Will Changing Reproductive Rights Change Workplace Benefits?

Earlier this month, you might have heard news from big employers like Yelp, Apple, and Citi. In a potential response to the new state laws restricting abortion rights and the apparent indifference of a Republican-majority Supreme Court, these companies are expanding their support of reproductive rights. But is this the rule, or the exception? Will more restrictive reproductive rights result in diminishing workplace benefits?

Yelp in particular expanded its benefits for employees who sought out-of-state care to access abortion. Employees need only keep travel receipts to obtain reimbursement from their insurance companies. These benefits are completely confidential when used.

Yelp Chief Diversity Officer Miriam Warren explained, “So no one else at Yelp is ever going to know who is accessing this, or how, or when.”

Leila Abolfazli works as director of federal reproductive rights for the National Women’s Law Center, and emphasized that these companies are taking the necessary steps to ensure the protection of their employees’ rights — but that these companies are only a few among many.

She said, “It’s important for companies to recognize that abortion is among the healthcare their workers may need. The health and well-being of workers is essential to any company in order to attract workers, retain workers, and show you’re supportive of them.”

Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft also took peremptory action to protect their workers from potential lawsuits or even arrest. Company representatives acknowledged the expectation that drivers might be sued for “aiding and abetting” illegal abortions, especially in states that offer incentives for those who file related lawsuits. 

Under the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, it’s entirely possible that Roe v. Wade might be gutted later in 2022 or after the midterm elections. 

Abolfazli said that corporate voices are required to prevent that from happening because of their “major political muscle.” They have “more weight than anyone else to call local lawmakers and say, ‘this makes it difficult to operate in the state,’” she said.

Visit website for more information on reproductive rights in your workplace. Qualified employment attorneys can help you learn about employment benefits at your company or fight for new ones. 

UPDATE: In response to a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion penned by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. that suggests Roe v. Wade is on the verge of being overturned completely, companies have immediately began taking steps to ensure access to abortion rights and reproductive care for employees.

Big companies like Amazon, Citigroup, Bospar, Alloy, Bumble, Apple, and Match have all strengthened previously announced maneuvers aimed at protecting the rights of their employees. For example, Dallas-based Match announced a new fund to help those impacted by newly restrictive abortion legislation.

Meanwhile, Amazon announced it would cover up to $4,000 a year in employee travel costs. Citigroup announced similar benefits for out-of-state resources. Yelp’s previous rule changes allowed similar travel stipends. CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said the aforementioned Texas law “not only infringes on women’s rights to reproductive care, but it puts their health and safety at greater risk.”

When Can I Use A Person’s Likeness In Writing?

Many aspects of a person’s likeness are considered intellectual property rights. This means that another person cannot legally misappropriate another person’s name for commercial benefit (or in some cases non-commercial benefit). For example, you could not use another person’s signature, photo, or voice for your own gain. These examples aren’t always what a person means when they use the words “likeness,” though. 

When can you use another person’s likeness in your writing?

First and foremost, when you depict events that are true, you can always use real names and events. It doesn’t mean you won’t get sued. It only means you have the law on your side. Keep in mind that the burden or proof for slander or libel is on the plaintiff. Let’s say you write about a childhood experience involving a fight between you and a friend. Your friend isn’t happy about having their name dragged through the mud, so to speak. But in order to successfully sue you, they need to prove the event did not happen like you described. That can be an impossible task.

Generally, no one gets sued when real names are used in a positive light. When casting another person in a negative or embarrassing light, though, you should be prepared to fight your claims in court. If the claims are true, you shouldn’t run into big problems. If neither party can prove their claims are true, then the defendant wins the case by default (or at least they should based on the laws in play).

What should you remember? Never use pictures or other types of intellectual properties that belong to another person without their permission, especially when doing so for commercial gain. But you can also describe real people and real events the way they happened whether or not you have permission to do so — because history is history, and we all have the right to share it.

Are Immigration Laws Slowing The United States Economy?

To say conflict has been brewing in the United States would widely be heard as a magnificent understatement. There are only two political parties operating in our country, and they rarely see eye-to-eye. They fight about civil rights. They fight about voting rights. The fight about immigrant rights. Although each of these issues has the power to end the status quo as we know it, it’s the latter that could topple our economy sooner.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said late last month that around 11 million jobs are unfilled. This isn’t news. We’ve been hearing about employment shortages for at least a year. It’s still surprising, though, because we also hear the news that millions are quitting their jobs in search of other work — and that millions more are being hired according to monthly jobs reports.

So why are there so many unfilled positions? Part of the reason is obvious. In 2020, consumer spending slowed and the economy ground to a halt. But in the last half of 2021, consumer spending exploded — and has yet to slow down. This spending requires businesses to hire employees they didn’t need even before the pandemic. On top of the extra work required, the pandemic showed some employees exactly how governments and fellow citizens felt about people who worked in essential jobs. They weren’t treated well. They weren’t paid well. Why would they stay in those positions?

COVID-19 is ongoing as well, and has prevented those with immune vulnerabilities from returning to work. But another reason that there are so many open positions is that older Americans are retiring — and retiring earlier than they would have due to the ongoing pandemic.

In particular, Western Pennsylvania residents know that economic concerns won’t go away anytime soon. Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed an executive order to increase workplace safety. 

But how much of the labor shortage is due to immigration policy?

One of the biggest shortages is in the trucking industry, where employers simply don’t have enough drivers for their trucks. Combined with the need for additional shipping, and you can see why store shelves are still empty two years into the pandemic. Many trucking positions were filled by immigrants, but those individuals are less likely to travel overseas because of closures. Immigration is at a stand-still. It doesn’t help that the world has been watching the border crisis, where migrants have been seeking asylum for over a year.

That crisis, coupled with the bad taste left over from the Trump Administration’s harsh policies toward immigration could mean trouble for the U.S. work force.

Tens of thousands of new guest-worker visas were announced late last year by the Biden Administration — but those visas are seasonal and expire quickly. Still, they allow employers to find temporary immigrant workers to fill agricultural positions. But how many immigrants will want those temporary visas? The clock is ticking, and we don’t yet have an answer.

 

What Is The “Right To Repair” Senate Bill?

Did you know that farmers don’t actually enjoy the right to fix their own equipment? When something breaks down, by law they almost always have to see a mechanic. A new Senate law called the “Right to Repair” bill would modify existing laws to expand the opportunities for farmers to fix their own farming equipment.

Fourth-generation cattle farmer Scott Potmesil said, “I visited with my local mechanic and asked which tractor he could fix, and it was a 1995 one. New equipment is getting so complicated and loaded with sensors. If one of them goes out, you can’t even start your tractor. You need a technician and software to identify the problem.”

This issue led Potmesil to find an older machine that might actually be fixed quickly and cheaply.

Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is one of the “Right to Repair” bill’s sponsors. He said, “We’ve got to figure out ways to empower farmers to make sure they can stay on the land. This is one of the ways to do it. I think that the more we can empower farmers to be able to control their own destiny, which is what this bill does, the safer food chains are going to be.”

Sometimes, the technicians required to do repairs like the ones Potmesil mentioned can take weeks to arrive on site.

Family farmer Jared Wilson said, “After May 10 here, if I don’t plant my soybeans, I’m losing yield. If you have two days of lost productivity and then it rains, you don’t get back in the field for two weeks. A few of those per season really adds up.”

PIRG is a group of nonprofit research groups that say laws governing agriculture need to adapt to the changing times. Currently, companies guarantee that repairs must be made in-house by manufacturing specific parts that no one else sells, writing code that locks a vehicle when a part fails, or writing warranties that prevent specialized mechanics from working on the equipment.

What Happens To The Estate When A Couple Is Divorced?

Dealing with a breakup after many years can be a terrifying experience — especially when dissolving a marriage is in the cards. Everyone thinks they know what to expect. Marital assets will be reallocated. One spouse or the other will probably obtain partial or full custody of the children. Alimony and child support might be in play. But what happens when a divorce contradicts binding legal documents? 

For example, let’s say the family owns a big estate. One spouse married into that estate, while the other was born into it and received the asset through inheritance. Long ago, both spouses visited an estate planning attorney to sort out their affairs in case the worst happened. It went way beyond the drafting of a simple will. There are beneficiaries on both sides of the family. There are trusts and mutual funds set up for those beneficiaries, funded both by the estate and the parents of the spouse who married into the estate. 

How does all that get sorted out during a messy divorce?

Well, one thing you should know right away is that there are several factors that determine how long-winded a divorce will be. One is how long the couple has been together. Another is how much the couple owns — and how many of those assets fall inside the legal framework of “marital assets.”

You probably have a number of questions already. Not sure what to expect from your impending divorce? You can visit our legal website to have all those questions answered. But you also might learn that you don’t already have the answers you think you do.

Here are a few things that might surprise you. Did you know that not all property will necessarily be divided when the divorce comes through? Marital assets are divided. But property is a different beast altogether. It also depends on where you live. For example, the state of California divides property equally. Each divorcing spouse receives half after a judge determines the total value of the property. In New Jersey though, equitable distribution laws apply. That means each spouse will receive what makes the most sense based on private circumstances. That can leave a wealthy partner with relatively little, and a poor partner with a lot more than expected.

Inheritance is also governed by state law. Usually, inheritance is not considered marital property — which means the spouse with the inheritance is entitled to keep what was received. When the vast majority of an inheritance was property received as part of an estate, that might result in an overall inequitable distribution of assets — which is why a judge might give the other partner the vast majority of all other assets. Fair is fair.

There’s another legal snafu called “transmutation of property” that could result in a person’s inheritance forever after being considered marital property. For example, let’s say a spouse inherits a home. The other spouse signs the deed. Both spouses move into the house and pay the bills together. More than likely, a judge will consider the home marital property.

My Boss Made Sexually Provocative Comments. Is This Harassment?

Enduring sexual harassment in the workplace can be unbearable — and is normally against the law. But there’s a gap between what is considered harassment in the workplace and what is considered an isolated incident. Not sure you know what the difference is? No worries. We’re going to explain what the law says about workplace sexual harassment, and when you’re in the right for trying to find help.

Examples of workplace sexual harassment include, inappropriate touching, inappropriate gender-related commentary, inappropriate comments related to sexual orientation, comments about appearance, or inappropriate email communications (even outside of work). For instance, when your boss asks for a date, grabs your butt, or flirts relentlessly — you have a good case of sexual harassment and can even sue.

Here’s the rub. The law doesn’t provide for isolated incidents. Let’s say your boss implies a desire for a date. You shut it down. The boss never brings it up again. In this situation, you probably don’t have a case.

What should you do when you’re feeling harassed?

First things first: write down the date and time of the incident and what happened in your own words. Because harassment is against the law when a pattern presents itself, you should keep a written record to show your lawyer — or even prosecutors — if needed. You should also ask your superior to stop doing this, and make note of when and how often you made this request. Be sure to save any written form of communication between you and your boss. File them away.

Next, speak to the HR department. This department exists to bridge the communication gap and solve differences of opinion between employer and employee. Sometimes, HR fails to respond adequately.

The last remaining option is to file a formal complaint with the EEOC and contact an employment law attorney. Although this might not resolve the tension at work, you do deserve compensation for the emotional drain you’re experiencing. It’s time to fight the good fight.

What To Do When There Is A Murder At Work

Random acts of violence can strike anytime, anywhere. Even at work. You might be the employer. You might be the employee. At the end of the day, a murder in the workplace will affect you the same way. It will be traumatic. It will leave you feeling confused, perhaps even powerless. You will question what comes next. You might not want to go into work. What should you do?

Should the murderer survive the event, it’s likely that a criminal felony attorney will be retained by the culprit. The employer might find similar services to make sure all bases are covered from a legal point of view — because the employer is responsible for ensuring a safe workplace.

According to the United States government, homicide is the third leading cause of death in a person’s workplace.

Richard Denenberg, co-author of The Violence-Prone Workplace: A New Approach to Dealing With Hostile, Threatening and Uncivil Behavior, said, “Many of the cases that we noted in our book on the violence-prone workplace resulted from garden-variety problems that were allowed to fester.” 

Phoenix psychologist Lynne Falkin McClure, PhD, agrees. She said there are several types of red-flag behavior when someone is at work. “The first is what I call ‘fragmentation behavior,’ where the employee takes no responsibility for his own actions.”

There are other types of behaviors that McClure says employers must watch for. They include “actor behavior,” where an employee responds with anger instead of resolution, “Me-first” behavior, where an employee promotes their own well-being over coworkers, “Mixed-messenger” behavior, where an employee’s self-image doesn’t seem to align with actions taken, and “wooden-stick” behavior, where a worker fails to change when required. McClure acknowledged that many employees will resort to lying tactics as well.

What does this all mean when a murder occurs in the workplace? Usually, it means the incident could have — and should have — been prevented. It could also mean that an employer is liable for any trauma, pain and suffering, or collateral damage experienced by employees. The employer might also be liable for wrongful death if sued by the family.

What should you do as an employer when a murder occurs in your workplace? Obviously, call the police and EMS immediately. Close up shop, send your employees home, and make as many calls as you can to ensure that employees who were present at the time of the murder are okay. Be sure to provide grief counseling to anyone who needs it. Find legal counsel.

What should you do as an employee when a murder occurs in your workplace? It’s important to process your feelings. Speak to a counselor and ask your employer to offer these services, which are generally covered by law. If you feel the act of violence could have been prevented or that your needs are not being met, then it might be time to retain the services of a qualified attorney. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s mistakes!

The Most Commonly Confused Legal Terms Explained: Part Two

In part one of our series on the most commonly confused legal terms, we looked at several sets of confusing words and abbreviations. This time we will focus more on strictly legal terms, but those that confuse people in the same way. We helped sort out words like “imply” and “infer” in part one. In part two, we’ll work with words like “eminent” and “imminent.” 

Most of us know the word “imminent” already. If someone is in imminent danger, it means that danger is immediate and precautions should be taken now. The word “eminent” is normally used to show someone’s high status or rank. 

Two more words you might need to know are “mean” and “median.” Sure, we all learned them in grade school mathematics. Do you remember what they mean? First, imagine the numerals “1” to “21” recorded in a line. Add them all (1+2+3+4, etc.) and divide by the total number of numerals (21) and you have the mean — or average of the numbers. The median is different. It’s the numeral that falls directly in the center when there is an equal number of numerals directly preceding and after it. 

Many people are confused by the word “capital.” Our United States “Capitol” (spelled with an “O”) is where members of our legislative branch meet to discuss passage of laws. A state capital, though, is the seat of the state’s government. In legal contracts, however, capital is usually money. Very rarely do the other definitions apply, so make sure you’re careful with context.

You’ll often see words like “alternate” in legal writing. For example, if a will’s executor is deceased and cannot perform the designated function, then an alternate might be decided. A good synonym is “substitute.” Many people confuse it with the word “alternative,” which refers to a single choice out of several options, but not specifically a second choice or substitute for the first option.

Business Disputes Because Of Poorly Written Contracts

Ask a business owner about all the problems for which there was no plan or contingency, and many of the answers will describe business disputes. When you build a business, your mind is focused on infrastructure, investment, hiring personnel, legal problems, etc. But people are involved in every single one of these aspects of business! And that means disagreement is inevitable. Disagreement on how to handle one side of the business, disagreement on fees and expenditures, disagreement on the right hire — the list goes on and one.

Some of the most cataclysmic business disputes arise from poorly written contracts.

Contract writers might use one of two styles. The first involves lots of legal jargon that a layman usually won’t understand. The second is called a “plain-language” contract because it’s written with the opposite approach: to be much less confusing. Turns out, using plain-language contracts can significantly diminish the chance of a dispute arising because one or more parties are confused by a contract’s wording.

Think about every contract you’ve ever been forced to read yourself. You’ll see any number of words you won’t understand unless you’ve been to law school. Latin phrases, ancient language like “heretofore” and legal terms like “force majeure” are the golden standard of legal contracts. But they shouldn’t be. They result in wasted time spent helping all parties understand the terms of the agreement. Time is money. Try writing contracts in plain language.

Shawn Burton wrote for the Harvard Business Review: “We should live in a world where contracts are written in accessible language— where potential business partners can sit down over a short lunch without their lawyers and read, truly understand, and feel comfortable signing a contract. A world where disputes caused by ambiguity disappear.”

We recently began a series on confusing terminology used in contracts. Many of these are common English words that could be used in a plain-language contract too. Avoiding the use of these words makes sense. But sometimes the person who drafts the contract makes a typo and uses the wrong word in the wrong situation. This can create even more confusion. That’s why documents like these need to be drafted more than once — and then proofread by a third party.

Poorly written contracts aren’t always a direct result of “how” they’re written, though. Sometimes, poorly written contracts simply leave certain things out.

Take breach of contract, for example. What happens when someone breaks their end of the deal? What are the consequences, legal and otherwise? Is there a fine? A lawsuit? Criminal wrongdoing? The penalties should be clearly outlined in the contract itself — and you might be surprised how few contracts actually have a breach of contract clause.

Poorly written contracts can also be unfair or illegal. When one side asks for too much and the other receives too little, disputes are bound to happen. When writing a contract, your lawyer should warn you when unfairness could lead to problems down the road. Part of running a successful business, law firm, or other service is learning the value — and art — of compromise.

 

The Most Commonly Confused Legal Terms Explained: Part One

Building a contract between two or more parties can be a time-consuming endeavor. This is especially true when one or more of those parties are new to contractual obligation under law. Part of the reason is grammar! For example, do you know the difference between the words “affect” and “effect?” Depending on the way they are used, you have either a noun or a verb — and if you don’t know the grammatical differences, then you might misread your contract and not know exactly what it means!

We’ll start with our example. The word “affect” is a verb that usually means to influence. When you pour milk into coffee, you’ve influenced or affected the taste. But you’ve also had an “effect” on it, but is like the noun version of the aforementioned verb. The effect is the end result of the influence or alteration. But it can also be used as a verb! You won’t usually won’t see this use in contract law.

 A similar problem arises when people see the words “assure” and “insure.” When you assure someone of something, it means you’ve tried to make a convincing argument. When you insure something, it means you’ve placed protections in place. In contract law, these protections are almost always financial. Don’t confuse these two terms!

You might also run into abbreviations that don’t actually seem like abbreviations. For example, many contracts will use the abbreviations “i.e.” and “e.g.” These can confuse people. The former means “that is.” The latter means “for example.” 

Do you know what the words “imply” and “infer” mean? We run into trouble when clients can’t tell the difference. When you imply something, it means you’ve suggested it, usually in an indirect way. Place your hand on someone’s arm during an argument, and you might imply a warning. But the person whose arm was touched might “infer” a warning. An inference is more of a deduction.