Divorce Arbitration – How it Works and Why it’s Right

Posted in Divorce

Divorce arbitration is an effective method of dispute resolution which has been recognized by the New Jersey Supreme Court as an alternative to conventional litigation. Given the severe backlog in the New Jersey court system and the difficulty obtaining consecutive hearing dates and receiving timely decisions, more divorcing parties are turning to arbitration to resolve their disputes. As a certified divorce arbitrator, I will describe what arbitration is (and isn’t) and explain how it functions.

First, it is important to distinguish arbitration from mediation. While mediation involves the assistance of a third party “neutral” to encourage and facilitate a resolution, arbitration is akin to litigation on an expedited basis. In other words, at the conclusion of an arbitration hearing the arbitrator renders a decision just as would a judge hearing the case.

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Say What? The Second Circuit Establishes a New “Outer-Bounds” Limit to Protected Employee Speech

Posted in Employment

To say that Facebook and social media have complicated the relationship between employer and employee and, specifically, what an employee can say or do with respect to his/her work, is an understatement. Social media has added a new dimension to analyzing the intersection between employee speech and protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”), and the level of protected activity has reached a new low.

A new line has been drawn in the sand, and the “outer-bounds of protected, union-related” activity has been reestablished by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In National Labor Relations Board v. Pier Sixty, LLC,  the Second Circuit was tasked with the challenge of determining to what extent the NLRA protects an employee’s comments on social media and the point at which an employee’s conduct is so “opprobrious” (i.e. abusive, pejorative, obscene, libelous) as to lose the NLRA’s protection.

In laymen’s terms, the question is: How badly can an employee behave and still keep his job if the employee’s behavior is at least loosely tethered to union-related activity? The answer, as explained below, is very badly.

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Read Before You Click: The Enforcement of Web-Based Restrictive Covenants and Arbitration Agreements Against Employees

Posted in Employment

When was the last time you clicked a box indicating your agreement to terms of service without actually reading, let alone understanding, the terms and conditions of service? The use of “clickwrap” whereby users of web-based applications memorialize their acceptance of legal agreements by clicking something, like a check box, is commonplace in the digital world. In the employment arena, however, the use of such web-based platforms and click-to-accept legal agreements is relatively new. Still, courts have not hesitated to apply traditional principles of contract law to these agreements and enforce them against unsuspecting and often oblivious employees, so long as the clickwrap agreements are conspicuously displayed on the web-based platform and reasonably communicate the employer’s terms to its employees.

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Successful Strategies for Preventing and Defending Claims of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Posted in Employment

Despite increased efforts to curb it, sexual harassment in the workplace hasn’t gone away. In fact, news reports of allegations of sexual harassment and lewd behavior lodged against media mogul Bill O’Reilly at Fox News and, separately, against transportation network company Uber, have shined a spotlight on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace. As to O’Reilly, several complaints were raised and settled over several years by Fox News before the company asked O’Reilly to leave the network. With respect to Uber, the company allegedly swept “under the rug” several separate claims of sexual harassment made against a particular manager because the manager was a “high performer.” The sad truisms revealed by both the Uber and O’Reilly matters, clearly, are that money talks and rules can be bent (if not broken) for star performers. But there is a silver lining, as important lessons about the correction and prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace can be learned from these two publicly aired situations involving sex discrimination in the workplace.

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Probating a Copy of a Will

Posted in Probate Litigation

When an Executor named under a Last Will and Testament seeks to probate the Will of the Decedent, the original copy containing the original signatures of the Decedent must be submitted to the Surrogate’s Office. What happens, however, if the original copy with the original signatures cannot be located? Under such circumstances, the only option may be to seek to probate a copy of the original Will.

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Sex Discrimination Includes Sexual Orientation Says the 7th Circuit

Posted in Employment

“We must consider what this country has become in deciding what [a statute] has reserved.” So wrote Judge Richard Posner, Circuit Judge of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, quoting Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, 433-34 (1920), in his concurring opinion of the 7th Circuit’s landmark ruling that a person who alleges employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has put forth a case of sex discrimination under Title VII. That’s right. It finally happened.

On April 4, 2017, in the matter of Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, No. 15-1720 (7th Cir. Apr. 4, 2017), the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination on the basis of their sex, extends the same protections to employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. The courthouse doors, once closed to homosexual or bisexual employees seeking relief from discrimination under Title VII, have opened. Some might call it judicial activism. Others might call it common sense. Either way, the Title VII landscape has shifted.

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Small and Independent Brewers Saw Growth in 2016

Posted in Beer & Spirits

The Brewers Association, the trade association representing small and independent American craft brewers, recently released 2016 data on U.S. craft brewing. Small and independent craft brewers represent 12.3 percent market share by volume of the overall beer industry, with more than 5,300 breweries operating during the year.

In 2016, craft brewers produced 24.6 million barrels. Retail dollar value was estimated at $23.5 billion, representing 21.9 percent market share. By adding 1.4 million barrels, craft brewer growth outpaced the 1.2 million barrels lost from the craft segment due to acquisitions by large brewing companies. Small and independent brewers continue to show steady growth. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 90 percent of the craft brewer growth.

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Does Your Community Association Need a Drone Policy?

Posted in Community Associations

As drone technology advances and the number of drones in the air increases, managers and board members in community associations are asking about drone policies. If drones are being used in your community or if there is a plan for their use, whether recreational or commercial, your board should adopt a drone policy.

drone in skyWhen thinking of drone use, most people may think of recreational drones operated by “those darn kids.” Recreational drones are certainly something associations should stay on top of, with privacy and safety of residents being paramount. Also, recreational drone use is not limited to children and policies should be neutrally applied to avoid running afoul of the law. There are limited government regulations relating to this type of drone use and association policies are an important supplement.

Drone delivery service has been hyped for some time now. Who wouldn’t want to order cold and flu medicine from the comfort of your couch and have it on your doorstep within the hour? Drone delivery is almost certainly on its way to your community one day and we can expect to see further government regulation as it arrives. When it does, your community policies can be adopted once you know what this operation looks like and how it is otherwise being regulated.

There are other business applications for drones that likely require more immediate attention in your community association. These include vendors hired by homeowners and the association, but also entities such as utilities who may have the right to enter association property for certain purposes. The FAA has enacted rules for the use of commercial drones but many community association residents may be concerned that they do not go far enough to protect individual privacy, safety concerns, or the right to quiet enjoyment of one’s home. Managers and board members are right to evaluate and address these concerns through written drone policies which are consistent with current law.

If your board is considering a drone policy, it should work with legal counsel because local, state, and federal regulations are expected to continue to change.

PennEast Pipeline – What to Anticipate

Posted in Condemnation & Eminent Domain

Shareholder Timothy P. Duggan recently joined Jacqueline Evans, property owner and member of Homeowners Against Land Taking (HALT), on an episode of PrincetonTV hosted by Natasha Sherman. Mr. Duggan and Ms. Evans talked at length about the proposed PennEast pipeline and its anticipated effect on parts of Central New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

The Shoe Dropped…Payless Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Posted in Bankruptcy & Creditor's Rights

Kansas-based Payless, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) on Tuesday afternoon, under docket # 17-42257.

If you read my blog post about Payless from two weeks ago, this filing should come as no surprise to you. I even put Payless on my retail bankruptcy watch list for 2017 back in January.

The retail discount shoe chain has more than 4,000 stores in 30 countries. CNN reports 400 stores are closing immediately. The company has about $665 million in debt, according to Reuters. In February, Moody’s downgraded the company debt rating, stating the company shown “weaker than anticipated operating performance.”

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