Monday, June 19, 2017

How the Trump Administration is Changing U.S. Immigration

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott immigration attorney Joel Pfeffer will be the featured presenter during a webinar scheduled for this Wednesday, June 21st at 2 p.m. EDT on the topic of: How the Trump Administration is Changing U.S. Immigration – A Sixth Month Look Back. The webinar will address the following issues:

  • What to expect in the future including the call for changes in screening and vetting for visa issuance and entry to the United States;
  • What changes can be anticipated for the H-1B specialty occupation program; and
  • What employers can do now to prepare for changes in policy, adjudications and enforcement.

Mr. Pfeffer is a Pittsburgh-based immigration attorney and Chairs the firm’s Immigration Practice Group. He is also a member of the firm’s Corporate & Business Law and International Law practice groups.

For more information about the webinar and to register, please visit: http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/webinar-how-the-trump-administration-is-12229

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lance Woods Named To "40 Under 40"

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorney Lance Woods was recently named by the National Bar Association (NBA) as one of this year’s “40 Under 40” award recipients. Read more.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Friday, June 2, 2017

Andrea Geraghty Honored By PBA

Andrea Geraghty was recently honored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s (PBA) Board of Governors with a Special Achievement Award. Read more.

Monday, May 22, 2017

MUSolutions Webinar

MUSolutions Webinar
The Post-Launch Checklist: Business, Tax, and Intellectual Property Considerations for Your Emerging Business

Please join Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorneys Kevin Israel, Michael Monyok and Josh Hoffman for an informative webinar of what to expect and prepare for with your growing venture. For more information and to register please visit MUSolutions Webinar.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

PVCA Luncheon - Intellectual Property Strategy

David Oberdick will serve as panelist at the next PVCA Luncheon coming up June 13 at the Fairmont Pittsburgh. The discussion will be focused on “Intellectual Property Strategy.” Learn more.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott’s Nette Oliver was recently interviewed by Jon Delano on The Sunday Business Page, KDKA-TV2, where she discussed the important work of Neighborhood Legal Services and the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership. Use this link to view the complete video.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mechanics' Liens Seminars

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorney Chad Michaelson, a Partner in the firm’s Construction & Litigation Groups, will be a featured presenter at a series of upcoming PBI seminars on the topic of “Mechanics' Liens in Pennsylvania: What You Need to Know in 2017.” The seminars are scheduled to be held in Mechanicsburg on June 19th, Pittsburgh on June 20th, and Philadelphia on June 27th.

Please see the links below for further details and registration information.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott Welcomes Maxwell Briskman Stanfield

412.456.2870
mbs@muslaw.com
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott is pleased to welcome Maxwell Briskman Stanfield as an Associate to our Real Estate & Lending and Corporate & Business Law Practice Groups.

Mr. Stanfield represents clients in a variety of corporate, real estate and financial transactions, including those related to commercial and hospitality properties. He also advises individuals and corporations in general corporate and business transactional matters.

Prior to his earlier law firm experience in Pittsburgh, Mr. Stanfield worked as an intern in the legal department of CBS Corporation in New York, and as a legal extern for CBS Television in Los Angeles.

Mr. Stanfield earned his J.D. from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, and B.A. from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Immigration Law Alert - Companies Should Prepare for an Increase in I-9 Audits

In President Trump's recent Executive Orders, he directed executive agencies to prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws and proposed an increase in the budget for the hiring of additional immigration officers. Such enforcement efforts will likely include a surge in I-9 audit compliance.

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. This verification process must take place within 3 days of the start of employment. The Form I-9 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 the documents.

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. Prior to conducting an I-9 audit, the agency normally sends a Notice of Inspection for production of I-9s; then, businesses will have 3 business days to provide the requested documents for inspection. The Notice of Inspection may also list other business records for inspection such as payroll records, a list of employees, Articles of Incorporation and business licenses.

If technical or procedural violations are found, the employer is given 10 business days to correct the violation. Companies can receive monetary fines for substantive and uncorrected technical violations. Fines for failing to comply with I-9 employment verification requirements can range from $216 to a maximum of $2,156 for each form.

Any employer who knowingly hired or continued to employ an unauthorized worker may be criminally prosecuted, and the company can be debarred from participation in federal contracts. Civil fines for knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien for employment can range from $539 to a maximum of $21,563 for each unauthorized alien.

ICE is committed to increasing work-site enforcement, particularly in cases of low skill and high turnover industries. Employers should regularly audit their I-9 procedures, compliance, and recordkeeping; establish a protocol to identify persons responsible for dealing with a government inquiry; and be sure that all policies and protocols relating to recordkeeping and government compliance are current.

For more information about I-9 Audits or any other Immigration Law matter, please contact Joel Pfeffer, Elaina Smiley, or Gary Sanderson.

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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 27 ABA 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
Conceptual Separability:
Copyright Protection for Designs of Useful Articles

When
Thursday, April 27, 2017
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, April 24th 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, April 12, 2017

Digital Assets in the Event of Death or Incapacitation



PRIVATE CLIENTS ADVISORY
What You Need to Know About Your Digital Assets
In the Event of Your Incapacity or Death 

What will happen to your digital assets in the event of your incapacity or death? Can your spouse or other family members easily access them? (Is there anyone whom you would not want to have such access?)  What will the internet service firms demand to see before they will disclose your private information to anyone else?
Estate planning for digital assets involves three steps: 
  1. Organizing your digital assets so that your agent, executor, or trustee can know what files and accounts you have and where they are located;
     
  2. Adding language to your Power of Attorney, Will or Trust that will empower your agent, executor, or trustee to gain access to all of your data and the information being stored by third parties; and
     
  3. Updating the bequests in your Will or Trust as necessary to make any bequests of your digital assets to one or more of your beneficiaries. 
1. ORGANIZING YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS

You should prepare an inventory of your digital assets that would separate them into two categories: 
  • Digital Property With Monetary Value - This category would include any digital asset that produces income, such as websites, blogs, domain names, copyright material, trademarks and code, as well as art, photos and eBooks. Other digital property that may have monetary value are PayPal, accounts at online banks, loyalty reward programs and other accounts used to hold or manage money or other forms of purchasing power; online stores that you manage and the digital assets of any businesses you may own, including databases, websites, storefronts, accounts and code. Some computing hardware may also have monetary value, for example, the remaining portion of computer leases. You should also ensure that the digital assets of your non-web-based businesses be included in the valuation of the business for the purpose of sale or transfer to heirs. 
  • Personal Digital Property - Examples include computers, smart phones, tablets, external hard drives, digital music readers, digital cameras and other computer hardware an individual owns. It also includes any information stored electronically on devices, computers or in the cloud that may have no intrinsic value on the open market, but does have personal value to your family and friends. This kind of information includes accounts for email, social media, photo and video sharing, gaming, storage and personal websites and blogs. It may also include intellectual property such as domain names, copyright material, trademarks and code you may have written. 
The inventory of your current digital assets should include usernames and passwords, or where they are stored. Keep this inventory in a safe location, and limit those who know of its whereabouts. Update the inventory regularly so that it will always reflect your current information.
 
Rather than starting from scratch, you could use a web site that will organize and store your information for you. There are now a number of these websites that offer estate planning-related services, including digital lockers for data storage, post-mortem messaging for family members, and a digital assets locator.
2. UPDATING YOUR POWER OF ATTORNEY, WILL, AND TRUST TO     AUTHORIZE ACCESS TO YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS
You should update your Power of Attorney, Will, and Trust (if applicable) to add language whereby you give your consent to your agent, executor, and trustee gaining access to your protected information that is held by any internet service providers.
This type of authorization is sanctioned by the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and will help your agents, executors, and trustees to collect all of your digital assets and transfer them as you direct. 
3. MAKE BEQUESTS OF DIGITAL ASSETS

In your Will or Trust you can make gifts of specific items of your digital assets to one or more beneficiaries. If you do not want to make specific bequests, you could add your digital assets to the pool of your tangible personal property and household goods that your beneficiaries can divide up among themselves.
           
Place Digital Assets in Lifetime TrustAs an alternative to keeping your digital assets in your own name to pass under your Will, they may be good candidates for transferring to a trust that you would create during your lifetime.  Since the trust can survive your death, transfer problems that might otherwise arise at an owner's death can be avoided. The trust can also provide for the management of copyright and trademark rights that may be attached to such assets.
CONCLUSION
Individuals who own their own business or use the Internet or smartphones to manage a significant part of their lives should contact a Meyer Unkovic & Scott Private Clients Group attorney for advice and counsel on updating their estate plan to include all of their current and anticipated digital assets. 
For more information about this or any private client matter, please contact Dan Gallagher, Martin Hagan, or any of the MUS Private Clients Group attorneys 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.



Daniel P. Gallagher, Jr. is a Partner in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Private Clients Group.

He can be reached at: 412.456.2850 or dpg@muslaw.com










Martin J. Hagan is a Partner in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Private Clients Group.

He can be reached at: 412.456.2820 or mjh@muslaw.com. 


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Corporate Law Advisory


What Corporations Should Do When Notice of Shareholder Meetings and Dividends Go Unclaimed

Under Pennsylvania law, when a shareholder has moved and provided no forwarding address, the corporation should continue mailing all notices to the shareholder's address of record for at least 24 months. That is because under Section 1707(b) of Pennsylvania's Business Corporation Law of 1988 (15 Pa. C.S. § 1101, et seq.), when a corporation is unable to communicate with a shareholder for more than 24 consecutive months because communications to the shareholder are returned unclaimed or the shareholder has otherwise failed to provide the corporation with a current address, the giving of notice or communication to that shareholder will no longer be required. After such 24-month period, any action or meeting that is taken or held without notice or communication to that shareholder shall have the same validity as if the notice or communication had been duly given. This 24-month rule holds for corporations organized under Pennsylvania law.

In addition to shareholders failing to respond to notices, many times dividends and voting rights go unclaimed. Addressing these issues is a bit more complicated, because the unclaimed property law (or escheat law) of the state of the shareholder's last known address holds priority over both the law of the state of the company's incorporation and the law of the state of incorporation of any intermediary, such as an investment company or stockbroker, that ultimately holds the dividends on account for the shareholder. See Texas v. New Jersey, 379 U.S. 674 (U.S. 1965), Pennsylvania v. New York, 407 U.S. 206 (U.S. 1972), and Delaware v. New York, 507 U.S. 490 (U.S. 1993).

Each state has different requirements and time periods after which the unclaimed dividends or unexercised stock powers are considered to be abandoned. Once dividends or certificates of stock are deemed abandoned, the corporation is required to adhere to certain requirements under the applicable unclaimed property law. A corporation's failure to comply with a state's unclaimed property law could result in criminal/civil penalties.

If the nonresponsive shareholder's last known address is located in Pennsylvania, under Pennsylvania's Unclaimed Property Act (72 P.S. § 1301.1 et seq.) (the "Act"), the dividends and/or the certificates of stock the shareholder owns will be deemed abandoned if the shareholder fails to claim the dividends or indicate an interest in the stock for a period of three years. In such a scenario, the corporation is required to submit a report to the Commonwealth's Treasurer in accordance with Section 1301.11 of the Act prior to April 15 of the year following the date in which the property was first presumed abandoned and must also follow other reporting requirements set forth in the Act.

When notices and/or shares go unclaimed or undeliverable for a period of time, a corporation should document the non-delivery and escrow all dividends so that it is able to make a valid report to the state's treasurer. Taking reasonable steps to locate the shareholder will enable the company to avoid having to deal with the unclaimed property laws and procedures of different states, and the penalties that go along with failure to comply.

For more information about this or any Corporate Law matter, please contact Tim Quinn, or any of the below listed MUS Corporate attorneys.

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.

Timothy C. Quinn is an Associate in Meyer, Unkovic & Scott's Corporate Law Group.

He can be reached at: 412.456.2846 or jcq@muslaw.com.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Don’t delay in preparing H-1B applications

Various factors may affect the H-1B visa program this year, including potential changes by the new administration and a pending lawsuit related to H1-B visa lottery procedures. Read more in this article by Gary Sanderson, "Don’t delay in preparing H-1B applications."

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Immigration Law Alert - H-1B Visa Applications Can Be Filed On April 3

Do not delay in preparing your H-1B visa applications as the demand is great, and it is likely that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will receive more applications than there are available H-1B visas. There is an annual cap of 65,000 for foreign national employees holding the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor's degree and an additional 20,000 visas available for employees with a U.S. Master's degree or higher. Because of the increased demand, in the past several years the USCIS has conducted a lottery to select an appropriate number of applications for consideration of H-1B eligibility.

To be selected in the lottery, employers must file on or about April 3, 2017 for employment beginning on October 1, 2017, the first day of the government's fiscal year. Traditionally the filing date is April 1;  however, that date is a Saturday this year, which results in USCIS accepting applications on Monday, April 3rd, 2017. Employers can file H-1B applications no earlier than six months in advance of the anticipated start date; therefore, April 3, 2017 marks the beginning of the race for obtaining an H-1B visa. The USCIS will announce in advance how many days following April 3 it will accept applications. Last year, the USCIS received nearly 236,000 applications during the filing period. Companies filing for students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) with work authorization expiring after April 1 secure an automatic extension of the student's work authorization until there is a decision on whether the case is selected, and, if selected, the extension continues until October 1, 2017.

Employers need to be aware that every H-1B application requires a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL takes approximately one week to certify an LCA. If an employer has not previously filed an LCA with the DOL, it may take additional time for the DOL to verify the employer's Federal Employer Identification Number. Companies need to consider the lead time necessary to prepare an H-1B application.

It is important for companies to carefully prepare their applications as the USCIS has increased its scrutiny and regularly requests additional evidence from employers. Employers can work with counsel to develop detailed explanations as to why the employee qualifies for this visa.

Lastly, it is possible that USCIS may make changes to the H-1B visa program this year, given the change in the Executive Branch. As of the date of publication, no official changes have been proposed or adopted. In addition, there is a pending lawsuit related to the H-1B visa lottery procedure, which could have an impact on this year's H-1B visa process. Meyer, Unkovic & Scott will continue to monitor these matters and issue an updated alert if there are any changes.

For more information about H-1B Visas, or any other Immigration Law matter, please contact Joel Pfeffer, Elaina Smiley, or Gary Sanderson.

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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

MUS Announces New Partners


Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, a business law firm that serves Fortune 100 companies and individuals, has named the following lawyers partners:

Levi K. Logan is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits, Corporate & Business Law and Private Clients Groups.  Mr. Logan’s practice is focused mainly on employee benefits. Mr. Logan has a significant background in providing advice for pension and retirement plans, profit-sharing plans, health and welfare plans and apprenticeship programs.  He received his J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2007 and his B.S., cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003.  He resides in West Mifflin.

Michael G. Monyok is a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property, Corporate & Business Law, and New Ventures & Entrepreneurs Groups.  In his practice, Mr. Monyok focuses on intellectual property matters and represents clients ranging from startups to large public companies in all aspects of intellectual property procurement, management and litigation.  Mr. Monyok’s work includes prosecuting domestic and foreign patent applications, obtaining trademark registrations, registering copyrights and helping clients protect their trade secrets.  He also helps startups and emerging businesses navigate the complex legal issues that often face new ventures.  He received his J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2005 and his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002.  He resides in Sewickley.

Tony J. Thompson is a member of the firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution, New Ventures & Entrepreneurs, Intellectual Property, Employment Law & Employee Benefits and Construction Groups.  He is an emerging business and trial attorney.  For the past decade, Mr. Thompson has counseled clients on a variety of business matters and provided representation in a number of business disputes, including cases involving breach of contract, trade secrets, infringement and misappropriation claims, products liability defense and complex commercial litigation.  He received his J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2006 and his B.A. in Economics from Washington & Jefferson College in 2003.  He resides in Monroeville.

Immigration Law Alert - President Trump's Executive Orders on Immigration

In late January, the Trump Administration published three important Executive Orders on immigration.  Many of the subjects addressed in these Orders have practical ramifications for foreign nationals. While some are policy statements that will require congressional funding, others are projects that the Executive Branch can initiate and report back to the President.  The following is a brief summary of the Executive Orders' objectives:

  • Reinstitute a program of engagement between the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement to deputize and train local law enforcement officials to perform certain Department of Homeland Security immigration-related functions with respect to identification and detention of foreign nationals who may be out of status in the United States.
  • Call for an additional 10,000 immigration officers to perform immigration-related functions, a directive subject to Congressional appropriation. 
  • Direct that funding to "sanctuary jurisdictions" be cut off.  Sanctuary jurisdictions are those that refuse to detain individuals targeted by the Department of Homeland Security for potential immigration violations. 
  • Terminate the Priority Enforcement Program established by the Obama administration that prioritized criminal aliens for detention and deportation.
  • Prohibit admission, for a period of 90 days, of any foreign national from countries known as the "countries of concern." These countries include Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.
  • Suspend refugee admissions for 120 days.
  • Discontinue the Syrian Refugee Program.
  • Limit refugee admission for fiscal year 2017 to no more than 50,000 refugees. The number of refugee admissions is historically determined by the President, and the last administration had been admitting approximately 110,000 refugees per year.
  • Direct the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement a biometric entry/exit tracking system for all foreign travelers to the United States. 

If these Executive Orders are any indication of what is to come, expect further initiatives by the Executive Branch and proposals to Congress to curtail immigration to the United States. Here are some things to watch for in the long term:

  • Businesses should be ready for Form I-9 compliance audits, including unannounced inspections in target industries such as hospitality, farming, and food production.
  • Congress can require companies to clear all new employees through E-Verify, which is now optional. E-Verify is an internet-based system that determines the eligibility of employees to work in the United States.
  • Employers can anticipate a thorough review of the H-1B program, including requirements for dependent employers, the number of available Visas, prevailing wage determinations, adjudications, and site visits.
  • Colleges and students should expect increased scrutiny at Consular interviews, SEVIS tracking and enforcement, and proposals seeking to limit employment and training opportunities.
  • Families may see increases in the income levels that are required to sponsor a spouse or other family member for immigration to the United States.

In light of these Executive Orders, it is critical for all U.S. employers to review immigration documents, understand the meaning of each document, and know the interplay between the several government agencies that oversee temporary and permanent immigration to the United States.

For more information about the President's Executive Orders on Immigration, please contact Joel Pfeffer, Elaina Smiley, or Gary Sanderson.

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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 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
The Evolution of Nationwide Venue in Patent Infringement Suits

When
Thursday, February 16, 2017
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, February 13th 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.

Pittsburgh Business Times Looks At Immigration Executive Order

Joel Pfeffer was recently interviewed for this article by the Pittsburgh Business Times, “Pittsburgh schools, lawyers discourage travel for those affected by Trump order.” Use this link to read more.

Friday, January 20, 2017

PA Mechanics' Lien Law Changes Now In Effect

Construction Law Client Alert

Joshua R. Lorenz
jrl@muslaw.com
412.456.2836
Amendments to Pennsylvania's Mechanics' Lien Law that took effect on Dec. 31, 2016 have new implications for owners, contractors and subcontractors. The requirements are a result of Act 142, which was passed in 2014 to establish a procedure for construction personnel to follow and a statewide web database (the Pennsylvania State Construction Notices Directory) where notices under the Mechanics' Lien Law can be filed.

No owner is obligated to register a project on the Directory. Only certain owners have the right to use it, because these amendments apply only to residential and commercial construction, repair or improvement projects totaling $1.5 million or more.

Owners of an eligible property do have an incentive to register projects. Contractors on registered projects now have additional duties, and subcontractors must take certain actions beyond what they currently do to preserve their lien rights or they forfeit their right to file liens for the services or materials they provide.

REQUIRED NOTICES

  • Notice of Commencement: Required to be filed and posted by the project owner or its agent prior to the beginning of work or the furnishing of materials for the project. The owner and contractor must make "reasonable efforts" to ensure a copy of the Notice of Commencement is included in contract documents provided to subcontractors awarded work on the project. 
  • Notice of Furnishing: Required to be filed by subcontractors to preserve their lien rights. A Notice of Furnishing must be filed with the Directory within 45 days after first working at or providing materials to the job site. A subcontractor failing to timely file a Notice of Furnishing waives its right to file a lien claim except in the event the subcontractor can prove its failure to file resulted from the owner or general contractor pressuring the subcontractor NOT to file, which can lead to civil or criminal action against the owner or general contractor.

The legislation includes two other types of notices (Notice of NonPayment and Notice of Completion) that can be registered in the Directory, but neither is required, nor has any substantial legal effect.

All affected parties should have their contract documents reviewed to ensure they are in compliance with the new amendments. Notably, the new amendments require specific notice language to be included in all contracts used on projects registered with the Directory. As outlined above, failure to comply could have significant consequences and create exposure to unanticipated liabilities.

For more information about the new Pennsylvania Mechanics' Lien Law changes for 2017, or any other Construction Law matter, please contact Joshua Lorenz.

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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yearly Employment Law Check-Up

Elaina Smiley
412.456.2821
es@muslaw.com
Top Four Items to Review Now

The New Year is a good time for employers to review and update their employment practices. Proper policies and practices will reduce the risks of costly employment claims. Here are some items to review:

1. Review Job Duties for Salaried-Exempt Employees.

Although implementation of the revised Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") regulations increasing the salary levels for exempt employees has been halted (for now), it is still a good idea to review the actual job duties performed by those classified as exempt from the payment of overtime. The FLSA contains a two-part test for an employee to be considered exempt, and employees must meet both tests: 1) payment of a fixed salary and 2) meeting the duties of one of the Department of Labor exemption categories. Misclassifying an employee as exempt when the employee should be paid overtime can be very costly. In cases involving FLSA violations, employees can get up to 3 years of back wages (overtime that was not paid) plus double damages and attorneys' fees.

2. Review Pay Practices for Hourly Employees.

Employers need to ensure that hourly employees are paid for all work time, which can include travel time, training, and short breaks. Furthermore, employers should be cautious when paying hourly employees bonuses. Certain bonus payments that are classified as non-discretionary must be considered in calculating an employee's overtime rate, and additional overtime payments need to be made for the period for which the bonus was applicable. "Comp time" is not permitted in lieu of paying hourly employees overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per work week.

3. Review Policies and Procedures on Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation.

Every employer should publish and distribute policies forbidding all forms of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against employees who report these issues. Harassment and discrimination should be barred not only based on sex, but other protected characteristics such as race, religion, age (40 and older), disability, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and national origin. The EEOC recently issued enforcement guidance that expands protection for employees against retaliation; therefore, policies should be reviewed for compliance.

4. Review Management Training on Handling Employee Reports and Requests.

When an employee makes a report or complaint of unlawful harassment to a manager, knowledge of the harassment is imputed to the employer even if the manager to whom the report was made fails to report it further or to take appropriate action. An employer will not be able to successfully defend harassment claims if the employer does not take prompt and effective remedial action in response to such reports. Also, managers need to properly handle employee accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act and employee leave requests under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Should you need assistance conducting an audit of your human resources policies, please contact Elaina Smiley at 412.456.2821 or es@muslaw.com.

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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New I-9 Forms Must Be Used Starting 1/22/2017


IMMIGRATION LAW REMINDER

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.