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
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.