Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Court Blocks Implementation of Revised FLSA Regulations


Employment Law Alert

On Tuesday, November 22, a Federal Court Judge in the Eastern District of Texas issued a nationwide injunction halting the changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations. This decision stops the regulations from going into effect on December 1, 2016.

Twenty one states filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction against the Department of Labor to halt the implementation of the revised regulations. The court found that the Plaintiff States who were challenging the law, established that the amendments to the FLSA regarding the salary level and the automatic updating of the salary every three years are without statutory authority. Therefore, the court enjoined the regulations from becoming effective on December 1, 2016.

There will likely be continued litigation and an appeal in this case, so it remains to be seen if this decision will be upheld.  Employers for now can follow the old salary threshold of $455 per week or $23,660 per year for exempt employees. Employers should keep in mind that any employee they classify as exempt from overtime must meet the duties of one of the exemption categories. The Department of Labor will be strictly scrutinizing employees' duties performed to ensure they are properly classified as exempt.

For more information about the FLSA regulations, contact employment attorney Elaina Smiley. Elaina's contact information is listed below.

This material is for informational purposes only.  It is not and should not be solely relied on as legal advice in dealing with any specific situation. 

Elaina Smiley is a Partner in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Employment Law Group.

She can be reached at: 412.456.2821 or es@muslaw.com.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Contractors Can't Sue Owners' Individual Representatives for Payment


CONSTRUCTION LAW ALERT

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has finally answered a key question that has plagued real estate developers, contractors and subcontractors for years: Can contractors hold the people who authorized the work individually liable for payment?

The issue stems from ambiguous language in the Pennsylvania Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (CASPA) of 1994. The act ensures that owners of a construction project pay contractors and subcontractors in a timely manner for their work. CASPA defines an "owner of a project" as anyone who owns an interest in the property and orders improvements to be made, including any successors who buy or inherit the property and agents of the owner who are acting on behalf of the owner.

The term "agents of the owner" became a point of contention in a recent case, Scungio Borst & Associates v. 410 Shurs Lane Developers, when a contractor tried to hold an "agent" individually liable for payment. In that case, contractor Scungio Borst & Associates completed construction work on a condominium complex owned by 410 Shurs Lane Developers. Robert DeBolt, who owned a 50% share in 410 Shurs, signed the contracts on the company's behalf, and gave verbal direction for Scungio to perform an additional $2.6 million worth of work. In November 2006, the developer terminated its contract with Scungio Borst, leaving $1.5 million in outstanding payments.

When Scungio requested payment for the outstanding amount, DeBolt refused on behalf of the company. Scungio then filed a lawsuit under CASPA against both the company and DeBolt, seeking to hold him personally liable. Scungio's suit against 410 Shurs went to trial, and a judge ordered 410 Shurs to pay nearly $2 million to Scungio.

Meanwhile, DeBolt filed for summary judgment, claiming he could not be held personally liable under CASPA because he was not a party to the contract as an individual. Rather, only the company was a party to the contract. The judge granted summary judgment in DeBolt's favor.

Scungio appealed the case to a seven-judge panel of the Superior Court, arguing that Scungio had been acting as an agent of the company when he ordered the work and, therefore, qualified as an "owner" liable for payment under CASPA. A majority of the judges disagreed with Scungio, asserting that the law was not intended to create individual liability for agents. Rather, CASPA merely grouped "agents" in with property owners to make it clear that project managers, architects and other representative agents were not contractors entitled to the payment benefits under CASPA. Thus, the Superior Court upheld the lower court's grant of summary judgment.

Three of the judges dissented, accepting Scungio's argument that the term "agents" has been used in other Pennsylvania laws, such as the Wage Payment Collection Law. In many of those cases, Pennsylvania courts have determined that an "agent" authorized to make decisions on a company's behalf could be held personally liable for payment.

Scungio appealed the question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld both of the lower courts' rulings. The Supreme Court emphasized that under standard contract law, a contract only imposes liability on the parties that signed the contract. The purpose of CASPA was to ensure that contractors got paid -- not to create a new class of people who are individually liable for contractual payments despite not being a party to the contract. Thus, the Supreme Court held definitively that contractors cannot hold agents for a company personally liable for contractual payments owed by the company.

For more information about liability and payment on construction projects, please contact Josh Lorenz. Josh's contact information is listed below.

This material is for informational purposes only.  It is not and should not be solely relied on as legal advice in dealing with any specific situation.

Joshua R. Lorenz is a Partner in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Construction Law Group. He can be reached at: 412.456.2821 or jrl@muslaw.com.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

December 2016 IP Roundtable



What
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott is proud to sponsor the Pittsburgh Roundtable for the American Bar Association's Intellectual Property Litigation Section. These quarterly meetings allow IP litigation practitioners to network with other attorneys and discuss topics of interest.

Lunch will be provided by Meyer, Unkovic & Scott.

Who
Practicing attorneys interested in intellectual property matters. Attendees need not be members of the ABA IP Section.

Topic
How to Identify and Contract with a Cloud Services Provider That You Can Truly Trust

When
Thursday, December 1, 2016
12:00 Noon

Where
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP
Henry W. Oliver Building, 13th Floor
535 Smithfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2304
412-456-2800

How
Please RSVP by Monday, November 28th to: rsvp@muslaw.com

David G. Oberdick will serve as Moderator of this month's IP Roundtable.

Mr. Oberdick is Of Counsel in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Intellectual Property Group. He can be reached at 412.456.2881 or dgo@muslaw.com.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Client Alert - New I-9 Forms To Be Used Starting 1/22/2017

On August 25, 2016 the Office of Management and Budget approved a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. It is expected that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a revised form by November 22, 2016.  Many of the proposed changes to Form I-9 were designed to reduce technical errors and help employers electronically complete the form after they have downloaded it from uscis.gov. Employers may continue using the current version of Form I-9 with a revision date of 03/08/2013 until January 21, 2017. After January 21, 2017, all previous versions of Form I-9 will be invalid.

All employers have an obligation to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all newly-hired employees through the completion of the Employment Eligibility and Verification Form I-9.  The Form I-9 contains the signature of the employer and the employee, and it records the relevant data from the documents that the employer inspected to confirm the employee’s authorization to work in the United States.  It is important that the employer clearly identify the reviewed documents and their identification numbers. It is not necessary to retain copies of these documents.  Employers are required to maintain for inspection the original Form I-9 for all current employees.  In the case of former employees, retention of Form I-9 is required for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employment relationship terminates, whichever is longer.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security through its U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) are the government agencies with authority to audit I-9 compliance.  ICE is committed to increased work-site enforcement, particularly in cases of low skill and high turnover industries. Employers should regularly audit their I-9 procedures, compliance, and recordkeeping, as well as establish a protocol at the “front desk” to identity persons responsible to deal with government inquiry; Employers should also be sure that all policies and protocols relating to recordkeeping and government compliance are current and understood by key employees.

For more information about the new I-9 forms, or any other Immigration Law matter, please contact Elaina Smiley, Joel Pfeffer or Gary Sanderson. Contact information for Elaina, Joel and Gary is available by clicking on the links below.

Please click here for a .pdf of the article.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Changes to Overtime Pay Regulations


Elaina Smiley
412-456-2821
es@muslaw.com
On Wednesday, May 18, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations that will likely make approximately 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime pay.

As a reminder to clients, the changes will go into effect on December 1st of this year.

Under the FLSA, employers must pay workers time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week. The FLSA includes some exemptions to the overtime rules, intended to exclude certain "white-collar" workers from the overtime requirements. Companies do not have to pay an employee overtime wages as long as the worker passes both the salary test and the duties test to meet the FLSA exemptions from overtime pay.

Here are the five most important things to know about the changes:

1. New salary threshold is $47,476
Under the current standard, which has been in place since 2004, workers are exempt from the overtime pay requirement if they are paid a minimum salary of $455 per week or $23,660 per year and their job duties fit the FLSA's definitions of executive, administrative and professional categories. The new regulations, effective December 1, more than double the salary threshold to $913 per week or $47,476 per year.

2. Up to 10 percent of the salary threshold may be bonuses or commissions
For some employees, their weekly pay may fall below the $913 threshold, but non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay or commissions may put their total pay over the annual minimum. Under the new rules, such an employee qualifies as exempt from overtime pay as long as the employee makes at least 90 percent of the threshold amount in salary and the remaining 10 percent is paid in non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay or commissions distributed at least on a quarterly basis.

3. No changes to the "duties test"
Even if a worker is paid more than the minimum salary, the worker is still entitled to overtime wages unless their work passes the "duties test." To meet the duties test, the worker's job responsibilities must meet all of the FLSA's criteria established under the various exemption categories. Initially, the DOL considered changing the duties test to further restrict the types of jobs that are exempt from overtime pay, but ultimately decided against making any changes.

4. New minimum salary to qualify as a "highly compensated employee" is $134,004
The FLSA exempts "highly-compensated" workers from overtime pay as long as they regularly perform at least one job duty from the executive, administrative or professional exemption category and are paid a high salary. Previously, the DOL defined the salary of a highly compensated employee as $100,000 per year, but the new regulations raise it to $134,004.

5. The DOL will update the rules every three years
The DOL will update the minimum salary levels every three years, with the next update scheduled to take effect January 1, 2020. The DOL will calculate the new minimum salary threshold based on the pay of full-time workers in the 40th percentile in the lowest-wage census region. For highly-compensated workers, the DOL will calculate the threshold based on the wages of workers in the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationwide. By 2020, the DOL expects the minimum salary level to rise to $51,168, and the salary for highly compensated workers will be roughly $147,524. The DOL will announce the new salary levels on August 1, 2019.

Employers should carefully review their current exempt employees' compensation structure to determine which workers may be eligible for overtime wages under the new regulations.  Although the changes don't take effect until December 1, companies should monitor those employees' work hours now to determine the most cost-effective way to comply with the new rules. In some cases, it may be easier to simply raise the workers' salaries to the threshold, assuming their job functions meet the FLSA duties test.  In other cases, employers may want to convert the employee to an hourly rate and pay overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week and implement rules to limit excessive overtime.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ready, Start, Go Global!

MUS Attorney Jason Yarbrough will be presenting at Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center’s Export Basics seminar scheduled for Wednesday, October 5th at 8:30 a.m.

Topics covered will include:

  • Recognizing and Identifying Export Opportunities
  • Shipping and Payment
  • Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Exporting
  • Sources of Information and Assistance
  • Cultural Issues

For more information, and to register online, please visit SBDC Events.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Department of Revenue 2017 Tax Amnesty Program Guidelines

Kevin F. Israel
412.456.2841
kfi@muslaw.com
The 2016-17 Pennsylvania budget legislation includes provisions for an amnesty program for certain delinquent Pennsylvania taxes.

The program allows a taxpayer with unpaid delinquent taxes to pay all of the back taxes plus one-half of the interest that would otherwise be due. The other half of the interest and all penalties are waived.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue recently announced details on the amnesty. The Pennsylvania Tax Amnesty Program (the "Amnesty Program") begins April 21, 2017, and ends on June 19, 2017 (the "Amnesty Period").  The most recent prior amnesty program was in 2010. Generally, all taxes administered by the Department of Revenue are eligible for the Amnesty Program. Below is a brief overview of the Amnesty Program:

  • Eligible for Amnesty - Individuals, businesses, and other entities with Pennsylvania tax delinquencies as of December 31, 2015, are generally eligible to participate in the Amnesty Program.
  • Notification of the Amnesty Program - A written notice will be sent for each tax delinquent, where there is a valid address on the Department's records. This notice will contain information to participate in the Amnesty Program. Taxpayers with delinquencies for multiple tax types may receive more than one notification.
  • Participation Requirements - Participants in the program must complete the following:  File an online Amnesty Return; Make payment of all taxes and one-half interest due to the Commonwealth; File completed tax returns for all required periods for which the taxpayer previously has not filed a tax return; File completed amended returns for all required periods for which the taxpayer underreported tax liability; and File all returns for tax periods not eligible for the Amnesty Program.
  • Amnesty Return - The taxpayer must register and complete an online Amnesty Return. Along with the payment for all taxes reported on the Amnesty Return and one-half of the interest on those taxes, all missing and unfiled tax returns or reports must be filed no later than June 19, 2017.
  • Extension of Time for Filing Requirements - There is NO extension available for filing missing tax returns or reports eligible for the Amnesty Program.
  • Continued Compliance - The Department may re-impose all waived penalties and interest if the taxpayer does not remain in compliance with tax obligations following the conclusion of the Amnesty Program. In addition, all taxes and returns for periods after December 31, 2015 must be paid and filed prior to the Amnesty Period.
  • Future Amnesty Programs - Participants in the 2017 Amnesty Program will be prohibited from participating in any future amnesty program offered by the Commonwealth.
  • Non-participation Penalty - Once the Amnesty Period ends on June 19, 2017, a 5% non-participation penalty will be assessed on all eligible taxes, penalties and interest that remain unpaid after the Amnesty Period ends.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Taxpayers with known delinquencies should begin the process of preparing for the Amnesty Program by engaging tax counsel or tax return preparers. It may take significant time to prepare all of the unfiled tax returns that are due with the Amnesty Return and payment. Tax return preparers should be given adequate time to prepare past due returns because the Amnesty Period begins immediately after the end of the 2016 tax return preparation season.
  • Election to not participate in the Amnesty Program will expose those taxpayers with delinquencies to an additional 5% non-participation penalty, in addition to other penalties and interest.
  • The Amnesty Program is also available to taxpayers who are under existing Deferred Payment Plans with the Department of Revenue.
  • Taxpayers who are denied interest and penalty abatement under the Amnesty Program have certain appeal rights to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Board of Appeals.
Kevin F. Israel is a Partner in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Corporate Law, Tax, and Private Clients Groups. He can be reached at 412.456.2841 or kfi@muslaw.com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

ABA Intellectual Property Roundtable

Please join us for the next ABA Intellectual Property Roundtable scheduled for Thursday, September 29 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.  The program will be held in the offices of Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP. Lunch will be provided. The topic is Taming the Wild West of the Social Media Frontier with the Right of Publicity and Copyright Law.

Feel free to share this invite with others in your organization who may have an interest in this topic.

Please RSVP to:  rsvp@muslaw.com.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Legal Basics Bootcamp

Date: September 22, 2016
Time: 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Meyer, Unkovic & Scott
RSVP: Register online by September 15

Sponsored by The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University

All the work that goes in to creating and building your company could be wasted if your business and assets are not properly protected. Understanding and implementing basic legal concepts is critical to protect the value of your investment.

Join attorneys, Beth Slagle, Michael Monyok and Josh Hoffman for a discussion of practical and effective steps to shield and strengthen your business.

Topics include:

  • Business formation and legal structure
  • Intellectual property, including trademark, copyright and patents
  • Contracts – from employment and independent contractors, indemnification, and insurance, to services and goods 



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pennsylvania Building Code Update Webinar

Chad Michaelson is presenting a Pennsylvania Building Code Update Webinar on September 23 at 1:00 p.m. The event will help owners, designers, contractors and building code officials understand their obligations and navigate the confusing process of Pennsylvania building codes

Use this link to read more about the upcoming webinar and register with a 50% savings.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Fairness Opinions Rarely “Fair”

A recent decision by the Delaware Supreme Court should remind company executives that they are responsible for ensuring that fairness opinions are truly “fair.” Read more in this Post-Gazette article by Patricia Farrell, "Fairness Opinions Rarely 'Fair'".

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Washington County Real Estate Tax Reassessment Appeal Deadline


Property owners in Washington County recently received notices of real estate reassessments. This marks the first County-wide reassessment in Washington County since 1981. County and municipal taxes will be calculated based on the new valuations starting on January 1, 2017, and school taxes will be calculated on these new values starting on July 1, 2017.

Washington County assessments are currently based on 25% of a parcel's fair market value. However, after the reassessment, the assessments will be based on 100% of the fair market value. For example, under the current system, a property valued at $200,000.00 is assessed at $50,000.00. However, after the reassessment, a property valued at $200,000.00 will be assessed at $200,000.00. As a result, most property owners have seen a significant increase in the assessed values of their properties. However, this does not translate into a commensurate increase in real estate taxes, as Pennsylvania law prohibits school districts from receiving a windfall in total taxes collected from a reassessment, and municipalities cannot receive more than a five percent (5%) increase in total taxes collected as a result of the reassessment.

Property owners have until August 10, 2016 to file a formal assessment appeal with the Washington County Tax Revenue Department. At the subsequent appeal hearing, property owners will be able to present evidence in opposition to the assessed value. This evidence can include, but is not limited to, sales of comparable properties, defects in the structure or in the condition of the land, and negative aspects of the property's location. Following the appeal hearing, the Department will issue a decision, and any aggrieved party will have 30 days to appeal that decision to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.

At Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP, our experience and hard work can help property owners through the appeal process, possibly saving property owners money, by obtaining a lower assessed value. While every case is unique, factors such as the size and use of the property, comparable sales of properties in the area, and age and nature of structures in the property have an impact on the assessed value. It is important to evaluate the possibility of a tax assessment appeal and to consider obtaining an independent appraisal when you believe that your property was inaccurately assessed. Analysis of the accuracy of the property assessment is an essential component to managing your valuable real estate assets.

Frank Kosir, Jr.
412-456-2825
fk@muslaw.com
For more information about Washington County real estate tax re-assessment appeals or other real estate matters, please feel free to contact Frank or any of the attorneys in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's award-winning Real Estate & Lending Group.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

PA Enacts New Revenue Measures to Fund 2016-17 State Budget

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed legislation raising approximately $1.3 billion in additional tax and other revenues required to balance the Commonwealth's 2016-17 budget, which was enacted earlier this month.

The new measures leave the personal income and state sales tax rates unchanged.

The new provisions include the following:

1. While the sales tax rate remained unchanged, the application of the sales tax was extended to apply to digital downloads effective August 1, 2016. Digital purchases now taxable will include e-books, games, music (including satellite radio subscriptions), photographs, and video (including streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix).

2. While the personal income tax rate has not changed, lottery winnings will now be subject to personal income taxation -- retroactive to January 1, 2016.

3. The new legislation includes a tax amnesty program which will allow taxpayers to pay outstanding taxes without penalty and with a 50% reduction of accrued interest on the unpaid balance. Details on the amnesty program will follow in a separate Client Alert. The legislation requires the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to publish details on the amnesty program by mid-September, 2016.

4. Effective August 1, 2016, a $1.00 per pack tax increase on cigarettes will result in a total tax of $2.60 per pack.

5. A new tobacco tax on e-cigarettes and other vaping devices (40% of purchase price), smokeless tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco purchases (55¢ per ounce) begins on October 1, 2016. The tax does not apply to cigars.

6. State casinos will now pay an additional 2% tax on table game revenues, beginning August 1, 2016.

7. Several new tax credits are included in the new legislation that will take effect in 2017. These include credits for investments in rural businesses, an increase to the film production tax credit, a credit for manufacturers that increases payroll over four consecutive quarters, credits for certain brewing operations, and credits for certain mixed-use developments and water front developments.

While personal income tax and sales rates remain unchanged, many individuals will see an increase in the taxes they pay as a result of the broadening of the bases on which these taxes are assessed.

Kevin F. Israel is a Partner in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Corporate Law and Tax and Succession Planning  Groups. He can be reached at 412.456.2841 or kfi@muslaw.com.

For more information about the tax measures, please contact Kevin or any of the attorneys in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Tax Group.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Shared Work Plan an Alternative to Layoffs

Companies facing a downturn in business often lay off employees as the quickest way to cut costs. But many employers may be able to avoid layoffs by taking advantage of Pennsylvania’s Shared Work Program. To learn more read June Swanson's recent article, "Shared work plan an alternative to layoffs".

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bigger Penalties for Patent Infringement

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a decision that will make it easier for patent owners to sue for more money when someone purposely infringes on their patent. If you would like to learn more use this link to read David Oberdick’s recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, "Bigger Penalties for Patent Infringement".

Monday, July 11, 2016

Residential Landlord-Tenant Law: Rentals and Remedies

Frank Kosir will be a faculty member for the upcoming Sterling Education Services seminar on “Residential Landlord-Tenant Law: Rentals and Remedies”. Join him August 11 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Suites from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

He will be speaking on “Tenant and Landlord Obligations During Tenancy” and “Termination of Tenancy and Tenant Remedies and Defenses”. Use this link to learn more about the seminar.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Break the Immigration Stalemate

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court joined Congress in letting political stalemate push our country deeper into chaos and further away from addressing the urgent issue of modernizing our immigration system. Click here to Joel Pfeffer's article, "Break the Immigration Stalemate".

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Down by the River: Pittsburgh's Proposed Riverfront Interim Planning Overlay District

As Pittsburgh transitions further away from its industrial past, the City has determined that the industrial zoning applicable to large swaths of its riverfront should be replaced. To that end, the City is considering a significant amendment to zoning regulations for properties near the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers in hopes of encouraging commercial, residential and mixed use development, protecting the riverfront environment and ensuring that the rivers are an accessible public amenity.

Read more in this Developing Pittsburgh article by Andrea Geraghty and Matthew LasekDown by the River: Pittsburgh's Proposed Riverfront Interim Planning Overlay District”.


Friday, June 17, 2016

ABA Intellectual Property Roundtable

Please join us for the next ABA Intellectual Property Roundtable scheduled for Tuesday, June 28 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. The program will be held in the offices of Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP and lunch is provided. The topic is IP and Employment Implications of the Defend Trade Secrets Act.

Please feel free to share this invite with others in your organization who may have an interest in this topic.

Please RSVP to:  rsvp@muslaw.com.




Wednesday, June 8, 2016

MUS Attorney Elected as Secretary and Treasurer of ACBA Business Law Section

Gary M. Sanderson
gms@muslaw.com
412-456-2550
The Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA) has elected attorney Gary M. Sanderson as secretary and treasurer of the Corporate, Banking and Business Law Section.

The ACBA Corporate, Banking and Business Law Section reviews laws relating to corporations, commerce and banking. It also provides educational opportunities for members to expand their legal knowledge on these subjects and networking opportunities for members to stay informed of developments in the field.

Sanderson is an associate attorney at Meyer, Unkovic & Scott. He represents clients in complex business transactions and disputes and is part of several groups, including Real Estate & Lending, Corporate & Business Law, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, and International Law & Immigration.

Active in the ACBA, Sanderson is also involved in the Young Lawyers Division and Real Property Section. He is also vice co-chair of the Young Leaders Group of the Urban Land Institute of Pittsburgh and a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Green Building Alliance.

Sanderson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and political science.  He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law where he graduated cum laude and was inducted into the Order of the Coif. While in law school, he served as research editor of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law Tax Review and was the co-founder and business manager of the Business & Corporate Law Association.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

MUS Attorneys Recognized as 2016 Fast Trackers

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott today announced that the Pittsburgh Business Times has selected attorneys Antoinette Oliver and Tony J. Thompson as 2016 Fast Trackers.

The Pittsburgh Business Times Fast Trackers program honors up-and-comers under 40 years of age in the region’s business community. The selection process concentrates on their accomplishments to date and potential for significant career advancement. Many of the honorees are making a difference not only at their respective organizations, but also in the community.

Antoinette C. Oliver
A partner at Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, Oliver has worked as an attorney with the firm since 2007. She is part of the firm’s Business Litigation, Energy & Mineral Rights Law, Insurance Coverage Litigation, Employment Law & Employee Benefits, and Intellectual Property Groups. She frequently represents clients in commercial disputes involving breach of contract, fraud, negligence, trade secrets, personal injury, products liability, insurance coverage and collection matters. Oliver also helps clients in employment law matters including employment discrimination claims, post-employment restrictions, covenants not to compete, and wage payment claims. In addition, she works with clients on intellectual property matters related to trademarks and trade secret litigation.

Oliver is the Chair of the Administrative Board of the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership, a collaboration of legal departments, law firms, the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, and Neighborhood Legal Services Association. As coordinator of the firm’s pro bono work, Oliver helped to create and manages the firm’s Landlord Tenant Project, a signature project of the Partnership. The project helps low income individuals who have been denied public housing or are facing difficulties in connection with private housing. The Allegheny County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association each honored the successful project with their “Pro Bono Awards.” In addition, Oliver also manages the Custody Conciliation Pro Bono Project, another of the Partnership’s signature projects in which volunteer attorneys provide limited representation of clients at custody conciliations in the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Oliver earned her Juris Doctor in 2007 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and was the recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship for academic achievement. While in law school, she served as editor of the Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law. She graduated cum laude from Smith College in 2002. Oliver resides in Mount Lebanon with her husband and son.

Tony J. Thompson
Thompson participates in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Employment Law & Employee Benefits and Intellectual Property Groups. He counsels clients on a variety of matters, including contract negotiations, trade secrets, labor-management relations, complex commercial litigation and commercial landlord and tenant disputes. He has represented plaintiffs and defendants in both state and federal courts and in arbitration proceedings. He also serves on the firm’s Diversity Committee.

Thompson serves on the boards of the Pitt Law Alumni Association, Rainbow Kitchen Community Services, Small Seeds Development, Inc., and the Sarah Heinz House Associate Board. He is an active member on several committees of the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA). Recently, the Homer S. Brown Division of the ACBA named Thompson the recipient of the 2016 Young Leader Award, which honors the accomplishments of young attorneys who have positively affected the African-American legal community.

Thompson received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Washington & Jefferson College and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He currently resides in Monroeville with his wife.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

MUS Attorneys Join ACBA Board of Governors and Officers

The Allegheny County Bar Association has elected two Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorneys to its 2016-2017 Board of Governors and Officers. The ACBA elected attorney James R. Mall as treasurer and attorney Ronald L. Hicks, Jr., to the Board of Governors.

A partner at Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, Mall has practiced law with the firm for the past 35 years. He serves as chair of the firm's Construction Law Group and is a member of the Business Litigation and Energy Groups. He focuses his practice in construction and commercial litigation, land use and zoning. He has handled numerous construction cases involving power plants, ballparks, hospitals, airports, schools and commercial buildings.

Mall serves as a solicitor to the Hampton Township Zoning Hearing Board. He is a board member on the Advisory Committee of the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Construction Financial Management Association. Additionally, he is a member of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County, an affiliate member of the Western Pennsylvania Master Builders’ Association, Vice Chair of the Construction Legislative Council and past President of the Sewickley Heights Golf Club.

Mall has three degrees from the University of Notre Dame: a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management, a Masters in Business Administration degree  and a Juris Doctor degree. He resides in Hampton Township.

Also a partner at Meyer Unkovic & Scott, Hicks is a civil trial and appellate lawyer who for the past 29 years has worked closely with businesses and individuals on complex litigation, oil and gas disputes, and corporate and business matters, with particular service to the gay, lesbian and non-traditional family business community. He serves as co-chair of the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice group and as chair of its Energy, Utilities & Mineral Rights practice group. Hicks also serves as a member of the firm’s Diversity and Technology committees.

A graduate of Penn State University, Hicks serves on the university’s board of directors for its College of the Liberal Arts Alumni Society. He also serves on the National Legal Industry Council for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. He is involved in the ACBA, serving as a member of Civil Litigation Section, the LGBT Rights Committee, the Diversity Collaborative Committee, the Diversity and Gender Equality Ad Hoc Committee, the ACBA Court Rules Committee and the Judiciary Committee.  He recently was inducted as a member of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

New Changes to Overtime Pay Regulations Double Minimum Salary Levels for Exempt Employees

Elaina Smiley
412-456-2821
es@muslaw.com
On Wednesday, May 18, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations that will likely make approximately 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime pay. The changes will go into effect on December 1, 2016.

Under the FLSA, employers must pay workers time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week. The FLSA includes some exemptions to the overtime rules, intended to exclude certain “white-collar” workers from the overtime requirements. Companies do not have to pay an employee overtime wages as long as the worker passes both the salary test and the duties test to meet the FLSA exemptions from overtime pay.

Here are the five most important things to know about the changes:

1. New salary threshold is $47,476
Under the current standard, which has been in place since 2004, workers are exempt from the overtime pay requirement if they are paid a minimum salary of $455 per week or $23,660 per year and their job duties fit the FLSA’s definitions of executive, administrative and professional categories. The new regulations, effective December 1, more than double the salary threshold to $913 per week or $47,476 per year.

2. Up to 10 percent of the salary threshold may be bonuses or commissions
For some employees, their weekly pay may fall below the $913 threshold, but non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay or commissions may put their total pay over the annual minimum. Under the new rules, such an employee qualifies as exempt from overtime pay as long as the employee makes at least 90 percent of the threshold amount in salary and the remaining 10 percent is paid in non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay or commissions distributed at least on a quarterly basis.

3. No changes to the “duties test”
Even if a worker is paid more than the minimum salary, the worker is still entitled to overtime wages unless their work passes the “duties test.” To meet the duties test, the worker’s job responsibilities must meet all of the FLSA’s criteria established under the various exemption categories. Initially, the DOL considered changing the duties test to further restrict the types of jobs that are exempt from overtime pay, but ultimately decided against making any changes.

4. New minimum salary to qualify as “highly compensated employee” is $134,004
The FLSA exempts “highly-compensated” workers from overtime pay as long as they regularly perform at least one job duty from the executive, administrative or professional exemption category and are paid a high salary. Previously, the DOL defined the salary of a highly compensated employee as $100,000 per year, but the new regulations raise it to $134,004.

5. The DOL will update the rules every three years
The DOL will update the minimum salary levels every three years, with the next update scheduled to take effect January 1, 2020. The DOL will calculate the new minimum salary threshold based on the pay of full-time workers in the 40th percentile in the lowest-wage census region. For highly-compensated workers, the DOL will calculate the threshold based on the wages of workers in the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationwide. By 2020, the DOL expects the minimum salary level to rise to $51,168, and the salary for highly compensated workers will be roughly $147,524. The DOL will announce the new salary levels on August 1, 2019.

Employers should carefully review their current exempt employees’ compensation structure to determine which workers may be eligible for overtime wages under the new regulations.  Although the changes don’t take effect until December 1, companies should monitor those employees’ work hours now to determine the most cost-effective way to comply with the new rules. In some cases, it may be easier to simply raise the workers’ salaries to the threshold, assuming their job functions meet the FLSA duties test.  In other cases, employers may want to convert the employee to an hourly rate and pay overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week and implement rules to limit excessive overtime.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cyber Security: Is Your Company at Risk?

MUS attorney Andrea Geraghty will be moderating CREW Pittsburgh's May 24th lunch program, "Cyber Security: Is Your Company at Risk?" at The Engineers' Society of Western PA's office located on 337 Fourth Avenue in Pittsburgh.

To register, please visit CREW's web site.

Five Key Aspects of New Federal Trade Secret Protection Law

By: David Oberdick, Michael Monyok

President Obama has signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) into law, which gives a party the right to file civil lawsuits in federal court against a person or organization that improperly obtains, discloses, or uses its trade secrets.

The DTSA is an extension of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, which allowed the government to criminally prosecute anyone who stole or illegally used trade secrets in interstate or international commerce. With the addition of the DTSA, parties can now file civil trade secret lawsuits. The law had tremendous support in the legislature, passing unanimously in the Senate with a 410-2 vote in the House of Representatives.

Here are five key things that companies and individuals should know about the new law:

1. The DTSA does not preempt state law
While parties have not been able to file civil lawsuits under federal law regarding trade secrets in federal courts, they have been able to file trade secret lawsuits in state courts and bring state law claims in federal courts in certain cases. Most states have adopted some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, but there are many variations among the versions adopted in each state, which creates complications for companies that operate in multiple states. While the DTSA will help to bring some consistency to trade secret law, especially for multi-state companies, it will not preempt state laws. Companies that wish to file a trade secret lawsuit will be able to choose whether to file lawsuits in state or federal courts.

2. The law defines trade secrets as both technical & business information
Currently, there's no universal definition of trade secrets, which may generally include any information that gives a company a competitive edge by virtue of being unknown. Technical information such as proprietary formulas, prototypes or designs almost always qualify as trade secrets, but many courts have debated whether business information such as customer lists, marketing strategies or pricing qualify as trade secrets. The DTSA provides a broad definition of trade secrets that includes "all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic or engineering information" as long as:

  • the owner took reasonable measures to keep the information secret; and 
  • the information provides economic value to the company by virtue of not being known to others.

3. The DTSA provides broad set of remedies
The DTSA will allow parties to pursue many different types of remedies, including compensatory monetary damages, seizure of property necessary to prevent disclosure of the trade secrets and injunctive relief, which is a court order to stop doing something. In certain circumstances where an injunction is not available, courts may also award royalties for a competitor's continued use of the trade secret. This "fall-back" to a reasonable royalty could mean that courts will find it appropriate to award injunctive relief in most cases. As is the case in other types of federal intellectual property law, the DTSA will allow courts to award legal fees if the court determines that the defendant stole or misused the trade secrets willfully or in bad faith. Willful misappropriation can also double damages.

4. Companies may have less power to enforce non-compete restrictions under the DTSA
Because departing employees are the most common source of leaked trade secrets, one of the major debates surrounding the DTSA was whether it would unfairly limit employees from moving between competitors. Under the DTSA, employers cannot seek a court order to stop an employee from working for a competitor, although the employer may be able to restrict certain activities, such as limit the employee's contact with certain clients or on particular product development. But even in those cases, the DTSA only allows courts to grant injunctions "based on evidence of threatened misappropriation and not merely on the information the person knows." Also, the scope of any injunction must take into account applicable state laws restricting enforcement of non-compete agreements. In states with laws that allow for broader enforcement of non-compete agreements, employers may choose to seek an injunction in state court or bring state law claims in federal court.

5. Courts will have to decide how to enforce civil seizure
One unique part of the DTSA is that it will allow civil seizure, which means that a court can order the defendant to turn over and stop using certain property to prevent the propagation or dissemination of stolen trade secrets until the case is decided. While civil seizure may prevent companies from making money on the allegedly stolen trade secret while the case is ongoing, it could also result in abuse. For example, a company purposely could try to use civil seizure to prevent a competitor from selling or producing items for a period of time. However, a party subject to a wrongful or excessive seizure can seek damages, similar to the seizure procedures under the trademark statute involving counterfeit goods.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Washington County Real Estate Tax Re-Assessments: Appeals DEADLINE This Summer


Frank Kosir, Jr.
412-456-2825
fk@muslaw.com
Property owners in Washington County will soon be receiving notices of real estate reassessments. This will mark the first County-wide reassessment in Washington County since 1981. County and municipal taxes will be calculated based on the new valuations starting on January 1, 2017, and school taxes will be calculated on these new values starting on July 1, 2017.

Washington County assessments are currently based on 25% of a parcel's fair market value. However, after the reassessment, the assessments will be based on 100% of the fair market value. For example, under the current system, a property valued at $200,000.00 is assessed at $50,000.00. However, after the reassessment, a property valued at $200,000.00 will be assessed at $200,000.00. As a result, most property owners will see a significant increase in the assessed values of their properties. However, this does not translate into a commensurate increase in real estate taxes, as Pennsylvania law prohibits school districts from receiving a windfall in total taxes collected from a reassessment, and municipalities cannot receive more than a five percent (5%) increase in total taxes collected as a result of the reassessment.

The first notice that property owners will receive will be a Notice of Informal Review, which was scheduled to be mailed to each property owner in late March or early April of 2016, depending upon the municipality in which their property is located. This Notice will include both a new assessed valuation of the property, as well as a description of the property.

Any property owner who believes that the notice incorrectly describes their property will have the opportunity to request an informal review with Tyler Technologies, the firm that the County hired to conduct the reassessment. The sole purpose of the informal review is to address any errors in the assessment records, such as the total square footage of the structure, total number of rooms, total number of garages, etc. The informal review process does not specifically address valuation, and property owners will not have an opportunity to present evidence of value at the informal review.

Following the completion of informal reviews, on July 1, 2016, the County will issue a Change of Assessment Notice, setting forth the final assessed value for the property. Property owners will have forty (40) days from the date of this notice (August 10, 2016) to file a formal assessment appeal with the Washington County Tax Revenue Department; although, the Department has indicated that the deadline for filing appeals may be extended to September 1, 2016. Failure to participate in the informal review process will not impact a property owner's right to pursue an appeal. At the formal hearing, property owners will be able to present evidence in opposition to the assessed value. This evidence can include, but is not limited to, sales of comparable properties, defects in the structure or in the condition of the land, and negative aspects of the property's location. Following the appeal hearing, the Department will issue a decision, and any aggrieved party will have 30 days to appeal that decision to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.

At Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP, our experience and hard work can help property owners through the appeal process, possibly saving property owners money, by obtaining a lower assessed value. While every case is unique, factors such as the size and use of the property, comparable sales of properties in the area, and age and nature of structures in the property have an impact on the assessed value. It is important to evaluate the possibility of a tax assessment appeal and to consider obtaining an independent appraisal when you believe that your property was inaccurately assessed. Analysis of the accuracy of the property assessment is an essential component to managing your valuable real estate assets.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Three MUS Attorneys Candidates in This Year's ACBA Election

Voting for the ACBA's annual election began on Tuesday, April 19, and will close at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 2.

Three Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorneys are candidates in this year’s election: Jim Mall is running for Treasurer; Nick Bell is running for the Judiciary Committee and Young Lawyers Division Secretary; and Ron Hicks is running for the Board of Governors.

ACBA Members who are eligible to vote (active and honorary members only) were emailed their login credentials for the voting website earlier this week. If you did not receive your login credentials, please email Michele Greenway (Director of Membership & CLE) at mgreenway@acba.org.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Internet Law Update 2016

David Oberdick will be a Faculty presenter at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s “Internet Law Update 2016”. The seminar takes place on Monday, April 18 at the PBI Professional Development Conference Center located in the Heinz 57 Center, 339 Sixth Ave., 7th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Use this link for more info.

Friday, April 1, 2016

MUS Welcomes New Human Resources Manager

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott announced today that Leeanne Smollen recently joined the firm as the new human resources manager.

Prior to joining Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, Smollen worked as an account manager at Seubert and Associates, where she was a group employee benefits consultant and strategic partner who worked with regional clients with 50-100+ employees. Smollen has also worked as a human resources manager at Nicholson Construction, as a site manager for the YMCA Child Care Program, as well as Director for several preschools in the Pittsburgh area.

Smollen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Robert Morris University. She went on to earn a Human Resources Generalist graduate certificate and a Master of Science degree in human resources management from La Roche College.

Smollen is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association.

She currently resides in Ross Township, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Construction Advisory - Carefully Review Indemnity and Insurance Provisions

New Case Cautions Owners and Contractors to Carefully Review Indemnity and Insurance Provisions in Construction Contracts

By: Matthew R. Lasek, Timothy C. Quinn

Are you aware of the possible consequences of the indemnity and insurance language in your construction contract?  Will you be covered for your own or a third party's negligence?  Will you be required to indemnify another party for your acts or the acts of a third party?  Finally, how will your insurance and the insurance of others protect you?

A recent case from the Pennsylvania Superior Court serves as a stark reminder to owners and contractors alike that you should seek legal advice when drafting and reviewing the indemnity and insurance provisions in a contract.  In Burlington Coat Factory of Pa., LLC v. Constr. Mgmt. Co., LLC, 126 A.3d 1010 (Pa. Super. 2015), an employee of a subcontractor sustained injuries during renovations of a retail store.  The employee claimed that his injuries were caused by the owner's negligent maintenance of a freight elevator.  The owner settled with the employee, then sought reimbursement from the contractor under the indemnity and insurance provisions in the construction contract.  The owner claimed that the contractor was required to reimburse the owner for the entire settlement amount, including amounts that could be attributed to the negligence of the subcontractor and even to the owner itself.  When the contractor refused, the owner filed a lawsuit claiming that the contractor breached the construction contract by refusing to indemnify the owner and failing to obtain insurance coverage required by the contract which could have protected the owner.

Pivotal to the Burlington Coat Factory case was the fact that the construction contract in question had two indemnification provisions.  One required the contractor to indemnify the owner "to the extent caused in whole or in part by negligent acts or omissions of the Contractor, a Subcontractor, anyone directly or indirectly employed by them or anyone for whose acts they may be liable[.]"  The second indemnity clause was stated more broadly and was not limited to "the extent caused in whole or in part by negligent acts or omissions of the contractor, a Subcontractor, anyone directly or indirectly employed by them or anyone for whose acts they may be liable[.]"  Under the second, broader provision, the owner argued that, regardless of who was at fault, the contractor was required to reimburse the owner for all costs associated with the claim by the injured individual.

The court disagreed.  It held that, because the owner drafted the contract, the conflicting indemnity provisions would be interpreted against the owner and the first, more-narrow indemnity provision would prevail.  Therefore, while the contractor would be liable for its own negligence and that of its subcontractors in failing to properly train employees on the use of the freight elevator, the contractor was not responsible for costs caused by the owner's own negligence in maintaining the elevator.

The court in the Burlington Coat Factory case also addressed three topics important to construction contracts.  First, the court decided that, based on the language of the construction contract, the contractor had an obligation to obtain insurance that covered the contractor's indemnity obligations.  Second, the court decided that, contrary to the contractor's suggestion, the owner would not waive its indemnification rights by settling the case with the injured employee unless that settlement was unreasonable. Finally, the court provides a reminder of how important it is to use the correct party names in a construction contract in order to ensure that the parties can enforce the agreement.

The Burlington Coat Factory case provides owners and contractors an important warning of how the specific wording of a construction contract can dramatically alter the rights and liabilities of the parties.  The case also reminds us that more is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to the addition of potentially conflicting indemnity provisions.  In addition to the issues raised by the court in the Burlington Coat Factory case, there are many other considerations that owners and contractors should keep in mind when reviewing and revising indemnity and insurance provisions in a construction agreement.  If you are wondering how these and other rules affect your construction contract, please feel free to contact us to arrange a meeting and discuss the matter.

Monday, March 21, 2016

MUS Attorney Ashley Wilkinson Recognized as Robert Morris University 2016 Distinguished Alumna

Ashley L. Wilkinson
412-456-2530
alw@muslaw.com
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott announced today that Robert Morris University School of Communications and Information Systems has selected attorney Ashley L. Wilkinson as a 2016 Distinguished Alumna.

Each year, Robert Morris University’s School of Communications and Information Systems honors high achieving alumni from all majors. Robert Morris University will recognize Wilkinson on April 10, 2016 for her accomplishments in the legal field and for the distinction she brings to her profession and the university. Wilkinson is a 2012 graduate of Robert Morris University, and received a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Legal Studies.

Wilkinson is an associate at Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP. She works with clients on litigation and dispute resolution. Prior to joining the firm, Wilkinson served as a 2014 summer associate, where she worked on a variety of issues. While in school at Duquesne University School of Law, she served as a member of the Pro Bono Urban Development Clinic.

Wilkinson has received numerous scholarships and awards, including the Hardiman Scholarship, the Honorable Carol Los Mansmann Scholarship, the Honorable Carol Los Mansmann Endowed Student Resource Fund, the Law School Scholarship for Excellence and the Outstanding Oral Argument Award. The CALI Excellence for the Future Award also recognized Wilkinson for having the highest score in her law school class in the areas of Criminal Law and Procedure, Sales, Estates and Trusts and Core Competencies II.

While in law school, Wilkinson served as treasurer of the Women’s Law Association, junior staff member and production editor of the Duquesne Law Review and student ambassador to the Dean. She also worked as a research assistant and studied abroad in the summer of 2013.

Wilkinson resides on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What's In A Name? Drafting Recorded Documents in Allegheny County

Matthew R. Lasek
412-456-2886
mrl@muslaw.com
Recording a document with the Allegheny County Department of Real Estate can bring with it significant benefits.  Recorded documents can affect rights regarding a piece of real estate for many years to come, even for individuals who are not aware of the document's existence.  Because of the importance of recorded documents, those who draft or search for them in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, should be aware of the County's indexing rules.

Indexing is a process that occurs at the time of recording, when all of the parties to a recorded document are listed so that the document can be found in a title search.  Incorrectly indexed documents can be impossible to find as part of a normal title search.  If the recorder's office makes an indexing mistake, the recorder is not liable and the document remains in force.  In that situation, future third parties (such as a buyer, lender, and so on), who might have had no realistic chance of discovering the document, may still have their rights affected by it.  If the indexing problem is the fault of the parties to the document, however, then subsequent, unsuspecting third parties may not be bound by it.

Consider the following scenario.  A Company mortgages its land to a Lender. The Mortgage is recorded but improperly indexed.  The Company then sells the Real Estate to a Family, who conducts a title search but, because of the indexing error, does not find the Mortgage.

If the county recorder made the indexing mistake, the Lender's rights are preserved, the land remains subject to the Mortgage (meaning that, if the Mortgage is not paid, the Lender can foreclose on it and eliminate the Family's interest in the property), and the recorder is not liable for any of it.  If the Lender made the mistake, however, then there is a good chance that the Family will own the land without having to worry about the Mortgage.  The sheer uncertainty and inconvenience of a situation like this one should motivate most parties to do what they can to get recorded documents properly indexed so that they are discoverable during a title search.

While all Allegheny County indexing rules (available at https://pa_allegheny.uslandrecords.com/palr/indexing_guidelines.jsp) should be noted, parties should be especially cognizant of several counterintuitive and potentially troublesome rules.  First, Allegheny County's rules state that initials in corporate or company names are indexed with spaces between the initials.  In an example given by Allegheny County, a document to which "ING Bank" is a party is indexed under "I N G Bank"; therefore, a search for "ING" or "ING Bank," without the spaces between the first three letters, will not return the document in question.

Second, Allegheny County's related indexing rule - that capital letters in a partially-capitalized name are assumed to represent initials - creates additional problems.  This can be particularly problematic for entities which have capitalized letters that do not represent initials.  For example, a document involving a company named "PANAM Airlines, Inc." ("PANAM" being a contraction of "Pan American") would be indexed as "P A N A M Airlines, Inc.," which is an unlikely search term; it would not be found by searching for "PANAM Airlines, Inc.," the actual name of the company.

No case in Pennsylvania has decided what happens when parties run afoul of the indexing rules discussed above.  However, in order to avoid being the test case on this issue, parties can employ a simple, widely-used drafting technique: capitalizing the entire name of the parties the first time they appear in a recorded document.  Under this approach, documents involving "PANAM AIRLINES, INC.," typed in all capitalized letters, could be located using the much more intuitive and true-to-life search of "PANAM Airlines, Inc."

Being aware of the indexing rules and the simple drafting technique discussed here could save individuals and companies who record and search for recorded documents in Allegheny County a considerable amount of time, expense, and grief.

For more information about recorded documents or other real estate matters, please feel free to contact Matthew Lasek or any of the attorneys in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's award-winning Real Estate & Lending Group.

Friday, March 11, 2016

New EEOC Reporting Requirements to Ensure Equal Pay

Beth A. Slagle
412-456-2890
bas@muslaw.com
Are companies discriminating against women and minorities when it comes to paying equal wages for equal work? If so, just how big is the wage gap, and how widespread is it?

The answer is that we don't really know. The federal government has never consistently collected the data needed to accurately calculate wage differences among different demographic groups that perform the same work. That's why the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has proposed regulations to collect wage data in order to identify possible wage discrimination in America.

As most employers know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. Many companies that discriminate may be inadvertently paying male and female workers unequally for a variety of reasons; although, some employers may have an unwritten policy or corporate culture that promotes discrimination in pay.

In the past, however, the only available statistics to calculate possible discriminatory wage practices were from U.S. Census data reports of median wages broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity. The problem with these statistics is that they don't take life choices into account, such as differences in chosen career fields, total hours worked, and other variable factors.

In response to President Obama's National Equal Pay Task Force, the EEOC has proposed new employer reporting requirements that will help the government identify illegal wage discrimination in the workplace.

Since 1966, the EEOC has required all employers with more than 100 employees (50 employees for federal contractors) to submit data about the number of individuals they employ broken down by job function, race, ethnicity, and sex. The proposed new reporting standard will also require all employers with more than 100 employees to report related pay data based on wages reported on W-2 tax forms. The requirement will not apply to federal contractors with 50-99 employees.

According to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez: "We can't know what we don't know. We can't deliver on the promise of equal pay unless we have the best, most comprehensive information about what people earn. We expect that reporting this data will help employers to evaluate their own pay practices to prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces. The data collection also gives the Labor Department a more powerful tool to do its enforcement work, to ensure that federal contractors comply with fair pay laws and to root out discrimination where it does exist."

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will need to approve the EEOC's plans before it can begin collecting the data. If the OMB approves the plan, companies will need to begin reporting data in 2017.

Any employer that does not already maintain wage records categorized by job function, gender, race, and ethnicity should begin collecting records now. Even if the government does not approve the new data collection standards, companies will be able to use the data internally to correct any inadvertent wage discrimination among people who perform equal work.

For more information about EEOC reporting requirements and other employment law matters, contact Beth Slagle or any other Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorney with whom you have worked.

Friday, March 4, 2016

MUS Attorney Tony J. Thompson Wins Homer S. Brown Division Young Leader Award

Tony J. Thompson
412-456-2874
tjt@muslaw.com
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott announced today that the Homer S. Brown Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association has selected Tony J. Thompson as the recipient of its Young Leader Award.

The Homer S. Brown Division (HSBD) provides a forum for members of the ACBA to discuss and address issues affecting African Americans within the bar association and the local community. It also informs the ACBA about the needs of its African-American members.

The HSBD presents the Young Leader Award to an attorney who exhibits strong leadership qualities and a commitment to the promotion of equality and the advancement of justice among the African-American community. Any HSBD member under the age of 40 who actively participates in HSBD and at least one other committee, division or section of the ACBA is eligible to receive the award. Through the award, the HSBD honors the accomplishments of young attorneys who have positively affected the African-American legal community.

Thompson participates in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Employment Law & Employee Benefits and Intellectual Property Groups. He counsels clients on a variety of matters, including contract negotiations, trade secrets, labor-management relations, complex commercial litigations and commercial landlord and tenant disputes. He has represented plaintiffs and defendants in both state and federal courts and in arbitration proceedings. He also serves on the firm’s Diversity Committee.

Thompson serves on the boards of the Pitt Law Alumni Association, Rainbow Kitchen Community Services, and Small Seeds Development, Inc. Several publications have included Thompson among their lists of awardees, including Pennsylvania Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars,” The Legal Intelligencer’s “Lawyers on the Fast Track” and The New Pittsburgh Courier’s “Fab 40.” He is an active member on several committees of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Thompson received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Washington & Jefferson College and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He currently resides in Monroeville with his wife.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Patricia Dodge Named 2016 BTI Client Service All-Star

Patricia L. Dodge
412-456-2808
pld@muslaw.com
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott today announced that BTI Consulting Group has named attorney Patricia Dodge as a 2016 BTI Client Service All-Star. 

BTI Consulting Group designates Client Service All-Stars based only on recommendations from corporate counsel who have identified an attorney who stands out for delivering superior client service. Corporate counsel independently identify attorneys for the award based on six criteria including superior client focus, innovative thought leadership, unmatched business understanding, legal skills, value and outstanding results.


As an experienced trial attorney, Dodge represents a wide range of foreign and domestic corporations, closely-held businesses, municipal agencies, and individuals in connection with complex commercial litigation, oil and gas controversies, securities fraud, products liability, and land use litigation. She also represents clients in domestic and international arbitration proceedings and serves as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association and as a private arbitrator. Dodge frequently serves as a mediator and neutral evaluator in lawsuits pending in federal court. She has served as the managing partner of Meyer, Unkovic & Scott since 2012.

Dodge is a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County. She is vice president of the board of trustees of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation and serves as a hearing officer for the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.

Throughout her career, Dodge has consistently earned honorable recognition from a wide range of legal, business and nonprofit organizations. The Best Lawyers in America, published by Woodward & White, has recognized Dodge since 2007. Law & Politics Magazine has also named her as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since 2005.

Super Lawyers has recognized her as one of the top one hundred lawyers in Pennsylvania, one of the top fifty lawyers in Pittsburgh, and one of the top fifty female lawyers in Pennsylvania. The Legal Intelligencer named Dodge as Woman of the Year in 2012, and that same year, the Civil Litigation Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association honored her with the 2012 Professionalism Award. Best Lawyers recognized Dodge as Pittsburgh Lawyer of the Year 2012 in Products Liability Litigation- Defendants. In 2014, the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania named her a Woman of Distinction. The Pittsburgh Business Times awarded Dodge the 2015 Business Women First Award. In 2015, Duquesne University School of Law gave her a Distinguished Service Award, and The Legal Intelligencer announced her as winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dodge received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and her Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law.