owners have to fight to keep their businesses alive.

“I have seen my dad calling clients for checks to make payroll for that afternoon — only to have FDNY show up for an unscheduled visit,” she said. “Before I joined the state Labor Department, I represented my father at Unemployment Insurance hearings where an employee who had been fired for stealing was granted insurance payments my father had to absorb nonetheless.”

Demarest Gold started her legal career working for the Bronx District Attorney, but was so dedicated to her family’s business that she left her position in 1996 to work for her father’s company, Excalibur Bronze. Years later, she would become Special Counsel for Labor as well as the Deputy Commissioner for Legislation, Policy and Federal Affairs at the New York State Department of Labor under Cuomo.

“From elementary school through law school, I worked there after school and on summer vacations,” she said. “My two brothers did the same, and after completing our educations, we each took a turn at trying to be dad’s right hand. The youngest of us succeeded and left a white shoe law firm to run the business next to my father who, at 82, is still in his office at 7 a.m. every day and falling asleep over paperwork at 10 p.m. every night.”

She went on to explain that her time both with her family’s business and with the State Labor Department that gave her the perspective that rules need to be understandable, user-friendly and predictive.

“My mantra became, ‘regulations are supposed to be regular,’” Demarest Gold said. “While I had spent years the at the Attorney General’s Office prosecuting people who took advantage of workers and stole money on government contracts, I always felt we, as the government, had an obligation to explain and apply the laws in a way the average mom and pop shop could follow and abide.”

The hope is that the pair can advocate for both business owners and workforces by helping them navigate regulations while keeping the costs of compliance down. Anyone wishing to attend the seminar should email Christine McCormick at [email protected].

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