New Program Transforms Workers Into Owners

Employee Ownership NYC

Corner delis and other mom-and-pop businesses dominate many areas of New York City. Beginning in 2021, when these owners retire, their workers might be able to fill their shoes.

Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted that the Employee Ownership NYC program would “change the rules of the game” by providing up to $10,000 in support for erstwhile workers to become owners, when these owners retire.

Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson said the program was especially necessary in the coronavirus era.

Lockdowns have many owners looking to sell, and about 80 percent of them cannot find a buyer, he noted.

Employee ownership is also good for workers of color. These workers have 30 percent higher wages at establishments owned by former workers, Thompson added.

More information is available at

Worker Rights

Many employees dream of the day they can become their own bosses.

At the same time, many owners dream of the day when they can cash out and leave the rat race behind. On this level, the Employee Ownership NYC initiative benefits everyone.

However, let the buyer beware.

Even though you are the boss, you must still adhere to the rules, even if these rules affect your profit margins or otherwise restrict the way you do business.

Although it went into effect in 2015, many employers are still getting used to New York City’s ban the box law.

Before the Fair Chance Act took effect, employers routinely asked potential employees about their criminal records. People with certain criminal histories are ineligible for certain positions, at least at a practical level.

So, asking this question early in the process prevented employers from investing too much time in a dead-end applicant. It also prevented employees from getting their hopes up, at least arguably.

But this question is now illegal at the initial screening level. Employers may only ask about applicant criminal records later in the process.

A similar law prohibits most employers from asking most applicants about their credit scores.

This prohibition also applies to background checks performed by third parties.

Additionally, this prohibition could apply to “back door” credit questions, such as whether the applicant owns or rents.

Other state and federal laws regulate wages, protect workers’ broad right to organize, and monitor civil rights violations.

The agencies in charge of these investigations, such as the National Labor Relations Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are quite aggressive.

Workplace Safety

Both visitors and workers have the right to be safe at business locations. Note we said “visitors” and not “customers.” Window-shoppers and indirect guests, like guests of apartment tenants, have roughly the same rights as everyone else.

Especially in the COVID-19 era, business owners have a duty to provide healthy environments. When it comes to infectious disease control, this duty usually includes:

  • Strict compliance with lockdowns, mask requirements, and other safety ordinances or laws,
  • Screening employees for coronavirus symptoms and asking them relevant questions if they show flu-like symptoms,
  • Requiring certain employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (the EEOC recently added this rule), and
  • Constantly sanitizing surfaces.

On a related note, most business owners have business interruption insurance. Insurers typically refuse to pay lockdown- and other coronavirus-related business losses, even though these policies clearly cover losses related to physical damage and/or adverse civil action.

Workplace safety extends to things like accident prevention and adequate security.

Owners have a duty to protect people from falls and other accidents.

That duty includes a responsibility to frequently inspect the premises, in order to detect wet spots and other hazards. When owners become aware of these hazards, they must promptly address them.

Parking lots are a good example of security issues. At a minimum, parking lots must be well-lit and surrounded by a fence or other barrier.

Depending on the circumstances, additional security might be required, like a roving courtesy patrol or an onsite guard.

If you are injured because your boss did not follow the rules, you might be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.