Category: Jennifer

Jennifer Myers Chalal has been named as one of the Pennsylvania & Delaware Super Lawyers Top 50 Women of 2020. Ms. Chalal is an attorney in Spector Gadon Rosen Vinci’s Employment Law Group. She concentrates her practice in the area of employment law handling all types of employment law matters including discrimination claims under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the PHRA, and the NJ Law Against Discrimination, retaliation claims, wrongful discharge claims, wage and hour claims, FMLA claims, ERISA claims, breach of contract claims, non-compete claims, and claims involving workplace torts. She also handles ADA accessibility suits and denials of public accommodations for businesses especially in the hospitality industry.  She provides advice to businesses regarding employment matters, conducts workplace investigations for businesses presented with complaints of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination, prepares employment handbooks, and provides workplace seminars regarding discrimination laws. Her litigation practice extends throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey in both Federal and State Court.

Ms. Chalal received a J.D. with honors from Temple University School of Law. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Hofstra University where she received a B.A. degree (magna cum laude) with High Honors in Speech Communication. Following graduation from Temple University School of Law, she served as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Sandra Mazer Moss of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Ms. Chalal is a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and the Temple American Inn of Courts. She also was an Executive Committee Member of the Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in their practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, go to SuperLawyers.com.

Spector Gadon Rosen Vinci LLP has represented clients nationally and internationally for 45 years and provides counsel and expertise across the entire spectrum of legal practice, from complex litigation to sophisticated transactional and corporate matters.  The firm has offices in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Florida, New York and Atlanta.

The firm represents businesses, corporate boards, and highly placed individuals.  Its clients are engaged in a variety of industries including finance and banking, manufacturing, hospitality, gaming and entertainment, real estate and commercial development, insurance and venture capital, energy, financial services, health care, security and telecommunications.

The firm’s practice areas include high stakes litigation, business disputes, commercial litigation, professional liability, products liability, securities, trust and estates, fiduciary litigation, bankruptcy and creditors rights, civil RICO, trade secrets, trademark and restrictive covenants, intellectual property, antitrust, white-collar criminal defense, banking and financial services, corporate formation and governance, cyber risk and security, employment, entertainment and amusements, environment and energy, wealth management, healthcare, hospitality, insurance coverage and insured casualty litigation, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, real estate, sports and tax law.

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A small business with under fifty (50) employees may be entitled to an exemption from the requirement under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) that employees with under five hundred (500) employees provide (1) Extended Family Leave to eligible employees or (2) Emergency Paid Sick Leave when the leave is requested by an employee to care for a child due to school or child care closures or childcare unavailability as a result COVID related reasons. There can be NO exemption from providing Emergency Paid Sick Leave if the leave is requested for any of the other 5 delineated reasons that qualify an employee to take paid sick leave under the FFCRA. In other words, the exemption can only be taken with regard to providing: (1) Extended Family Leave due to school or child care closures or childcare unavailability as a result of COVID related reasons or (2) Emergency Paid Sick Leave as result of need to care for child due to school or child care closures or childcare unavailability as a result COVID related reasons.

To qualify for the exemption, an officer of the business must make a determination on a case by case basis to see if there are grounds for the exemption and then document the reason for the exemption if it denies the request on that basis. The Small Business Exemption is not a blanket exemption and each request should be separately evaluated.  An employer is not required to send a letter to the DOL requesting an exemption.

In assessing whether an exemption applies to a particular situation, an authorized officer of the business would need to determine that providing the requested leave to the requesting employee would jeopardize the viability of the business based on one (or more) of the following three reasons:

  1. Providing the requested leave would result in the expenses and financial obligations of the business exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating a minimal capacity (i.e.: business can’t afford to pay for the covered leave);

 

  1. The absence of the employee requesting the leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of the employee’s specialized knowledge of the business, skills or responsibilities  (i.e.: the employee requesting leave is one of the only that performs a specialized job function); and/or

 

  1. There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing and qualified and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee requesting the paid leave and these services or labor are needed for the small business to operate at minimal capacity (i.e.: the employer will not be able to operate if the employee is on leave)

 

The reason for claiming the exemption and not granting the leave should be set forth in writing by an authorized officer of the employer and maintained in the employee’s file for four (4) years.  Likewise, if leave is granted, there should be documentation of the reason for the leave and maintained for (4) years.

If you have any questions regarding the foregoing, please contact Jennifer Chalal at jchalal@sgrvlaw.com.

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You know that your business is “life sustaining” – and entitled to remain open despite the “stay at home” order which now restricts business in all of Pennsylvania – because you checked the latest version of the order at (https://www.governor.pa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200401-GOV-Statewide-Stay-at-Home-Order.pdf)
(The list of such businesses – already updated several times – is online at https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6816337/452553026-UPDATED-Industry-Operation-Guidance.pdf. Pennsylvania’s general guidelines are at https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/.)

However, the state trooper who sees your employees driving to work probably doesn’t know all those details, and may pull them over.

Although your employees may trust your instruction that they can drive to work safely, can they explain why to a uniformed officer under the pressure of a traffic stop?
So a citation on the way to work may seem inevitable if a trooper sees an employee driving to work – unless, of course, the employee can provide a brief, clear explanation of why the employee can still commute, when most people (including the author of this memo) can’t do so.

On the first day of enforcement of the stay at home order, a client pleaded for help after several of its employees had been detained in a rural county on their way to work.

After investigating the newly adopted rules, however, we recommended that our client’s employees carry a portable, one page explanation of why its employees were allowed to work and commute, complete with citations to the list of permitted businesses.

We also recommend our client’s suggestion, that its commuting employees carry a pay stub or other proof of employment by its essential business.

(However, you should not assume that the rules our client’s employees faced under Pennsylvania’s stringent rules are what your employees may face in your own location.  In addition to checking your local guidelines, the Department of Homeland Security lists “essential critical infrastructure” firms in its Guidance on the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” at https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce#.)
If your business is eligible to remain open during a stay at home order, we can assist you in preparing a letter which may be helpful in avoiding a citation should your employees be stopped while commuting.

Our employment and business law attorneys listed below can help you navigate these issues.

We hope that you and your business weather the COVID-19 storm.

Please contact Nancy Abrams or Jennifer Chalal for employment matters, or Peter Cripps, Joseph Devine or Stanley Jaskiewicz for business matters:

Nancy Abrams 215-241-8894 nabrams@sgrvlaw.com
Jennifer Chalal 215-241-8817 jmyers@sgrvlaw.com
Peter Cripps 215-241-8884 pcripps@sgrvlaw.com
Joseph Devine 215-825-8942 jdevine@sgrvlaw.com
Stanley Jaskiewicz 215-241-8866 sjaskiewicz@sgrvlaw.com

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CONGRESS PASSES EXTENSIVE CORNAVIRUS ECONOMIC STIMULUS BILL

                Last Friday Congress passed a $2 Trillion Economic Stimulus Bill (the “CARES Act”) that provides for loans to small businesses (under 500 employees) as well as payroll tax credits to encourage employers to continue to pay their employees while their businesses are closed down or curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Information regarding small business loans will be included in another Alert. Key employment-related provisions include:

Unemployment Insurance Provisions

This CARES Act creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through December 31, 2020 to provide payments to workers displaced as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and includes payments to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.  The CARES Act also supplements traditional state unemployment insurance and provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months. In addition, the CARES Act provides funding to pay the first week of unemployment benefits, permitting states to pay unemployment compensation benefits to recipients as soon as they become unemployed instead of waiting one week before the individual is eligible to receive benefits.

The CARES Act also provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 to help those who remain unemployed after the applicable weeks of state unemployment benefits are no longer available (i.e., increasing total weeks of eligibility in Pennsylvania from 26 to 39). Employees whose hours are reduced are eligible for pro-rated unemployment benefits.

Employee Retention Credit For Employers Subject To Closure Due To Covid-19

This provision provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis in order to induce employers to retain employees. The credit is available to employers whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended, due to a COVID-19-related shut-down order, or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50 percent when compared to the same quarter in the prior year.

The credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employee. For employers with greater than 100 full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services due to the COVID-19-related circumstances described above. For eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order. The credit is provided for the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee. The credit is provided for wages paid or incurred from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Delay Of Payment Of Employer Payroll Taxes

The CARES Act also allows employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax they otherwise are responsible for paying to the federal government with respect to their employees. Employers generally are responsible for paying a 6.2 percent Social Security tax on employee wages and must submit those amounts to the IRS quarterly. The provision requires that the deferred employment tax be paid over the following two years, with half of the amount required to be paid by December 31, 2021 and the other half by December 31, 2022. The Social Security Trust Funds will be held harmless under this provision.

Direct Payments To Individual Taxpayers

Under the CARES Act, the Secretary of the Treasury has been directed to provide rebate checks to individual taxpayers in order to stimulate the economy.  Individual taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will receive a $1,200 rebate check, and an additional rebate of $500 per dependent child.  Taxpayers filing jointly will receive $2,400 in addition to the $500 per child.  The rebates will be proportionally phased out for individual taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $75,000 to $99,000 and for joint filers with adjusted gross income of $150,000 to $198,000.  The phase out reduces a taxpayer’s rebate by $5 for each $100 of adjusted gross income in excess of the applicable phase-out thresholds (i.e. $75,000 or $150,000, as the case may be).

We will continue to provide updates to our clients regarding important COVID-19 legislation that affects employers and employees.  If you have any questions regarding the foregoing, please contact Jennifer Chalal at jchalal@sgrvlaw.com or Nancy Abrams at nabrams@sgrvlaw.com or Peter Cripps at pcripps@sgrvlaw.com.

 

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The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires that employers inform their employees of their rights under the Act. They have issued an approved poster that must be displayed where the employer displays other employee rights-related posters. If employees are not working in the employer’s place of business, a copy of the poster should be sent to employees by e-mail or regular mail.

We will continue to provide updates to our clients regarding important COVID-19 legislation that affects employers and employees. If you have any questions regarding the foregoing, please contact Jennifer Chalal at jchalal@sgrvlaw.com or Nancy Abrams at nabrams@sgrvlaw.com.

Click  here to view the Families First Coronavirus Response ActPoster

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New Jersey is one of only six states that offer certain employees paid family leave which is funded through payroll deductions.  On February 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that expands the benefits under the Paid Family Leave Law and Temporary Disability program in New Jersey.

First, as of June 30, 2019, the amended law expands the scope of employees eligible for family leave insurance to include employees who work for employers with 30 or more employees.  Prior to the new legislation, coverage was limited to employees of employers with 50 or more workers.

Second, the law expands the permissible reasons that an employee will be entitled to paid family leave insurance.  Under the new law, the definition of “family member” has been expanded to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, adult children, in-laws, domestic partners, and individuals having a close relationship with the employee that is the equivalent of a family relationship.  The amended law also permits coverage to bond with a child resulting from foster care placement, surrogacy, or through a gestational carrier agreement.  In addition, coverage is also provided to victims of domestic and sexual violence and to those caring for family members who are dealing with issues related to domestic or sexual assault.

Third, paid family leave has been increased from 6 weeks to 12 weeks beginning on July 1, 2020.  Intermittent leave will also increase from 42 to 56 days.

Fourth, the requisite waiting period before entitlement to family leave insurance payments begins has been eliminated.  Starting July 1, 2020, benefits will be payable to the employee on the first day of leave.  While employees may have the option to use either paid time off before using family leave benefits, employers can no longer require that employees use all of their paid leave before the payment of benefits.

Fifth, effective July 1, 2020, the weekly benefit to employees has been increased to 85% of an individual’s weekly wage, capped at 70% of the state’s average weekly wage so that eligible employees can receive up to a maximum payout of $860 per week.  Prior to this increase, employees were only entitled to receive two-thirds of their pay up to a maximum of $650 per week. This expanded benefit also increases the amount that all eligible employees will have to pay to fund the program.

Sixth and last, effective June 30, 2019, the amended law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who request and/or take paid family leave.  The law also prohibits employers from refusing to restore the employee to his or her job on the basis that the employees requested or took family leave benefits.  Employers who fail to provide notifications and disclosures will be subject to fines up to $1000 may be imprisoned for up to 90 days.  Employers who violate the anti-retaliation provisions will be subject to fines up to $2000 for first-time violations and thereafter $5000 for each violation.  The anti-retaliation provision and fines also imply to employees eligible for paid temporary disability leave.

Companies that employ between 30 and 50 employees should prepare to implement these changes.  If you require assistance regarding compliance with the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance Law or have any questions regarding these changes, please contact Jennifer Myers Chalal at jchalal@lawsgr.com or (215) 241-8817.

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President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) last week which provides a federal cause of action for misappropriation of trade secrets. Prior to its enactment, trade secret misappropriation claims were generally governed by state laws. Companies who are victims of misappropriation will now have the opportunity to litigate trade secret misappropriation claims in federal court. Notably, the DTSA does not preempt the state laws governing misappropriation so trade secret litigation can still be pursued in state court.

The substantive rights under the DTSA are largely the same as those rights provided under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”) which has been adopted by most states. However, unlike the UTSA, the DTSA permits ex parte seizure of the misappropriated material under extraordinary circumstances. The DTSA also forecloses the possibility of obtaining injunctions based upon the “inevitable disclosure doctrine”. In other words, there must be evidence of a threatened misappropriation to obtain injunctive relief and injunctions cannot be based on simply on the fact that the information is known to the former employee.

Most significantly, the DTSA permits whistleblowers and individuals bringing retaliation claims to disclose trade secrets to their counsel and law enforcement officials for purposes of reporting violations of law without civil or criminal liability. The DTSA also permits the disclosure of trade secret information in court documents filed by a whistleblower or retaliation claimant as long as the documents are filed under seal. Employers are required to provide written notice of this available immunity under the DTSA in any non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements and/or any other policies or manuals that govern disclosure of trade secret information. Employers who do not provide this notice will be foreclosed from recovering exemplary damages and attorney’s fees available under the DTSA. Accordingly, employers seeking to take advantage of recovering exemplary damages and fees should update their agreements and policies used with employees and contractors.

If you require assistance updating policies and agreements regarding confidentiality and non-disclosure of trade secrets or have any questions regarding the DTSA, please contact Jennifer Myers Chalal at jchalal@lawsgr.com or (215) 241-8817.

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