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Featured ArticlesDavid Schachter| Less is more when it comes to trademark protected names
An international tour and travel company recently learned the hard way that selecting a powerful trademark requires more than just describing what your company does. In fact, the less descriptive the better.
Aviation, Aerospace and Autonomous SystemsRichard Jost and Jim Wadhams | Integrating Drones into the National Airspace System
Nevada Business, November 1, 2015
Richard Jost | Flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles In Nevada
Nevada Lawyer, September 2015
The New York Times | Fennemore Craig Client Paragon Completes Near-Space Dive
Construction LawJohn Kofron | Protecting your construction project requires more than an insurance certificate
The contractor is “… insured.” This soft phrase suggests the contractor, and its customers, are well protected from loss, but what does it mean under close scrutiny? Consider the following tips when evaluating construction project construction insurance.
Emerging Businesses and TechnologiesFennemore Craig looks to help startups grow with venture accelerator program
As a new startup, Jeff Isquith sought out the Fennemore Craig law firm to represent his company with intellectual property help.
Now, Scottsdale-based Ballistic Furniture Systems Inc. is one of two local companies in Fennemore Craig's new Venture Accelerator program. The program started last summer and seeks promising startups to offer deferred legal costs and expert legal help.
Employment and Labor RelationsBarney Holtzman | Make Your Business ADA Compliant
Ensuring your business physically meets standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Business owners may be familiar with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with a disability. They should also know about Title III of the ADA as more than 20 lawsuits have already been filed in Southern Arizona on this issue.
Whitney Sedwick Meister | Holiday Etiquette, HR Style
’Tis the season … when merriment sometimes gets the better of good HR sense. Here are a few tips to help companies stay out of hot water at the annual holiday party.
Barney Holtzman | Top 10 Ways to Avoid Employment Litigation
Employment-related lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. They can get personal too—resulting in hurt feelings and loss of morale.
Follow these tips to reduce the chance of litigation and strengthen the company’s defense in the event an employee or former employee files a lawsuit.
Shannon Pierce | Exercise caution when using this networking tool to research current and prospective employees
Construction Business Owner, September 2015
John Balitis | Same-Sex Marriage: Now It's in the Employers Court
When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges in June, it put to rest the question of whether gays and lesbians have the Constitutional right to marry. But that decision and the high court’s 2013 holding in United States v. Windsor, recognizing same-sex marriages under federal law, left a lot of work to be done by employers trying to determine their impact and to institute changes—some of them required and some prophylactic. It is up to employers to evaluate a broad spectrum of benefits in light of the rulings.
Barney Holtzman | Factors to consider when firing an employee
Factors to consider when firing an employee
All employers face the difficult decision to terminate an employee. In Arizona, employers can terminate an employee without cause and without warning. However, when terminations are challenged in court, juries are suspicious of employers and view terminated employees as victims.
Inside Tucson Business, September 3, 2015
John Balitis | Unpaid Internships: Pitfalls and Solutions
With summer in full swing, businesses that engage seasonal interns should review their internship programs to ensure compliance with applicable wage and hour laws. Under these programs, unpaid interns can gain important experience, and employers often receive valuable free labor in return. But recent developments show that the intern arrangement is not that simple. Multiple class action lawsuits have been prosecuted by former unpaid interns in recent years alleging they actually were “employees,” and therefore entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay.
John Balitis and Kevin Green | DOL Expands Coverage of the Family and Medical Leave Act
On Feb. 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) adopted new regulations that define the term “spouse” for purposes of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). Under the regulations, which take effect March 27, the term “spouse” includes all individuals in same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, without regard to whether the states in which those individuals reside and work recognize same-sex marriage.
Sherry Downer | How To Dodge Legal Land Mines in Personnel Files
Not all personnel files are alike. To protect employees' privacy, it's important to know which document types belong in a basic employee personnel file as well as what records should go into confidential and other types of files.
John Balitis | The Restaurants, Dining Trends and Laws - Shaping Arizona's Culinary Scene
Arizona Restaurant News, November 2014
Arizona Restaurant News | John Balitis authored "Changing the landscape of location privacy without stalking customers"
The United States Supreme Court's recent prohibition on warrantless digital searches makes clear that we all have a heightend expectation of privacy in the use and content of our mobile devices. If law enforcement cannot automatically access our smartphones incident to an arrest, it stands to reason that private sector businesses seeking to exploit the data on our phones for marketing purposes should do so with caution.
For the restaurant industry, this cautionary atmosphere raises questions about the use of "geofencing" to enhance traffic and sales.
91.5 KJZZ | Federal Policy Changes Could Grant New Rights For Married Same-Sex Couples In Arizona
Under a new rule proposed by the Department of Labor, other couples like Blakely and Puskar-Blakely could be guaranteed leave from work to care for a sick family member. Currently, rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (known as the FMLA) are based on whether couples live in a state that recognizes their marriage.
The change would grant FMLA rights based on whether couples were legally married in any state.
"Even if you move from Minnesota, for example, to a state like Arizona, when you get to Arizona the fact that your marriage was valid in Minnesota will still allow you to derive your leave rights," said employment attorney John Balitis.
That would be a huge change for Arizona and other states that don't allow gay marriage. It comes after last year's Supreme Court decision in the case United States v. Windsor. The ruling struck down the federal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, and Balitis said it created some complications.
"Because although Windsor made clear that the definition of marriage in DOMA was unconstitutional, it didn't provide any particular guidance about what to do with that ruling in relation to the FMLA," Balitis said.
Phoenix Business Journal | What happens when court rulings conflict on Obamacare subsidies
KTAR News | Same-sex couples could soon get leave time in Arizona
Same-sex couples in Arizona could soon see an expansion of protections if a new proposal is implemented.
The United States Department of Labor has introduced a proposal that would change who qualifies under the federal Family and Marriage Leave Act.
"A spouse in a marriage has the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a marital partner with a serious health condition or to care for a child in that marriage," said John Balitis, a Valley employment attorney with Fennemore Craig.
After the Supreme Court invalidated a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, which attempted to federally define marriage as between a one man and one woman, the US Department of Labor left the definition of a "spouse" for leave purposes up to the laws of individual states, said Balitis.
"So if you lived in a state that recognized same-sex marriage, such as Minnesota, historically you were able to take advantage of spousal-leave rights under the law," Balitis said. "(But) if you were a member of a same-sex marriage and lived in a state like Arizona, for example, that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage you were not entitled to those rights."
The new proposal would look to instead apply the definition of a spouse from the state where someone was married, effectively including married same-sex couple who fit the other criterion for leave time under the act.
"It essentially would change the definition of a spouse, for spousal leave purposes, from one that is premised on the law of the state in which the person resides, to the law of the state in which they were married," Balitis said.
Balitis said if the proposal is adopted it could have an effect on Arizona businesses and government employees who would become eligible for leave time, so companies need to make sure they're in compliance if it does take effect.
"Employers in states like Arizona need to then turn to their internal policies, their manuals and their handbooks, to make sure that they are consistent with the new rule," he said.
The proposal is currently in a public comment period until Aug. 11.
Phoenix Business Journal | John Balitis comments on proposed FMLA rule changes impacting same-sex spouses
Same-sex couples in states where they cannot legally marry, such as Arizona, could qualify for the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, under a new Obama administration proposal.
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a proposed rule to expand who can qualify for long-term FMLA leave to include same-sex couples who are married in states that recognize such unions.
That is an expansion of a 2013 rule that included same-sex couples in FMLA benefits if they are living and working in a state that recognizes gay marriage.
The new federal rule changes that “state of residence” to where the marriage occurred.
Employment law expert John Balitis said that means if an Arizona same-sex couple gets married in California, Hawaii or another state that recognizes such weddings, they will qualify for FMLA at their jobs back here.
Arizona Republic - Ask The Expert | Gather facts for claim of age discrimination
I am a 54-year-old male exempt employee who has worked for the same private company for 15 years. A female employee, who is 25 years old with five years in the company, was promoted from a position below mine to one above mine. This position was not posted nor was anyone else in the department made aware of the opening. This person has been promoted four times. I have made it known that I want to advance in the company and it has been met with silence, although my reviews have been consistently positive. Am I the victim of age discrimination?
The facts you describe suggest that you could be the victim of age discrimination, even though you apparently are unaware of any direct evidence of your employer’s age bias, such as an open acknowledgment that age accounts for your failure to advance.
In such situations, state and federal law lay out specific criteria you must satisfy to show that you were treated unlawfully. First, your employer must have at least 15 or 20 employees, depending on whether you are seeking relief under state or federal statutes, respectively. Second, you must be a member of the protected age group, which includes employees who are age 40 and above. Third, you must show that you were treated less favorably than a fellow employee who is not in the protected age group. Fourth, you must be qualified for the promotion and performing your job duties satisfactorily.
Finally, if your employer articulates a non-discriminatory reason for its actions, you then must show that this reason is a pretext, or an invalid excuse, for what in reality was unlawful discrimination.
Assuming your employer is covered, you appear to satisfy all but the last criterion. If you can show that your employer’s stated reasons for passing you over are invalid, you could succeed in prosecuting an age-discrimination claim.
The first step in doing so involves filing a discrimination charge with the Arizona Civil Rights Division or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You must participate in an investigation by one of these agencies before proceeding in court.
Legalize - Wage & Tax Laws | AZ-Lifestyle Magazine | June 2014
KFYI Radio | John Balitis comments on NBA sanctions for Clippers owner Donald Sterling
Phoenix Business Journal | John Balitis discusses the impact of raising the minimum wage for tipped workers
Arizona Business Gazette | John Balitis comments on employer's responsibility to provide safe working environments
Phoenix Business Journal | John Balitis comments on the impact of SB 1062 for hospitals
Shannon Pierce | Can't live without social media? #EmployersBeware
Social media is inescapable in modern workplace culture. It’s a commodity that led Twitter to complete a successful initial public offering and that likewise enabled a company like Snapchat to reject a $3billion all-cash offer from Facebook. As social media grows in power and prevalence, employers must understand how to harness it internally and protect themselves from it at the same time.
Shannon Pierce | Party Like Your Lawyer, Not Like a Rock Star | AZ Business Magazine
’Tis (or ’twil soon be) the season for family gatherings, gift giving and, of course, the company holiday party. Since no good deed goes un-litigated, ’tis also the season to prepare for the employee claims that always seem to arrive shortly after the company holiday party.
Phoenix Business Journal | John Balitis discusses how the Affordable Care Act impacts health insurance premiums
Shannon Pierce | This year, party like your lawyer, not a rock star | Northern Nevada Business Weekly
In the midst of holiday merriment, companies should not lose sight of the regulations that continue to apply to company-sponsored events, even social events, in which no work is being performed.
Jessica Post | Employers face first EEOC complaints for asking about family medical history | Maricopa Lawyer
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is cracking down on employers when their contracted health care providers ask applicants or employees about their family medical history. In just the last month, the EEOC has filed two complaints under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
John Balitis | How Personal Employment Information is Shared and Sold | AZ Business Magazine
John Balitis discusses the rules and limitations that apply to outsourcing employee verification services.
Estate Planning and ProbateBryan Daum and Nancy March | 10 issues you should address in your estate plan today
Many business owners spend a lot of time and energy taking care of their business plans and customers, but do not spend equal time making sure their estate plans are current.
Courtney Miller O'Mara | The Challenges of an Estate Trustee
Northern Nevada Business Weekly
Tax, Business and Estate Planning
There has been an important change in the rules for IRA rollovers, which are transactions that let you withdraw cash from one IRA and redeposit it in another IRA without paying a current tax.
Tax Developments in 2014
The following is a summary of some important tax developments that have occurred in the last year that may affect you, your family, your investments, and your livelihood. Please call us for more information about any of these developments and what steps you should implement to take advantage of favorable developments and to minimize the impact of those that are unfavorable.
Gaming and HospitalityDan Reaser and Katherine Hoffman | Commission considers next gen gaming
Northern Nevada Business Weekley, September 14, 2015
Intellectual Property and IP LitigationDavid Schachter | Strategies: Patent and Trademark Office not high on pot retailers and products
Signs are everywhere that Colorado’s blooming marijuana industry has gone from the thing few felt comfortable talking about to a mainstream business promising huge financial rewards.
David Schachter | Strategies: Don’t assume your own your intellectual property
Many a business has been tripped up assuming that it owns its intellectual property.
Just as IP itself is, by definition, a largely intangible thing, the rules surrounding ownership of IP can be equally hard to get your hands around.
David Schachter | What you need to know to protect your business from patent trolls
By now most of us have either encountered, read about or received a threatening letter from a patent troll – those enterprising vermin whose exploits, aimed at squeezing dollars out of others through the use, many would say abuse, of the U.S. Patent laws, have cost patent owners millions and vexed the high tech industry and lawmakers for decades.
Land Use Planning and ZoningScott McDonald | Short-circuiting zoning and building code disputes will save time and money
It is common to have land use or other zoning and building code disputes with cities, towns and counties. Knowing some of the ins and outs will save you time and money.
Nonprofit and Tax-Exempt OrganizationsKendis Muscheid | Consider Making a Restricted Gift to Charity? What You Should Know Before Writing the Check
Kendis Key Muscheid and Richard Jost | Nevada's New Charitable Contribution Solicitation Law Tightens Up Process
Beginning this year, nonprofit corporations soliciting charitable contributions in Nevada have new requirements for both reporting and disclosures under NRS82.382 to 82.417, inclusive, pursuant to AB 60 of the 2013 Session.
Plaintiffs' Personal InjuryWall Street Journal | Glass Action: Google Glass Chronicles Personal Injury Struggles
What businesses do or don’t do to protect people from injury may soon be used against them in a court of law — by claimants wearing Google Glass. Clients at law firm Fennemore Craig P.C., including a double amputee, are wearing Glass to chronicle their personal injury struggles, generating evidence that can bolster their legal claims. It’s another example of how businesses are creating uses for Google’s wearable computer, which briefly went on sale to the public Tuesday, before a mass consumer release expected later this year.
Real EstateBenjamin Bauer | Issues in Commercial Real Estate Purchase Form Contracts
Many commercial real estate purchase and sale transactions are implemented using “standard form” contracts provided by one of the parties to a transaction. These “forms” are developed based on experience in particular transactions that may or may not fit your situation.
TaxExtra, Extra…. IRA Charitable Rollover Revived for 2014
Extra, Extra…. IRA Charitable Rollover Revived for 2014. A number of popular tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 have been revived. On December 16th, the Senate passed a one-year extension of expired tax provisions retroactive to January 1, 2014. This reauthorizes the IRA charitable rollover through December 31, 2014. Donors age 70 1/2 and older may transfer up to $100,000 from their IRA to a qualified public charity. The transfer will be made free of federal income tax and the gift qualifies for the donor's 2014 required minimum distribution (RMD). Please call us for more information about this development and what steps you should implement to take advantage of it.