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LEGAL NEWS

Below are certain “Legal Updates” provided as a courtesy to persons viewing our website. As you can understand, this information, prepared during the below noted year of the update, is general and informational only and we take no responsibility to update it at any time or to provide other information/updates; it is not meant as legal advice. Please contact your attorney for further details and other important information.

2015 Legal News

Employment Law:

            ·        OSHA – Revised Regulations and Notice Posting:

Early this year the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised certain workplace rules, adding some industries to required recordkeeping rules and removing some others. OSHA’s summary describes this change as follows:

The rule updates the list of industries that are exempt from the requirement to routinely keep OSHA injury and illness records …. The previous list of industries was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system and [1006-1998] injury and illness data …. The new list of industries that are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records is based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from 2007- 2009.  

To see if your company is exempt from the new record keeping rules, check your NACIS code against the following OSHA link:

             https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/ppt1/RK1exempttable.html

(If you are unsure of your NACIS, check for that at the U.S. Census Bureau NAICS website.)

Notes:

The new rule retains the exemption for any establishment with ten or fewer employees, regardless of their industry classification, from the requirement to routinely keep records

The revised rule also expands the list of severe work-related injuries and illnesses that all covered employers must report to OSHA. The revised rule retains the current requirement to report all fatalities within 8 hours and adds the requirement to report all inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours to OSHA.

 As for notice to employees, while a new workplace poster is not immediately needed, it might make sense to put it in place now anyway. An OSHA sample version can be found at its following web page:

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165-8514.pdf

 

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA):

New Notice and Certification Forms: The federal Department of Labor (DOL)

recently issued a number of new FMLA notice and certification forms, including as to health care provider and military leave statements. If your company is FMLA covered (generally meaning you have more than 50 employees), it is probably wise to update your forms.

 

Constitutional Law:

Who moved my raisins?” – US Supreme Court – Court Prohibits Government Taking of Certain Private Property

It only took about 75 years, but California raisin growers finally challenged a Great Depression era law that required them to turn over to the government a portion of their annual crop, without getting paid for doing so. The US Constitution’s “taking clause” has long been applied to, in particular, the taking of real estate by the government, requiring “just compensation” for same; think, for example, a road widening that cuts into a portion of someone’s real estate. It’s pretty amazing that this “raisin rule” lasted all these years, unchallenged; but it’s now gone. And the just compensation  right established by the court ruling (Horne v. the United States Department of Agriculture) will likely extend well beyond raisin farmers.  

“This is a very important case for small business owners because it limits the government’s power to take private property,” according to Karen Harned, Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business’ Legal Center. Otherwise she said, “It would be as if someone came into a store and forced the owner to hand over merchandise; that’s blatant robbery as far as we’re concerned.”   

 

Contract Law: 

Contractual Time Limits on Right To Sue (Contract based “Statutues of Limitations”) Upheld.

 

In a case decided in Delaware, the state court upheld time limits on rights to sue contained in a contract that were shorter than time limits otherwise provided by law (that is, by statute). ENI Holdings, LLC (“ENI”) sold a certain company it controlled to KBR Group Holdings, LLC (“KBR”). (It was a stock purchase deal for about Two Hundred Fifty Million Dollars ($250,000,000.) The deal was subject to post-closing working capital adjustments. The Sale Agreement contained a fifteen (15) month limitation on certain types of legal claims. Delaware’s statutory time limit for such claims was 3 years. The Buyer and Seller disputed the working capital adjustments and, so, the final purchase price due. ENI sued in Delaware for breach of contract and KBR filed counter-claims against ENI. KBR’s counter-claims were filed after the fifteen (15) month contract-based time limitation, but before the end of the Delaware three (3) year statutory time limit. The Court upheld the shorter contract-based time limit. Consequently, certain of the KBR counterclaims were tossed out by the Court. While it is a Delaware case and, among other things, statutory time limits (formal “statutes of limitations”) vary from state-to-state, the concept that contract rights (and limits) matter was key to this outcome.

 

 Tax/Estate Planning:

            Changes to Powers of Attorney – A reminder that the form and the effects of Powers of Attorney (POA’s) in Pennsylvania changed this year, including, among other things, POA’s must now be both witnessed and notarized, the language of notice to the principal as well as the agent’s acknowledgement have both been changed, and the agent’s liabilities and duties have been modified. (Some of the law impacting the ability of third parties to rely on POA’s has also been modified.)

 

            Unified Credit” in 2015. Another reminder: the IRS (Federal) limit on tax free transfers while living, or at death, now stands at $5,430,000 for 2015 (up from $5,340,000 in 2014). Together sometimes called the “unified credit,” these exclusions may be available to transfer assets at either stage (lifetime or at death) or a combination of both.  

 

Real Estate:

 Large Recent Ruling for Major Commercial Tenant v. Mall Ownership A jury has awarded Lord & Taylor $31,000,000 in a case where it alleged mall ownership breached its contract to keep an enclosed-mall open for many years to come. The owners of the White Flint Mall (Rockville, MD), one of whom includes the majority owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team, wanted to convert the mall into a combination of shops, apartments, a hotel and other open-space, more in keeping they believe with current shopping trends. According to court documents, the landlord spent millions of dollars to buy out tenants. However, Lord & Taylor did not budge and decided to fight. The landlord says it will appeal. [As with the ENI/KBR case discussed above, contract terms can matter….]

 

Employment LawNew Jersey – Independent Contractors – New Rule:

            The New Jersey Supreme Court recently departed from the federal legal test for determining if a person is an “employee” or an “independent contractor” – and very much expanded exactly who falls into the “employee” category (for which, of course, among other things, the employer must pay and withhold payroll taxes). The New Jersey legal test is now the “ABC” test, requiring the company to prove that:

 

  • the person is free from control or direction over the performed services;
  • the service is either outside the usual course of the business for which it is performed or the service is performed outside the places of business for the company; and
  • the person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, business or profession.

Under “ABC” the person is presumed to be an employee unless the employer can prove all 3 of these ABC’s.

 

 Employment Law – Philadelphia adopts Paid Sick Leave Rule:

           As  of May 13, 2015 private Philadelphia employers with 10 or more employees (with some exceptions) will be required to offer paid sick leave. (Several New Jersey towns have adopted similar ordinances.) The Philadelphia rule applies to all full-time and part-time employees who work at least 40 hours per year.  To determine whether an employer meets the (low) minimum of 10 employees, companies must take into account all persons paid on a full-time, part-time or temporary basis. The Ordinance does not specify that the 10 employees must all be employed in Philadelphia. (So an employer with 10 or more employees, with fewer than that number actually working in Philadelphia, will likely have to provide their Philadelphia-based employees with paid sick leave.) The rule provides accrual calculations and limits, including an employee must be employed for at least 90 days before being able to use any accrued paid sick leave. Notice and posting requirements are part of the rule; and employee handbooks should be updated to reflect applicable notice requirements.

 

Tax Law – Internet Sales – Nationwide Application:

           As part of the recent US Congress spending bill, legislators voted to extend the prohibition on internet sales tax until at least October 2015. There is at least one bill in the US Senate to make that moratorium permanent, but whether that will pass is unknown.

 

Tax Law –Pennsylvania – Real Estate Transfer Tax – Broadened Definition of “Real Estate Company:”

           The Pa Revenue Department, via recent Notice, has broadened its definition of  a “real estate company,” so as to potentially tag more of same with a State real estate transfer tax bill when such companies change their ownership.  

Before this Revenue Department notice, following related PA law changes, a “real estate company” (otherwise defined in the law) did not include a company that owns, as at least 90% of the fair market value of its assets, an interest in a real estate company. Now it does. There are a number of matters to consider when planning a transfer of ownership in a “real estate company” under Pa law (including the timing of such possible ownership interest transfer, as well as whether certain events took place before and after January 1, 2014); but the upshot of this new Revenue Notice is that, at least without considering careful tax planning, an unexpected real estate transfer tax bill could come due.

 

Health Care Law – Feds very busy with HIPAA investigations:

           News of the recent cyber-attack and resulting data breach at health insurance giant Anthem Inc. raised the profile of concern over data security and data breaches. The Anthem breach (where it is estimated that 1 in 4 adults were impacted) reminds those companies subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that failing to keep protected health information secure and private can lead to big problems.   Enforcement of HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rule was at an all-time high last year, with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) resolving a number of large cases. (Anthem, the former Wellpoint, runs health-care plans under the Blue Cross Blue Shield, Empire Blue Cross, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, DeCare, HealthKeepers and Golden West brands.)

 

Franchising – Nationwide Advertising by Franchisors – Court jurisdiction not necessarily “nationwide:”

           While it was in New Mexico, a recent court decision held that national advertising campaigns will not establish personal jurisdiction in every state in which the campaign runs.  The case involved the Holiday Inn chain and its national TV ad campaign. The Court of Appeals in New Mexico confirmed a lower court ruling to the same effect. While this was a New Mexico ruling, nonetheless it was a good ruling for franchisors with national footprints. But, as is so often the case with franchisors, their “level of control” over local matters can change legal outcomes. (There is also, and also to franchisor’s favor, older case law from New Jersey that essentially says that national advertisements alone by a nonresident defendant cannot support personal jurisdiction over that nonresident defendant.)

 

Business Law: Non-Competition Covenants in a Franchise Agreement is Upheld:

           This one comes from Minnesota, where a District Court issued a preliminary injunction in favor of a franchisor to stop its former franchisee from competing against the franchisor, due to a non-competition and confidentiality agreement the ex-franchisee had signed. The suit argued unpermitted use of confidential client lists, breach of the promise not to compete within a certain geographic area, and infringement on the franchisor’s trademarks. While the franchisor got its injunctive relief (stopping the breaching behavior), the validity, and extent of enforceability, of “non-competition” agreements is very State specific. If a company operates in more than one State, it ought to be sure that the terms of its non-compete (and confidentiality, etc) provisions are actually enforceable in each State where the company has employees.

2014 Legal News

  •  Business Law – Pennsylvania. Recently Pennsylvania became one of about a dozen states to date to enact legislation allowing for the formation of “benefit corporations.” These are for-profit entities in which, among other differences from “standard” for-profit corporations, the directors are required to consider the effects of their decisions on a number a different parties other than the shareholders. As part of its formative purpose, a benefit corporation must intend to create a “general public benefit” (likely attached to a more specific “benefit” purpose; e.g.: improving public health, advancing scientific knowledge, supporting the arts, etc). New corporations can be designated as benefit corporations and existing corporations, subject to certain guidelines and rules, can amend their charter to become one. But, as even the brief information here suggests, there are significant restrictions and requirements placed on these entities, such that, at least in some instances, existing Pennsylvania corporations may be able to reach much the same “end result” as these new entities, while avoiding some of their constraints. 
  • Tax Law – U.S. – Severance payments are taxable wages under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.  On March 25 the US Supreme Court ruled that severance payments made to involuntarily terminated employees are “wages” under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and are taxed accordingly. In this case the employer had made severance payments to several terminated employees and paid the employer’s FICA taxes on those severance sums. Subsequently, the company applied to the IRS for a refund of those FICA payments, arguing the severance payments were not wages. When the IRS failed to reply, the company went to court, but ultimately lost. The Supreme Court distinguished between unemployment monies and severance payments, with the latter held to be “wages” under FICA, and so, on which FICA payments are due.
  • Employment Law  – Pregnancy protection – City of Philadelphia & New Jersey.  
    • Recently Philadelphia amended its “Fair Practices” Ordinance to expressly prohibit discrimination based upon pregnancy, childbirth and related medical condition(s). Importantly, companies with Philadelphia locations must provide written notice of this new ordinance to all employees by April 20, 2014 (and to new hires thereafter). On April 1 Philadelphia issued an approved form of such notice, which, like many other employees notices, must be “conspicuously posted” in the workplace. The new ordinance may also require updates to applicable employee handbooks and HR personnel for Philadelphia operations will need to know how to handle this added requirement. Further information is available from our firm upon request.
    • Similarly, New Jersey recently amended its Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) to include LAD protections for employees as to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical condition(s). The NJ law, like Philadelphia’s, calls for employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to such an employee. Also as with Philadelphia’s ordinance, there are parameters and some “gray areas;” but reasonable accommodations might take the form of rest periods, modified work schedules, certain job restructuring etc. Like certain similar “disability” laws, unreasonable accommodation requests can be turned down, but careful review would be called for beforehand. And, again, like other similar laws, “retaliation” against an employee seeking to exercise rights under this law can be it own separate legal violation. Again, apprised HR personnel and good employee handbooks are important.
  • Litigation – U.S. – “Whistleblower” protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley (“SOX”) Act – Includes employees of private contractors and subcontractors. The US Supreme Court has ruled that employees of private contractors providing services to public companies (to which SOX generally applies) are protected from retaliation for exposing public company misconduct (i.e.: for “whistle blowing”). In the case, Lawson v. FMR LLC, certain private companies were engaged to advise and manage publicly traded mutual funds. When several employees of these private companies, after exposing alleged fraud, were fired by their private employers, they claimed illegal retaliation under SOX. The Supreme Court said that the proper reading of that portion of SOX shows that Congress intended to encourage the reporting of circumstances like suspected fraud, including by outside contractors (consultants, CPA’s, attorneys, etc.) engaged by SOX-covered public companies. The Court rejected a SOX interpretation that would only protect employees of public companies from whistle blowing job retaliation under SOX, noting that, among other things, certain industries (such as the mutual fund industry) contract out much of their work, such that a more narrow reading of this part of SOX might defeat its purpose.
  • Intellectual Property – Trademarks/New Internet Domain Names. – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) is in the process of gradually releasing what is expected to eventually be over 1300 new generic Top-Level Domain names (gTLDs). Some, of many (many) likely examples: “.technology,” “.clothing,” “.land,” “.builders,” “.club,” “.loan” and so on… . The business opportunities may be readily apparent. A related challenge may be protecting already owned trade and service marks against cyber-squatters, etc. ICANN has been providing certain relevant methods, as have some domain name registry companies. An overall business/legal strategy may certainly be worth developing. 
  • Labor Law – U.S. – Are student athletes really “employees?” What about medical students acting as hospital interns? Other kinds of “working” “students?” Where is the law headed? Why does it matter? Presently, various and conflicting decisions are being made in assorted regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). Many such decisions likely will be appealed. And it may all end up before the US “Supremes.” Why it matters: if “employees,” then employee rights under the National Labor Relations  Act (“NRLA”), with union implications, etc; if mere “students,” then not so. Much is at stake, including for potential “employers” of same.
  • Real Estate/Federal Contractors – New Affirmative Action Requirements - After a recent unsuccessful court   challenge by Associated Builders and Contractors, builders and other federal contractors (except if excluded by either the stipulated small size of federal contract(s) or the small size of the contractor company’s own workforce) must implement revised affirmative action plans geared to increasing the number of disabled persons in the workforce to 7%. Updates to job applications and new reporting requirements are part of the arrangement, as well as a requirement that the “plan” must, among other things, address related recruitment. Certain federal contractors (again, based on the value of their federal contracts and/or the size of their own workforce), must also include military veteran hiring in their revised affirmative action plans. 

Employment Law:       

  •           Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)Employee’s Right to Return to Work. The US Federal Third Circuit Court, covering Delaware, NJ & Pa (as well as the US Virgin Islands) has finally set a standard measure for when an employee’s right to return to work is triggered under the FMLA. The employee (here, ironically, working for a hospital) provided her employer with her doctor’s note stating that she was fully cleared to return to work. The employer’s rejection of the full medical clearance, and eventual hiring of a replacement worker, violated the FMLA. Essentially, once an employee submits a statement from his/her health care provider stating that he/she can return to work without restriction, the employer’s duty to reinstate the on-leave employee is triggered under federal law (assuming, of course, your company is large enough to be governed by the FMLA). If there is still uncertainty, as may often be the case, about the employee’s ability to perform his/her essential functions (a conditional return-to-work note, etc.), the employer may ask for more clarity from the health care provider. But recall, under the FMLA, the health care provider, not the employer, determines whether or not the employee is up to performing the essential job functions.       

  •          New Jersey “Bans the Box.” legislation prohibiting employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history in the initial employment application process. The New Jersey law prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from posting job advertisements indicating that they will not consider individuals convicted of a crime. The law also prohibits employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history during the application process, such as by using a yes-or-no “checkbox” sometimes found on initial job application forms, or at any other time before or during the candidate’s initial interview. Violating employers can be hit with stiff fines. Effected HR personnel should modify any contrary practices, including (as we have written before in other respects) being sure current application “forms” are legally compliant. (Now 5 states, and a number of municipalities, including Philadelphia, have adopted similar legislation.)                        

  • Business Law/IP – Non-Disclosure Agreements – Wise or Not?  Especially relevant for inventors, but used, too, in many other “confidential” pre-deal business situations,  are Non-Disclosure Agreements (“NDA’s”).  The problem is: Will an inventor/entrepreneur either turn off potential investor(s) and/or too much slow the investing process if first insistent on a signed NDA/  Many reports suggest that, especially in the fast-moving tech work, NDA’s are a thing of the past. But the disclosing party ought to think hard before casting off this potential protection from concept/product “theft.”  Things to consider: Is your info truly “confidential?” To whom are you disclosing/can you generally “trust” that party? How quickly is the market moving for your goods/services? Can you perhaps disclose “just enough” to initially interest an investor group without an NDA, then maybe get one signed in the next discussion round? And, for inventions, would a provisional patent be wise to consider? Be practical, yes; but also be smart.
  • Franchise Law – Franchisor Held Not Liability for Acts of its Franchisee’s Personnel. Although the decision was in a California case, with CA being often so “pro-plaintiff,” it may have import nationwide. In a suit for sexual harassment against her employer, which was a Domino’s Pizza independently-owned franchisee, the plaintiff also sued the franchisor, Domino’s Pizza. She alleged that the Dominos franchisor exercised sufficient control over its franchisees to be considered vicariously liable for the acts of personnel of its franchisees. The lower court bought into this and refused to dismiss Dominos Pizza/franchsior from the suit, citing control elements and also suggesting that the franchisor had involved itself in employment decisions of its franchisee. The CA Supreme Court  reversed, finding the franchisee had implemented its own sexual harassment policies, made its own hiring/firing decisions, etc. The franchisor Dominos was, consequently, let out of the suit. The elements of business control in the franchise model should be carefully considered, documented, and followed.

  • Business/Fiduciary Law – ESOP’s & Fiduciary Duties. The US Supreme Court this year clarified (at least somewhat …) the duty of prudence that employee stock ownership plan (“ESOP”) fiduciaries owe to plan participants. The “presumption of prudence” will not exist and ESOP fiduciaries, instead, are subject to the same standard of prudence and liability as any ERISA fiduciary, importantly except for the duty to diversify investments. This issue in particular arises because ESOP’s are designed largely for investment in the stock of the employer company, but employees can get pretty angry when their retirement accounts suffer large losses as their ESOP continues to purchase declining value company stock. In a challenge to such an investment practice by their ESOP fiduciaries (also company officers, as is often the case), a group of ESOP-invested employees argued that their fiduciaries breached their duties of loyalty and prudence found in the Employee Retirement Income Security law (“ERISA”). The Supreme held that there should be no “presumption of prudence,” indicating that ESOP fiduciaries are subject to the same duty of prudence as any other ERISA fiduciary. However, since an ESOP is not a diversified plan by its very nature (again, often investing almost entirely in the employer’s stock), the high court recognized that the statutory exemption for losses due to a failure to diversity assets was to remain in place.

  • Real Estate Law – Pennsylvania. “Good news” for home builders.” “Bad news” for subsequent purchasers. The Pa Supreme Court, in a case of first impression, has ruled that home buyers, other than the buyer who buys directly from the builder, cannot maintain a suit against the builder for breach of the implied warranty of habitability. In this case the second owners of a home alleged that water infiltration through windows resulted from original construction defects. But, as these owners had no direct legal relationship with the builder, the Court rejected their “habitability” claim.  Of course, persons buying new homes directly from the builder are not impacted by this ruling.  

  • Health Care Law – We have written in prior Legal Updates about the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), which administers the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), and its incursions into non-union workplaces, including as to matters that restrict the ability of employees to discuss certain matters, i.e.: matters sometimes deemed “confidential” by management (e.g.: compensation packages, etc). In a rather complex case coming from Kansas, but dealing with the NLRA – which has national application – a hospital system deemed certain alleged patient care investigatory matters as confidential. The hospital, which was unionized, did so in large part based on its interpretation of what seemed to be relevant, and pretty clear, state law, which mandated confidentiality. The “net net” at the hospital level was that 2 nurses charged with violations of patient care standards were denied the presence of union reps at their peer review hearings and those reps were denied access to information on the particular allegations. The NLRB Judge was not impressed with the hospital’s reliance on the state law and held that the employer violated the nurses’ right to engage in “protected, concerted activity” under the NLRA (by barring the union reps from the hearings and from the case information). So, once again, and unionized or not, it is wise to be careful about deeming certain personnel matters as confidential- sometimes what can be “confidential” is as “clear-as-mud.”

    

2013 Legal News

SOCIAL MEDIA, TAX LAW, BUSINESS LAW (ANGEL INVESTORS), EMPLOYMENT LAW (FMLA/MILITARY), INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (TRADEMARKS), REAL ESTATE, EMPLOYMENT LAW (FLSA):

 

Social Media/Legal Disclosures. “Tread lightly” may be the watch-words when plugging your company on social media, especially if yours is a publicly traded company. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) just let the CEO of Netflixs off the hook from his bragging, via “tweeting,” about certain strong performance results, but not after it first investigated whether or not his acts violated proper publicly traded company SEC disclosure rules.  To turn another phrase “Haste can make more than Waste” anymore in the (often impulsive) world of new media.

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2012 Legal News

TAX LAW, ERISA/PENSIONS, EMPLOYMENT LAW, TRADEMARKS, FRANCHISING, NLRB UPDATE, SOCIAL MEDIA, HEALTH CARE LAW, BUSINESS/CONTRACTS LAW, EMPLOYMENT LAW (“WAGE AND HOUR”):

 

1. Tax Law - On the very edge of the year-end “ fiscal cliff,” Congress passed and the president signed into law the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.” The Act includes changes to the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (“gst”) taxes. Notably:

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2011 Legal News

FRANCHISE & TRADEMARK LAW, FEDERAL CONTRACTING, EMPLOYMENT LAW – NJ, LITIGATION, CORPORATE LAW – PA:

  1. Trademarks & Franchise Law – In a significant policy change, Microsoft (the operator of Bing & web search partner with Yahoo Co.) will now allow marketers to use other companies’ trade/servicemarks to trigger search ads. Google has allowed this practice for a number of years, whereas Microsoft, until now, continued to investigate complaints about the use of trademarks in web searches as keywords. Google decided to follow this path at least in part after it prevailed in litigation alleging that the practice infringed trademarks (notably, in lawsuits brought by GEICO and then Rosetta Stone v. Google). Essentially the thinking is that many web searchers use trademarks not to cause source “confusion” (essentially the legal standard for infringement), but simply to search for certain types of goods or services. This also seems a wise move given the growth of international trade/servicemark filings.

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2010 Legal News

Health/Employment Law, Labor Law, National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decision, Federal Harassment Case, Employee Use of Company Supplied Email/Text-Messaging Accounts, Corporate Law, Employment Law, Tax/Pension Law, “Social Media Policy:”

  1. Health/Employment Law – The federal Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (“GINA”) is now in effect. This new federal law generally prohibits 1) health insurers or health plan administrators from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual or the individualтАЩs family members, or using it for decisions regarding coverage, rates, or preexisting conditions, and prohibits 2) most employers having 15 or more employees from using genetic information for hiring, firing, promotion decisions, or for any other decision regarding terms of employment. “Genetic information” includes not just genetic test results and services data, but also family health history. (Company “cafeteria posters” ought to be updated for terms of this new law.)
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2009 Legal News

Pa Agencies - “Right to Know” Law, Labor Law (ADA, FMLA, FLA), Identity Theft, Employment Law (Fair Pay Act”), Litigation, Trademarks, Government Contracts:

1. Pa Agencies – New “Right to Know” Law – Taking effect January 1, 2009, PA’s new Right to Know Law (RTKL) grants liberal access to records of public agencies. Previously, a party requesting information bore the burden of establishing why a record should be released. Now, all state agency records are presumed to be open to the public unless the agency holding them can prove otherwise. The RTKL applies to all agencies, encompassing Commonwealth, local, judicial, and/or legislative agencies. However, the law also includes a category of exceptions to disclosure involving confidential personal information or public safety issues.

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2008 Legal News

EMPLOYMENT LAW (FEDERAL), LITIGATION, US SUPREME COURT DECISIONS, TAX LAW, EMPLOYMENT LAW – NJ, “GOLDEN HANDCUFFS” INCENTIVE PLAN, REAL ESTATE/ENVIRONMENTAL LAW – PA:

1. Employment Law – Recent changes to the Federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (applying generally to companies with 50 or more employees), require that such leave be afforded to employees to care for a spouse, child or parent (or “next of kin”) who becomes seriously ill or injured while serving in the line of duty in our military. An employer may be required to extend up to 26 weeks of annual leave (rather than the 12 weeks per year normally applicable under the Federal Act) to such eligible employee caring for a covered servicemember. There is also an allowance for leave for immediate family members in cases of certain “qualifying exigencies,” which will likely mean troop mobilizations, calls to active duty and similar circumstances. This Federal leave remains unpaid leave, unless an employer designates otherwise. If this law applies to your workers, it is likely wise to update your FMLA employee notice, often via poster-notice and employee handbook, to reflect these changes.

FOR PRIOR LEGAL UPDATES, PLEASE CONTACT ONE OF OUR ATTORNEYS.

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