Feldstein Talks Legal Problems Stemming from Performance Appraisals
BLR HR and Employment Law News recently talked with Allison Feldstein about how to avoid potential legal problems stemming from performance appraisals. Feldstein advises employers to train supervisors and managers on the importance of conducting performance appraisals in an objective and consistent way. “Honesty is always the best policy,” she maintains. During training, she recommends reviewing the actual performance appraisal document with supervisors and managers and “explaining specifically what it is you’re looking for.” If your company uses a rating scale of 1 to 5, give specific examples of “what qualities and characteristics warrant an employee being given a 5 and what qualities and characteristics warrant a 1.”
BLR HR and Employment Law News, February 9, 2011
Former Pennsylvania DEP Head John Hanger Joins Eckert Seamans
Eckert Seamans recently added former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John R. Hanger to its Harrisburg office. Hanger left his post at the DEP in January when new Gov. Tom Corbett was sworn in. According to Hanger, his legal practice will focus heavily on the alternative energy industry, such as natural gas-powered and electric vehicle manufacturers and biodiesel fuel companies. "I'm looking to build more clean energy projects and bring more clean energy businesses to Pennsylvania," he said, explaining that he's particularly interested in working with energy efficient business, like those focused on smart grid projects and on helping the U.S. transition from its oil reliance. "I've been back and forth from state government twice and I certainly have a unique set of experiences," he said. "I'm one of two Pennsylvanians who were both secretaries of the Department of Environmental Protection and commissioners of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. As a result of that experience, I understand the synergies between environmental and energy law and I have a good appreciation for what businesses need to do to bring clean energy products to the marketplace."
Noted Eckert Seamans CEO Tim Ryan, "The firm has a strong reputation in the alternative energy and gas fields and we were very anxious to bring in John's subject-matter expertise in those areas of practice," he said. Ryan also said he anticipates Hanger will also be useful with regard to the firm's involvement in the Marcellus Shale play, which the former DEP head is certainly no stranger to. "We expect John to be fully integrated into our gas and gas policy practices," he said, adding that Hanger is "really on the forefront" of environmental and regulatory matters in Pennsylvania.
The Legal Intelligencer, February 8, 2011
Ryan and McGinley Discuss Client Entertainment at the Super Bowl
In preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers match-up against the Green Bay Packers in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, Eckert Seamans’ leadership has been busy coordinating details for client entertainment at the big game. Firm Chairman Jack McGinley, a member of the Rooney family and part owner of the storied franchise, will be in Dallas for the festivities. Eckert Seamans CEO Tim Ryan observed that “To participate in this high holiday of a Steelers Super Bowl is a very positive experience with your clients, and it gives us an opportunity to spend quality time with ours in that type of environment. It’s a big deal for us to entertain them and even help them obtain tickets.”
Pittsburgh Business Times, February 9, 2011
Miller on New Year, New Policy Changes
The Society for Human Resource Management recently talked with Michael McAuliffe Miller about the importance of revising HR policies and employee handbooks for 2011, especially as it pertains to social media. “In the handbook, what you say about that is a critical, critical issue,” noted Miller. Here’s why: the NLRB recently accused a company of firing a worker illegally for criticizing her boss on Facebook. The case “has to do specifically with what the employee manual said about private postings and whether it chilled individual speech,” Miller explained. He also noted that he advises clients to focus social networking rules on comments that hurt business or community standing, rather than telling employees that they can never be critical of the company.
SHRM Connect, January 11, 2011
Jacobs-Meadway Discusses Influential IP Rulings in 2010
In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit let eBay Inc. off the hook on claims it
infringed a Tiffany & Co. trademark through sales of counterfeit goods, upholding a lower court ruling that the online retailer was not responsible for preemptively policing its site for possible fraud. In discussing the case with Law360, Roberta Jacobs-Meadway noted that the Second Circuit’s holding that the online sale of fake goods did not make eBay liable for trademark infringement has significant importance, “particularly in an arena where online marketplaces are becoming increasingly popular.”
Law360.com, January 1, 2011
Bach on Philadelphia’s Innovative Commerce Court
Mitchell Bach is among a group of five Philadelphia Bar Association Fidelity Award winners who helped create the Philadelphia Commerce Court. Bach recently discussed his early experiences with the newly established court, involving a bankruptcy case of a lithographing company that had an aggressive bank creditor attempting to seize the business. It’s estimated that the case likely would have dragged out in the Court of Common Pleas for almost nine years. Instead, Bach and the other lawyers involved were able to negotiate a settlement that enabled the former owner to acquire the equipment and reopen the business. Some of the employees who lost their jobs when the company went bankrupt were in the court that day, and when the decision was rendered, they stood up and applauded. Noted Bach, “It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in court,” adding “before the Commerce program I don’t know what would have happened.”
Philadelphia Business Journal, December 17, 2010
Miller Discusses Changes in Social Media Policy Stemming from NLRB Ruling
Attorneys are advising employers to re-examine their social media policies as a result of the same NLRB ruling as noted above. Michael McAuliffe Miller talked with American Medical News and Human Resource Executive Online about the case, and noted that he's not sure if the case will stand up to scrutiny by an administrative law judge, but it signals to practices and other employers that if they are considering terminating an employee for something they post online, "you need to do a lot more digging." He also said the line between right and wrong can't usually be determined by taking comments posted online at face value.
American Medical News, November 29, 2010
Human Resource Executive Online, November 17, 2010
Noonan Talks Controversial NLRB Ruling
Ed Noonan recently discussed the controversial NLRB ruling with BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report. As to the impact of the ruling, Noonan added, ‘‘The concept that a discharge for violating an overbroad rule is unlawful is hardly precedent setting, but more important, it appears that the person was actually engaged in concerted activity in chatting on Facebook with other employees.’’
BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report, November 17, 2010
Miller on Workplace Harassment Accountability
When an independent physician harasses or discriminates against an employee of a hospital, someone must be held accountable, and typically, it's not the physician; hospitals are on the hook for the bad behavior. Michael McAuliffe Miller discussed the issue with Health Leaders Media and noted, "[The hospital] controls the terms and conditions of employment for its employees, and if your employees are being harassed by a non-employee, you are on the hook for that non-employee's behavior because you have the ability to protect your employees." He added that a hospital may try to hide behind the fact that it does not directly employ the offending physician, but it’s a very thin defense.
Health Leaders Media, October 20, 2010
Quinn Discusses Employer Retaliation Cases
John Quinn recently discussed the employment-law cases accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court which could have a significant impact on HR leaders. With the economic recovery still limping along, he said that "What we're beginning to see in the law is we have a lot of folks at work who lost jobs, are in economic peril, and that may be pushing the outer boundaries.” In reference to Dukes vs. Wal-Mart, the largest class-action in U.S. history with 1.5 million plaintiffs, Quinn noted that after reading over the decision, the lower court seemed bothered by the fact that Wal-Mart's corporate culture made it very difficult to determine if decisions were centralized or each store was its own little universe. "The court believed that since Wal-Mart has a very extensive computer system and statistics were kept, it should be easy to keep track of whether or not discrimination was widespread. But it's just not that easy," he said.
Human Resource Executive Online, October 14, 2010
Ryan on Post-Recession Law Firms
In the first installment of a weekly series featured in The Legal Intelligencer examining how law firms adapted during the last two years and where they are headed as the economy recovers, Tim Ryan discussed how Eckert Seamans has fared. The Legal noted that the firm was well ahead of the curve when clients started pushing back on paying for the inexperience of first- and second-year associates on their matters. Ryan had made the decision more than five years ago to stop hiring first-year associates and instead just recruit third and fourth-year lawyers from other law firms once they were already trained. The economics of paying the younger attorneys $130,000 a year or more just didn't make sense to him. But true to his caveat last year, Ryan now says he is focused on hiring first-year associates in the next three years after salaries have dropped in certain markets, because even if he can't yet charge their time to clients, the firm isn't taking on as much of a cost. The other factor is that there are more talented first-years out there because the larger firms are hiring significantly fewer first-years.
The Legal Intelligencer, October 6, 2010
Bach Discusses Commercial Dockets
Ohio is nearly halfway into a pilot program aimed at boosting expertise and efficiency in commercial cases. Mitchell Bach shared his experiences with helping to establish Philadelphia’s Commerce Court with Columbus CEO. “It’s revolutionized the practice in Philadelphia. The results are more predictable, cases are concluded quicker and it’s allowed specialized forms of alternative dispute resolution. I’m a big believer in this. I have no objectivity on the subject”
Columbus CEO, October 1, 2010
Shakely on How Pennsylvania Firms are Coping with the Recession
Heidi Hamman Shakely, Member-in-Charge of the firm’s Harrisburg office, recently told the Central Penn Business Journal that she attributes the office’s success during the economic downturn to several factors, including loyal clients, competitive rates and the growth of the Harrisburg office. "During the past 18 months, we have added 13 attorneys and eight staff persons. Our growth, in large part, is because the well-respected attorneys from the former WolfBlock office joined our Harrisburg office in the spring of 2009," Shakely said.
Central Penn Business Journal, September 10, 2010
Willard Discusses New Breed of Patent Claim
A new breed of patent claim is affecting product makers - would-be plaintiffs have been searching retail stores and the Internet for expired patents, then filing lawsuits against product makers. Some of the cases have settled because companies fear a bad outcome or don't want to incur large legal fees fighting them. "You're paying the hostage fee," said Mark Willard, who represented Ames True Temper Co. in a suit involving a shrub rake. "It was manufactured in China using an old mold that still had the expired patent number on it," added Willard. The company has long had in place a policy of monitoring patents. "This one fell through the cracks," he said.
The Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2010
Ryan Lauds Client Entertainment Options at Pittsburgh’s New CONSOL Energy Center
The Pittsburgh Penguins had no problem finding takers for seats of any kind at their new home, the CONSOL Energy Center, as Pittsburgh-area businesses snapped up the 66 luxury suites in short order, and then began searching for other ways to entertain clients and employees.“The new facility is breathtaking,” Tim Ryan said. “The accommodation in the private suites, it’s night and day. There was nothing terrible about the Mellon Arena, where we had a really nice box at center ice (to entertain clients), but CONSOL has state-of-the-art technology, and the amenities for serving food are great,” he added.
Pittsburgh Business Times, August 13, 2010
Wiedman Comments on BP’s Upcoming Legal Battles and Liabilities
BP is likely to be locked in legal battles over its liabilities from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for many years to come. The government’s most recent estimate of the spill, at 4.9m barrels, has provided the first glimpse of the battleground over official penalties. Rick Wiedman said that while it was “unusual for any penalty case to result in anything close to the calculated maximum,” this obviously is not a typical case. In a follow-up article, Wiedman mentioned that another source of lawsuits would relate to economic damage allegedly caused by air
pollution, which might be easier to prove than ill health. One example would be if a business
could show that it had fewer customers because people had been put off by the chemical smell in the area. He said, “I’d be surprised if ultimately, beyond initial PR, substantial time and resources would be expended chasing the more speculative claims and approaches tied to toxics released from the burns.”
London’s Financial Times, August 3 & 9, 2010
Peirce Discusses Facebook’s New ‘Community Pages’
Although currently in its infant stage, Facebook’s new “Community Pages” initiative has the potential to create headaches for trademark or brand owners as they might not have any control over the content displayed. Noted Rich Peirce, “If it picks up enough steam and becomes popular enough, the pages will become like community property.” Peirce added that a consumer may no longer be able to find a company’s official Facebook page because the community page may be at the top of the search results.
BNA’s Patent,Trademark & Copyright Journal, August 1, 2010
Myers Discusses Employees Who are Fired for Taking Vacation with the Wall Street Journal
What would you do if just a few days before you were scheduled to depart on a long-planned vacation, your boss told you to cancel the whole thing? If you refused, you just might be out of a job. John Myers recently spoke about this issue to the Wall Street Journal blog, “Employers generally aren’t obligated to provide paid vacation, and they have the right to set the terms when they do.”
Wall Street Journal Blog, July 16, 2010
Miller Discusses Strategies for Workplace Sexual Harassment Training
Keeping employees’ attention during sexual harassment training can be a challenge. To help prevent people from zoning out or not taking it seriously, Michael McAuliffe Miller works with clients on programs that translate the training into a medium that Generation Y workers will recognize. “For instance, we have used a sexual harassment online quiz designed to look like a game show,” says Miller. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be highly polished and it can be funny so long as it delivers the necessary data.”
FunWorld Magazine, July 2010
Ryan Comments on Altman Weil Study Regarding Law Firm Layoffs
Eckert Seamans CEO Tim Ryan spoke with The Legal Intelligencer about a survey conducted by national consulting firm Altman Weil, predicting that law firms nationwide still expect to conduct layoffs in 2010, though at a lesser rate than in 2009. The reasoning behind why equity partners are typically the last to go is simple, noted Ryan, “Generally, equity partners show a tremendous amount of loyalty to each other and they own the business. While not immune, they are the last place that cuts remain, right or wrong."
The Legal Intelligencer, June 23, 2010
Talvacchia Discusses Clean Technology for Dealmakers
Clean Technology covers a broad array of products, technologies and services that promote renewable sources of energy and reduce the carbon footprint. John Talvacchia recently discussed CleanTech issues with Dealmaker.org, noting that at first blush, CleanTech does not attract the typical high technology investors due to certain business model characteristics. However, he said “Large, well-funded corporations will most likely be the buyers of emerging clean tech companies - they stand to lose the most due to their existing line of less efficient energy solutions.” Talvacchia added, “Further motivation? Revenue replacement and continued use of their vast infrastructure and distribution channels will keep them as successful competitors in the game.”
Dealmaker.org, June 16, 2010
Ryan Talks Price Pressure with the Pittsburgh Business Times
For years, firms of Eckert Seamans’ size have felt the price squeeze from smaller rival firms that charge lower rates. But the economic downturn brings pressure from a new and different source: competition from big law firms. Noted Eckert Seamans CEO Tim Ryan, “There’s a downward shift in fees charged by the big international firms.” He added, “More things are negotiable. As people seek to fill the plates of their mid-level and more senior partners, they’re more flexible on rate structures. They’re going below the $400-$500-an-hour level to secure business that, when the market was strong, they wouldn’t have touched.”
Pittsburgh Business Times, June 11, 2010
Fontana Featured in the Patriot News
The Patriot News turned to Mark Fontana of the firm’s Harrisburg office for his thoughts on the downturn in the economy, which has left more than 20,000 people in the midstate unemployed. “The high number of employee layoffs is a trend that we have not seen in a long time,” noted Fontana. “In fact, never in my career as a labor and employment attorney have I had as many client matters focusing on mass layoffs and reductions in force as during this recession - I hope the worst is over, and I think it is. Most of our clients, particularly in the manufacturing sector, are seeing improvement, and some are hiring again,” he added.
Patriot News, June 7, 2010
Food Manufacturing Magazine Discussion with Jack Hall
Freshway Foods recently announced a massive lettuce recall due to contamination by a rare strain of E. coli bacteria. Food Manufacturing sat down with Jack Hall to discuss what food manufacturers can do to mitigate both the risk of food contamination and the legal liability they may face after a recall. “Everybody in the chain — from the farm to the fork — should have recall procedures in place that they can implement as soon as they get any notice that there might be a contaminated food source that passed through their plant, farm or restaurant,” said Hall.
Food Manufacturing, June 2010
Lateral Hiring on the Rise – Pittsburgh Business Times Discussion with Tim Ryan
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Business Times, Eckert Seamans CEO Tim Ryan said the competition for high caliber lateral hires is fierce. Laterals will “normally have several options open to them, and last year, that was not the case,” Ryan said. He also noted that these prospects are partners with a book of business in the hot areas of intellectual property, energy, and labor and employment.
Pittsburgh Business Times, May 28, 2010
Jacobs-Meadway Comments on a Cold Cut Controversy
Subway is attempting to obtain a trademark for the term “footlong,” which describes the 12-inch sandwiches the company has been aggressively marketing. IP litigator Roberta Jacobs-Meadway, who represents firm client Sheetz, Inc. in a case before the USPTO built on proof that footlong is too generic to trademark, “Footlong has been used to describe sandwiches of a variety of types for more than 50 years.”
Connecticut Law Tribune, May 24, 2010
Roberts Comments on Act 47
Spending in Chester, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton and other financially troubled
Pennsylvania cities is monitored by state advisers under Act 47, which gives distressed towns
state financial support and flexibility from state rules in exchange for spending curbs. Noted Jim Roberts, a city or town's bankruptcy "would affect the interest rates [nearby] municipalities have to pay" to borrow money between tax collections and for capital projects.
Philadelphia Inquirer, April 18, 2010
Jacobs-Meadway Weighs in on Tiffany & Co. v. Ebay Suit
In April 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that online auction service eBay Inc. cannot be held directly or contributorily liable under the Lanham Act for the sale of counterfeit Tiffany & Co. products on its website. Roberta Jacobs-Meadway was asked by BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report about her views on the case: ‘‘I think the court correctly interpreted Inwood and applied settled law to the case.’’ She added, ‘‘What Tiffany argued for was that some general knowledge that there are some counterfeits somewhere on the site should suffice, a standard of almost strict liability when Tiffany itself could not be certain if some articles were or were not counterfeit without examining them and eBay never has physical possession of the goods.’’
BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report, April 7, 2010
Lanza Discusses the Harrisburg-Area Hispanic Community
Ed Lanza, an Associate in the firm’s Harrisburg office, is very active in the mid-state Latino community, serving as a board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He discussed the strides that the community is making in the region, telling the Patriot News that “We think we can help minority businesses to access opportunities through networking, knowing the people involved in handing out those contracts and those leads to burgeoning Hispanic businesses.”
Patriot News, March 27, 2010
Foxman Comments on Pennsylvania School Spying Case
A suburban Philadelphia school district has been accused of spying on students through their school-issued laptops. Computerworld discussed the case with Steve Foxman who noted, "There's definitely a problem from the standpoint of the school district. I can't see any reasonable basis for monitoring with real-time capture of video or audio outside of school hours.” He added that the case does open up significant questions, "Does the school district have the right, for example, to monitor what goes on with the laptops, at least during school hours?"
Computerworld, February 24, 2010
Ryan Talks Fundraising with the Pittsburgh Business Times
The Pittsburgh Business Times recently asked leaders around the city if they allow employees to fundraise in the office. Firm CEO Tim Ryan said “Yes, we do — for charitable, nonpolitical causes. We have also done a number of initiatives firm-wide, and the most recent was in recognition of the 30th anniversary of our executive director, Jim Parks. We raised north of $75,000 in less than a month in a friendly competition between and among our offices to benefit the food banks in the cities where our offices are located.”
Pittsburgh Business Times, February 12, 2010
Will Your Texting Policy Stand Up in Court? – Miller Discusses with Inc.
A new Supreme Court case casts a shadow on employee text messaging rules. The case involves an employer sued for reading an employee's suggestive text messages, even though he sent and received them using company-owned equipment. Commenting on ways companies can protect themselves in these types of suits, Michael McAuliffe Miller noted "The biggest mistake companies make is that they have no policy on texting and mobile communications." He added, "Or else, they have an off-the-shelf policy that they've downloaded from the Internet. Then they're inconsistent about enforcing the policy, especially with employees everybody likes."
Inc.com, February 8, 2010
Linn Discusses Microsoft Case
Microsoft is running out of legal options in its effort to defend against patent infringement charges affecting certain versions of its Microsoft Word office productivity software. Microsoft didn't file a pre-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL), which is needed if they wanted to preserve their right to challenge the factual findings of the case. Noted Janet Linn of Eckert Seamans White Plains, New York office, "The judge in this case said that without the JMOL it could only look at the facts in a particular way.” Whether Microsoft gets its en banc, she speculated, would depend in part on how the federal circuit views the imposition of damages against Microsoft.
Ecommerce Times, January 11, 2010
Miller Talks Employee E-Privacy Rights
A recent Supreme Court case involving text messaging is providing guidance to corporate HR departments on the limits they can impose on email, texting and Internet use. Michael McAuliffe Miller discussed these issues with Outfront, noting, “You’re getting to the point where you have to review your technology policy as often as you change your phone provider.”
Outfront, a publication of Workforce.com, January 2010
Fake Job Reference Services Add New Wrinkle to Screening, Says Miller
New web-based services that offer fake work histories and references to job seekers are changing the complexion of resume-padding. Of course, a service like this creates lots of legal landmines. According to Michael McAuliffe Miller, “This company is exposed to claims of fraud misrepresentation and detrimental reliance.” He added, “The company and its owners may also be subject to criminal prosecution.”
HR Magazine, January 2010
Miller Discusses Steps Employers Can Take to Avoid Liability for Workplace Romances
On the heels of the recent media feeding frenzy surrounding high-profile extramarital affairs, including that of David Letterman and ESPN’s Steve Phillips, Michael McAuliffe Miller recently spoke with Business and Legal Reports about supervisor/subordinate affairs in the workplace. “Don’t condone the behavior by your silence,” warns Miller. He also added that if you learn that a boss is involved in an inappropriate relationship, go to him or her immediately. Don’t involve the lower-level partner. Instead, give the boss a choice between ending the relationship and losing his or her supervisory status.
Business & Legal Reports Newsletter, January 2010
Ryan Comments on 2010 Rates
The Pittsburgh Business Times recently turned to the CEOs of the largest law firms in Pittsburgh to discuss 2010 rates. Noted Eckert Seamans CEO Tim Ryan, “We’re looking at client and relationship-specific factors to drive decisions.” He added, “If we held rates for a couple of years or reduced them, our clients are attuned to the reality of the situation and are amenable to restore some of the cuts we voluntarily made. In some cases, if a client is still feeling the ramifications of the recession in their industry sector, we’ll hold rates to accommodate those needs.”
Pittsburgh Business Times, December 11, 2009
Miller Talks Mandatory H1N1 Vaccinations: Legal and Ethical Challenges for Employers
Best Practices in HR recently turned to Michael McAuliffe Miller for guidance on whether employers can legally require employees to have an H1N1 vaccination. Noted Miller, employers that decide to mandate vaccinations should adopt a written policy that is “thoroughly vetted not only for legal impact, but also for impact on public image.” He added, “It can be very, very unpopular to compel people to do this at the risk of losing their jobs.”
Best Practices in HR, December 5, 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Comments on Impact of New FTC Regs on Bloggers
Marketing News recently turned to Roberta Jacobs-Meadway for guidance on the FTC’s recent move to include blogger reviews in its endorsement and testimonial guidelines. She noted, “Pretty much, this is just applying to the Internet context what everyone else in TV or other advertising has been living with for years.… [Blogger reviews are] a form of advertising that companies are spending an increasing amount of money on. … If it’s a paid advertisement, then it should be treated like any other paid advertisement.”
Marketing News, November 30, 2009
Myers Talks Talent Development Programs
An international law firm's recently announced talent-development program for associates, which ties core competencies to advancement, is attracting some attention in legal circles. John Myers, chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment department told HR Executive Online, "Terms like 'core competencies' make the hearts of human resource professionals go pitter patter, but unless this program actually accelerates the opportunities for associates to take on increased responsibilities apart from legal research and third-chairing the defense of depositions, it is not going to breed a new generation of skilled lawyers."
HR Executive Online, November 25, 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Talks about the Possible “Free Credit Report” Rule
Over 11,000 consumers have complained to the Better Business Bureau that they were charged for credit monitoring after they requested a “free credit report” through FreeCreditReport.com. The FTC is considering the introduction of new rules that would mandate that such websites that charge a fee for credits reports communicate that people can indeed get a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Noted Roberta Jacobs-Meadway, “Remedies for deceptive marketing practices provided under statute should be limited by Constitutional considerations and equitable principles. Neither is offended by requiring marketers of credit reports to disclose the costs of their products and the availability of the free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.”
Financial Fraud Law, November 24, 2009
Miller Discusses the Legal Ramifications of Fake Job Reference Services
New web-based services that offer fake work histories and references to job seekers further complicate the challenges employers face in identifying and hiring honest, qualified employees. Michael McAuliffe Miller told SHRM Online that providing disclaimers for these services doesn’t necessarily make it legal—no matter what some people want you to believe. “Merely including some lukewarm disclaimer that persons use these sites at their own risk or that the ‘doctor’s notes’ provided by the sites are for ‘novelty purposes’ is little protection. And it doesn’t hold up well when the rest of the site demonstrates that its promoters are well aware of the fact that they are providing information that they know to be completely incorrect and that they know potential employers will rely upon in making hiring decisions.”
SHRM Online, November 23, 2009
Kearns Comments on Regulatory Roadblocks
The collapse of the Utz Quality Foods deal to be acquired by Snyder's of Hanover, even in the midst of an improving mergers and acquisitions market, raises questions about whether an increased regulatory climate could stall the comeback of corporate unions. Jack Kearns represented Snyder's in the deal, and said it is "really impossible to tell" whether the regulatory issues on this deal would have been any better or worse a few years ago or a few months from now. But he said the deal collapsed because of a problem involving government regulation.
The Legal Intelligencer, November 16, 2009
Bach on Specialized Business Courts
More than 15 states now have implemented, or are currently considering, some type of specialized court dedicated to resolving business cases or cases involving complex litigation. Mitchell Bach discussed Philadelphia’s commercial court with ABA Litigation News, telling them that “the benefits were immediate and obvious.” He also noted that “When judges do not hear cases from beginning to end, lawyers end up having to re-educate judges every time they go to court. That just doesn’t work in a complicated commercial case.”
ABA Litigation News, November 16, 2009
Quinn Comments on Discriminatory Hiring Practices
A restaurant chain with a long-standing policy of hiring only women as servers has discovered that the policy was an expensive tradition. Lawry’s Restaurants recently agreed to pay approximately $500,000 to male employees and applicants whom the company failed to promote or hire. Noted John Quinn, “This case demonstrates that in these times it is very problematic for an employer to favor hiring one gender over another. I believe the weak economy could be driving this and that more discrimination claims like this one will be more common as people look to move from temporary and part-time into full-time positions.”
SHRM Online, November 12, 2009
Feinstein Discusses Firm’s Charitable Efforts Amidst the Economic Recession
"Everybody is evaluating how they dole out money for charity with the challenge of the economy," noted Wendy West Feinstein, to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She explained the motivations behind the firm’s recent charity challenge initiative, noting that instead of making a flat contribution from the firm, an interoffice competition "spurred people to get out there and hold activities like bake sales, poker games, cookbook sales and auctions. We'll continue it and each year pick a different charity."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 8, 2009
Ryan Discusses Firm’s Growth Spurt
On the heels of the firm’s recent expansion of its utilities regulation practice and opening of a Richmond, Virginia office, CEO Tim Ryan discussed the current environment in the legal marketplace with Pop City Pittsburgh. He explained that many firms are outgrowing their partners, and as a result, imposing substantial rate increases. "That's where we come in, he said. “It's not that we can see around corners, but we implemented innovative measures three years ago that have allowed us to keep our rates in a far more reasonable zone for clients in these trying economic times. Our work has increased dramatically as a result of it."
Pop City Pittsburgh, November 4, 2009
Ryan and Kirsner Discuss Firm Expansion in The Legal Intelligencer
The Legal Intelligencer recently talked to Tim Ryan and Matt Kirsner about the expansion of the firm’s utilities regulation practice and opening of a Richmond, Virginia office. Noted Ryan, there's "a lot of action in regulatory practices right now. Just looking at what's going on in the legal scene right now, energy and telecom are two of the hottest areas," he said. "They're not only recession-proof, but they've been growing throughout and we believe will only grow stronger when the economy turns." Added Kirsner, regarding his decision to join the firm, "To a T, every single client or matter that I was working that I needed and hoped would come is here. That's the most I could hope for."
The Legal Intelligencer, October 30, 2009
Zdebski Talks about Joining Eckert Seamans
Charlie Zdebski recently joined the firm as Co-chair of the utilities regulation practice. “We were looking for really good culture with great lawyers and really good people,” Zdebski said. “Eckert had that, and on top of that they provide us the opportunity to take the litigation we do for telecom and utilities clients to an efficient firm with great resources, so we can offer continued great service at lower rates.”
Energy Law 360, October 29, 2009
Law 360 Q&A with Bob Graci
Law 360 recently interviewed Bob Graci about his appellate practice. Among other subjects, they asked about his advice for younger lawyers. Graci noted, “Work hard to develop a reputation as an appellate lawyer. Hone your research and writing skills, because, though I believe that oral argument is the most fun part of appellate advocacy, most cases are decided on the briefs. You have to know how to write a short, cogent, persuasive brief. Go and watch arguments in the appellate courts and see what appellate practice is really about. The young practitioner will quickly come to realize that appellate advocacy is vastly different from whatever he or she did during moot court in law school.”
Law 360, October 28, 2009
Myers Talks H1N1 Virus Workplace Concerns
Better safe than sorry is the rule of thumb for employers gearing up for the anticipated swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010 winter season; from installing hand sanitizers to forcing sick workers to go home, various precautions are being weighed by employers to prevent the spread of the dreaded H1N1(swine influenza) virus. John Myers noted that requiring swine flu vaccinations would be a "gross overreaction," unless you are a hospital or nursing type of facility. He also mentioned that "a lot of this discussion could change if the infection rate becomes greater, if it turns out more deadly."
HR Executive Online, October 27, 2009
Ryan Discusses Recent Acquisitions
Tim Ryan talked to the Pittsburgh Business Times about the addition of four lawyers from Troutman Sanders LLP and the opening of the firm’s 11th office. “Our plans for Richmond are to start modestly and grow the office slowly and strategically as opportunities present themselves. We think it’s a wonderful market for us,” said Ryan.
Pittsburgh Business Times, October 27, 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Comments on Impact of New FTC Regs on Bloggers
The Federal Trade Commission has recently issued guidelines governing testimonials and endorsements — and for the first time, included guidance that covers bloggers and other online social media platforms. Noted Roberta Jacobs-Meadway, “Advertisers must now be more explicit in all forms of advertising — not just online — and make clear what results would be generally expected with the product’s use and be able to substantiate those claims.”
Lawyers USA (with distribution to the Wisconsin Legal Journal, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly and the Daily Record), October 26, 2009
Miller Comments on Ruling Which Could Spur Hiring Bias Against Obese Workers
A recent Indiana state court’s ruling that would require a small business to pay for weight-loss surgery could make employers more cautious when hiring obese people. Said Michael McAuliffe Miller, “The recent workers’ compensation rulings, meanwhile, could lead companies to narrowly define a person’s job so that employers are not held accountable for a workplace injury that falls outside their job role”. Added Miller, “To avoid the outcome of the Indiana case, employers have to make sure that the people they hire are physically able to do the job.”
Workforce Management, October 19, 2009
Law 360 Q&A with Stephen Foxman
Law 360 recently interviewed Steve Foxman about his corporate practice. Among other subjects, they asked about where he sees his practice area evolving in the next five years. Foxman noted, “I anticipate that the expansion of international cross-border business activity will continue, notwithstanding the recent economic global downturn. I expect that the accessibility to customers across the world through the Internet will increase the demand for products produced and services and resources available in other countries, and also lead to further development and use of Internet web sites and e-commerce platforms by multinational sellers of products and services.”
Law 360, October 13, 2009
Ryan Talks Recession with The Legal Intelligencer
Eckert Seamans was among several firms that noted their size has been a contributing factor to helping them avoid the bulk of the trends (such as mass layoffs, salary cuts, deferrals or cancelling summer programs) stemming from the recession. CEO Tim Ryan pointed out that a lack of debt and international offices has helped the firm stay financially sound during the economic downturn. He said, “Our overhead was leaner going into this problem so there wasn’t a need or an opportunity to do a lot with it.”
The Legal Intelligencer, September 25, 2009
Botta on EFCA Resolution
“There's a need for compromise,” said Frank Botta of the Employee Free Choice Act. “As time passes, without strong influence and voices like those of Kennedy and Byrd, you wonder if that piece of legislation will carry what the union leaders had initially hoped.” Botta also suggested the rumored Senate compromise - which could nix card check and allow for quicker election process after a union petition has been filed - could possibly pass political muster. But if the binding arbitration provision remains intact, businesses would likely remain unwilling to support any form of an EFCA compromise.
Law 360, August 31, 2009
Ryan on Summer Associate Program
Several law firms have announced cuts to their summer associate programs this year as they scramble to cope with reduced demand for their services. But at Eckert Seamans, the decision to do away with a summer program was made about five years ago and associates are now hired laterally from other firms. Said CEO Tim Ryan of the change, ““Simply stated, we can’t afford to pay $130,000 or $140,000 for a first-year associate. Our clients just can’t pay the freight, or they won’t pay the freight." Ryan added that the new recruiting method is producing “fabulous” results. “We have very low turnover and very low difficulty finding the talent that we need,” he said.
ABA Journal, August 21, 2009
Linn Comments on Controversial Microsoft Case
Janet Linn commented on a recent case in Texas in which the Microsoft Corporation was ordered to stop selling Word for infringing on a patent held by a Toronto-based company, i4i. A re-examination of the original i4i patent is already in process at the USPTO, and a preliminary finding has been made, noted Linn, "It is not final, but the agency has provisionally rejected the patent claims."
E-Commerce Times, August 12 & 14, 2009
American Medical News Turns to Hoffman for Comment on Liability Issue Peter Hoffman commented on a recent Arizona case involving a physician performing an independent medical examination on behalf of an insurance carrier. Doctors are typically not
expected to establish a traditional patient-doctor relationship with the examinee in these instances. "With an independent exam,” noted Peter Hoffman, “it's not being done for your benefit. It's being done for someone else," so there typically would not be a legal duty to the patient.
American Medical News, August 10, 2009
Firm’s Client Entertainment Initiatives Applauded in the Pittsburgh Business Times
Eckert Seamans’ client events were noted in a recent Pittsburgh Business Times article about subtle marketing techniques used at client appreciation events. “We try not to talk business,” said CEO Tim Ryan. “We want them to come without worry of getting hustled. It’s an evening out. But they call us to thank us, all those good things.”
Pittsburgh Business Times, August 7, 2009
Hoffman Talks Debt Settlement Services Regulation to PA Law Weekly
Robert Hoffman recently successfully represented a group of DSS providers – companies that negotiate with creditors to reduce the amount debtors owe – seeking a preliminary injunction against the Pennsylvania Management Services Act of 2008. “It’s one of those cases where it was legislation that was based on ignorance and misinformation,” said Hoffman. “It’s as bad as it gets. And I think that’s what underlies the Commonwealth Court’s opinion. They saw it exactly that way,” he added.
PA Law Weekly, August 3, 2009
Yenerall on Pennsylvania’s Mini-COBRA
“This legislation was necessary because small employers were not subject to the federal COBRA guidelines and their employees who experienced a qualifying event, such as the loss of employment, the loss of dependent status, divorce, etc., were not covered,” said Paul Yenerall. He added, “These employees will now be able to continue their coverage for nine months at the group rate. In today’s economy with unemployment at record levels, that is very important.”
ACBA Lawyer’s Journal, August 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Provides FCC Guidance for Bloggers
The editors of the Kids Nutrition Report recently discussed a new marketing target for food and beverage companies – so called “mommy bloggers,” who can influence the purchasing decisions of thousands of other mothers who trust them more than they trust any institution. Companies need to tread carefully to avoid potential pitfalls, especially if they don’t want to run afoul of the FCC. Noted Roberta Jacobs-Meadway, “If you’ve encouraged, incentivized, cooperated with or somehow compensated a blogger, you’ll need to make sure what they say is truthful and make sure there is disclosure of the nature of the compensation.”
Kids Nutrition Report, July/August 2009
Quinn Provides Layoff Advice
John Quinn recently spoke to Best Practices in HR magazine about missteps companies often make when laying off large groups of people. Noted Quinn, “The key is preparation, consistency, and being able to explain what you’re doing. You have to know the totality of the facts, because a jury is going to ask you, ‘What did you do, why did you do it, and were you fair?’”
Human Resource Executive Online, July 13, 2009
Myers Comments on Firm’s Win for P&G
John Myers recently represented Procter & Gamble in a recent case in which the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals found that employees bringing harassment charges against a company cannot rely on evidence that someone above them was aware or even informed of the alleged abuse, but must instead show that they notified a manager or HR practitioner with the authority to do something about it. Noted Myers, "The real benefit to the HR leader is if his or her company has a policy that sexual harassment must be reported to a manager or to HR, the company can now feel much more comfortable that the courts will honor that if charges are brought."
Human Resource Executive Online, July 13, 2009
Schildhorn Comments on the Philadelphia Newspapers L.L.C Bankruptcy Case
The firm’s role in the Philadelphia Newspapers LLC bankruptcy case was mentioned again in recent articles in the Philadelphia media. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jean K. FitzSimon’s April ruling was recently overturned by the U.S District Court for the newspaper to hire it’s law firm, Elliott Greenleaf & Siedzikowski, to handle the investigation of an alleged unauthorized recording of a November meeting between company officials and other lenders. Noted Gary Schildhorn of the day’s proceedings, "It appears that no investigation except for one conducted by Elliott Greenleaf will satisfy the debtor.”
Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia Daily News, July 1, 2009 and the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 22, 2009
John Myers Quoted on Title VII Case
Recently, Labor Law 360 and Human Resource Executive examined the closely-watched reverse discrimination case, Ricci v.DeStephano, which was recently ruled on by the Supreme Court. The Court found that city officials in New Haven, Connecticut violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discarding a promotion test after only white and Hispanic firefighters did well on it. Regarding the case, John Myers said to Human Resources Executive, "I think most people had always thought, as did the defendants in this case, that so long as there was a good faith belief that you were correcting a manifest imbalance in an act, in a test result, for example, that it was OK to do that, but it's not. If you have a valid test, you don't change the result after the fact, even if that result produces a disparate impact."
Human Resources Executive, June 30, 2009 and Labor Law 360, May 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Quoted on the IP Battles to Ensue Following Michael Jackson’s Death
The death of pop icon and music legend Michael Jackson is almost certain to prompt years of legal wrangling over his intellectual property assets, experts said, including control of the rights to his own songs and the large back catalog of music he owns by artists including The Beatles, as well as the legal rights to his likeness. Roberta Jacobs-Meadway recently spoke with Law 360 and the National Law Journal about what can be anticipated over the coming months and years: "I think you're going to see some interesting litigation involving how people are going to use his name, image and music. With an estate that is facing a lot of debt, there's going to be an incentive to take action, just as there's going to be a commercial incentive on the part of the people who want to either pay tribute, show their devotion or make a buck."
Law 360, June 24, 2009 and The National Law Journal, June 26, 2009
McGinley Reflects on the Closing of St. Francis Medical Center
Recently, a Common Pleas judge formally terminated the receivership for firm client St. Francis Medical Center, writing that "all outstanding claims ... along with any right to repayment said creditors may have, is hereby terminated and forever disallowed." With that, St. Francis Medical Center officially was no more. Still, it took longer -- by one month -- to close the books on St. Francis than it did to buy the land, plan and build a new Children's Hospital and then move that operation to the same plot of Lawrenceville property where St. Francis once stood. "In an estate this size, I don't think it's unusual," said Jack McGinley, who has overseen the various legal matters for the St. Francis closing. At the same time, he allowed, "It is interesting that we're closing this up as the new Children's opens."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 24, 2009
Miller Comments on Madoff Case
Without fanfare or announcement, on June 16, the SEC permanently barred disgraced Wall Street veteran Bernard Madoff from participating in the securities industry. Noted Gary Miller, who is who is counseling clients on issues arising from Madoff's fraud, called the SEC sanction a “no brainer.” However, “I'm not sure why the SEC would be doing it so quietly. There are no surprises here.”
BNA Securities Law Daily, June 18, 2009
Schildhorn Comments on the Philadelphia Newspapers L.L.C Bankruptcy Case
The firm’s role in the Philadelphia Newspapers LLC bankruptcy case was mentioned again in recent articles in the Philadelphia media. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jean K. FitzSimon ruled that the firm should investigate an alleged unauthorized recording of a November meeting between company officials and other lenders. Noted Gary Schildhorn, that investigation is "ongoing and it is vigorous."
Philadelphia Inquirer, June 8 & 10, 2009 and Philadelphia Daily News, June 11, 2009
Hoffman Discusses the Pitfalls of Using Electronic Medical Records
A recent Harvard study suggests that malpractice risks are lowered by using electronic medical records (EMRs). Peter Hoffman outlined his skepticism and concerns about the study in the June issue of Healthcare Risk Management magazine, mentioning that there are many potential benefits with EMRs, but warned against the tendency to focus only on those and not also consider the downsides. For instance, Hoffman points out that a written note can provide the clinician more flexibility and the ability to write lengthier comments. “So, instead of getting more specific, you get more general, with drop-downs on the screen. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how carefully the health care worker uses them,” said Hoffman.
Healthcare Risk Management, June 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Comments on FTC Endorsement Regulations
Roberta Jacobs-Meadway recently discussed with EContent Magazine the Federal Trade Commission's proposed rule changes concerning advertising endorsements and testimonials, which would bring blogs and postings on social media sites like Facebook and MySpace under the same regulatory regime as more traditional forms of advertising. She noted, “What the new guidelines are saying is that you have to obey the same basic principles of disclosure when you are in a social networking situation and when you are using newer media to plug the product.”
EContent Magazine, June 2009
Gary Miller Comments on an SEC Proposal
The SEC recently approved a proposal that would give shareholders who meet stock ownership thresholds the power to nominate a limited number of directors in corporate board elections. The proposal is shaping up as a showdown between those who want to give investors more say in electing boards and those who fear the one-size-fits-all initiative would hamstring Corporate America. "There will probably be a lot more willingness to accept something like this," noted Gary Miller.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 31, 2009
Higgins Talks Patents with BioWorld Financial Report
In a recent article examining the use of patents in the biotechnology industry, Patrick Higgins told BioWorld Financial Watch that patents encourage innovation by functioning as a “reward to the inventor for teaching everybody how to use this new invention.”
BioWorld Financial Watch, May 25, 2009
Ryan Comments on Firm’s First-Year Associate Hiring Practices
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently interviewed several prominent CEOs of locally-based law firms about their first-year associate hiring practices and plans for the graduating law school Class of 2009. Tim Ryan said "It's a very expensive undertaking, and we saw how much it was costing us. We recognized our model could not support the starting salary rates because summer leads to the first-year program. Our clients would not or could not pay the first-year salary rates. So we suspended it. It turned out to be the right play. We are filling all our hiring needs since then through lateral hires." And in the first installment of a weekly series examining the lasting effects of the economy on the legal industry, The Legal Intelligencer also talked with Tim Ryan about the firm’s decision to cut out the summer program and abandon the notion of hiring first-year associates. Noted Ryan, "What would happen if everyone adopts this model is an economic rationality will return and the law students' expectations will be more aligned with [their] contributions."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 3, 2009 and The Legal Intelligencer, May 12, 2009
Jacobs-Meadway Quoted in Advertising Age on Social Media and Viral Marketing
Roberta Jacobs-Meadway was recently quoted in Ad Age magazine about the proposed plan of the Federal Trade Commission to start regulating viral marketing and blogs. She noted, "the FTC is ... putting out guidelines to make it clear to people who are involved in social media and viral marketing that the same rules apply in this context as they do in the more formal context of paid advertising and infomercials."
Advertising Age, April 13, 2009
National Law Journal Turns to Roberta Jacobs-Meadway for Advice on Proposed FTC Regulation Changes
Philadelphia’s Roberta Jacobs-Meadway was recently interviewed by the National Law Journal about the Federal Trade Commission's proposed rule changes concerning advertising endorsements and testimonials, which would bring blogs and postings on social media sites like Facebook and MySpace under the same regulatory regime as more traditional forms of advertising. Noted Jacobs-Meadway, “What it really does is confirm that the new forms of advertising are subject to the same general principals that advertising in other media have been subject to [concerning] endorsements and testimonials. The notion is that if you're going to have a paid endorser, it has to be labeled as such. If you're going to be relying on testimonials from customers, it has to be a legitimate customer. If you're going to have customers talking about results, it has to be an honest representation of the kinds of results the person who is listing [the information] can be expected to have. It's a combination of truth in advertising and full disclosure [doctrines] under the FTC rules.”
National Law Journal, April 10, 2009
Cover Story: Ryan Featured in Smart Business magazine
The cover of the April 2009 issue of Smart Business magazine featured CEO Tim Ryan, in an article titled “Law of the land: How Timothy Ryan reduces turnover at Eckert Seamans by focusing on honesty and transparency.” In the opening paragraphs of the interview, Ryan quickly established the importance of balance in the firm’s success, stating “It is a culture where profits are not king, where lifestyle matters, where compassion and family orientation is very much a part of our business.” In addition, the article mentioned Ryan’s hands-on approach, noting “I continue to spend a tremendous amount of time talking with the people within the offices — staff and lawyers within the practice groups, within the divisions — understanding if the leadership there is effective. If it isn’t, we either fix it or make a change.”
Smart Business, April 2009
Myers Quoted on Avoiding Litigation Following Employee Terminations
Labor & Employment Law Department chairman John Myers offered advice in a recent article about employee layoffs. “Discharged employees often go to lawyers because something in the circumstances of their termination made them angry or seemed unfair. Treat the departing employees with dignity. I also counsel to give employees complete explanations as to why
you are terminating, as opposed to staying vague and elusive. Hopefully they will then understand why you are doing it, and that reduces the likelihood of going to court.”
AQUA: The Business Magazine for Spa & Pool Professionals, April 2009
Botta Talks About Issues Surrounding the Legal Distinction between Employees and Independent Contractors
Frank Botta was recently quoted in Truckers News on issues surrounding the classification of employees and independent contractors in the transportation industry. He warns that should pending federal legislation pass, the IRS reporting requirements would place further financial strain on many transportation companies. “If you look at the [Tax Responsibility …Act], it has in there certain provisions that weren’t in the previous [ICPC] bill — procedures that the IRS will require of all companies regarding the status of workers and penalties for not complying with information reporting requirements,” he says. “There will be higher reporting requirements that will raise costs and will expose more companies to IRS review.”
Truckers News, April 2009
Sahr Quoted in Air Cargo World
Aviation Group chair Evelyn Sahr was recently quoted in an article titled “Invest Sooner or Die Later,” which discussed the pressures faced by cargo airlines to enhance efficiency, reduce risk and get a better handle on business performance by expanding their information technology systems despite harsh market conditions. Evelyn summed up one international clients outlook this way: “Those types of expenditures must be made. There are a lot of IT requirements not only with respect to customers but also the government in terms of transmitting information to Customs and others, and we have to stay on top of that.”
Air Cargo World, April 2009
Myers Comments on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
On January 29, President Barack Obama signed into law an equal pay bill that extends the statute of limitations for filing a discrimination claim against an employer. IndustryWeek turned to John Myers for an exclusive interview in which he provided clarification on what the law means and how employers can protect themselves from future claims. Noted Myers, “Because this act is centered on workplace litigation once allegations have been made, the act itself does not lend itself to proactive preventative practices, despite a lot of law firms running around claiming that employers should start doing audits of their pay practices. There is no realistic way to audit to discover the kinds of claims that LLFPA revitalizes. Even if you would unearth potential issues, in the absence of litigation initiated by an employee or former employee, the LLFPA does not apply. There is no reason then to address a past event that might never be the subject of a lawsuit.”
IndustryWeek, April 2009
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