The EEOC Catches the Flu: A Cautionary Tale for Employers With Mandatory Flu Vaccination Programs

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



After enduring one of the worst flu seasons in nearly a decade, there is no question why more employers are instituting mandatory flu vaccination programs. In fact, mandatory flu vaccination programs are increasingly popular for healthcare employees.

No current laws in Missouri or Illinois mandate all health care employees to be vaccinated against the flu. That being said, nursing home employers in Missouri are required to either offer the flu shot to all employees and volunteers who have direct contact with residents, or provide the employees and volunteers with information about how they can obtain the flu shot independently. Similarly, health care employers in Illinois are required to provide all employees with education on influenza, as well as the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Some states, such as California and Maryland, require hospitals to publish their employee vaccination rates to the public.

When instituting a mandatory flu vaccination program, however, an employer should be aware of the possible ramifications of denying or terminating employment for refusal to comply with a mandatory flu vaccination program on the basis of religious beliefs.  Continue reading »

Should I Employ an Attorney to Assist My Real Estate Business?

David A. Zobel

By David A. Zobel



Part 12 of a 12-part series by David A. Zobel on Legal Considerations for Your Missouri Leasing Business: What You Should Consider Now, Later, and Throughout the Process

Honestly, it just depends.

For many business owners, employing an attorney may seem like a costly and unnecessary burden. After all, draft formation documents and leases, as well as real estate tips, are available on the internet. No statutory requirement exists in Missouri to employ an attorney to form and operate your business (though, as we discussed in Litigation Considerations, you will likely need to hire an attorney to represent your company in court).

For others, engaging counsel throughout the formation and operation of their company is a critical tool to ensuring the success of their business venture. No attorney can predict, prevent, and avoid all troubles which might affect your business. However, an attorney in the real estate industry (like other industry professionals) may be more likely to identify and help you avoid pitfalls that he or she has seen in past experiences, more knowledgeable as to what tax or management strategy may be best as your company grows, and more apprised of ever changing statutes, regulations and trends. For business owners who see value in those matters, it may make more sense to consult with counsel.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, speaking with an attorney may actually help you determine whether you may want or need an attorney. Remember that while you can put an attorney on retainer, you are certainly permitted to seek advice and assistance from an attorney when issues arise.

***

This post is part of a series designed to help folks understand and navigate the various pitfalls and legal considerations of real estate leasing. If you would like assistance with forming or operating your business or to address a specific issue confronting your company, one of our experienced real estate attorneys would love to meet with you.

If you would like to go back and re-read any of our earlier posts, you can find links below.

Introduction
Part 1: Do I Need a Legal Entity?
Part 2: What Type of Legal Entities are Available?
Part 3: Tax Treatment Considerations When Selecting Your Entity
Part 4: Your Entity’s Governing Documents
Part 5: Operational Considerations – Purchasing Real Estate – Title Insurance
Part 6: Operational Considerations – Purchasing Real Estate – Indenture Review
Part 7: Operational Considerations – Purchasing Real Estate – Loan Documentation
Part 8: Observing Corporate Formalities
Part 9: Insurance Considerations
Part 10: Drafting the Right Lease Agreement
Part 11: Litigation Considerations
Part 12: Should I Employ an Attorney to Assist my Real Estate Business?

Employment News You Can Use

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



Welcome to the inaugural issue of “Employment News You Can Use,” Danna McKitrick’s Employment Law Educational Alliance newsletter.

After a busy legislative session, employers may find several reasons to be encouraged.

Continue reading »

“Motivating Factor” Standard Replaces “Contributory Factor”

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



Over the past decade, Missouri has been viewed as a plaintiff-friendly state in workplace discrimination lawsuits. Effective August 28, 2017, Senate Bill 43 was signed into law by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, which amends the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). The law changes the applicable standard for liability of an employer and more closely aligns Missouri law with federal policies and law. The standard for liability has moved from proof that the discriminatory conduct was a “contributing factor” to “the motivating factor.”

Under the more strict “motivating factor” standard, a plaintiff must prove, not only that the accused employer was unlawfully biased against the plaintiff’s protected classification, but also that this bias had a “determinative influence” on the employer’s decision to terminate the plaintiff. (Missouri Revised Statutes 213.010(19) 2017). The MHRA specifies that only employers are considered entities, not individuals, subject to liability for proven discrimination.

Also important, the MHRA changes language of the Act and now requires that a complaint must be formally filed by the victim within 180 days of any alleged discriminatory offense. Previously, in Missouri, a victim could file a complaint of discrimination within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct. Continue reading »

When Bad Guys Attack: Data Breach and Legal Exposure

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Cyber criminals hack businesses for a myriad of reasons: to rob bank accounts by hacking email accounts and intercepting wire transfers; to file fraudulent tax returns using stolen customer or employee personal data; to commit health insurance or Medicare fraud; to steal intellectual property; to destroy  property; and to deny service.  Websites are also hacked as a mechanism to cyber hack other businesses. (See data protection tips here.)

Cyber hackers include your employees, identity thieves, contractors and vendors, business competitors, terrorists, state-sponsored actors and others. The success of your business and its very existence could be placed in jeopardy because of unauthorized business account access, loss of ability to execute transactions, regulatory, reputational and litigation costs, and significant remedial costs.

Focusing on the litigation ramifications, let’s use the following fictional ABC Co. case study to understand the various laws involved. Continue reading »

Litigation Considerations

David A. Zobel

By David A. Zobel



Part 11 of a 12-part series by David A. Zobel on Legal Considerations for Your Missouri Leasing Business: What You Should Consider Now, Later, and Throughout the Process

Whether you encounter a tenant who breaches your lease, a contractor who improperly repairs your property, or an individual injured on your property, at some point your company may be faced with the need to pursue or defend against a lawsuit. It is important to understand what your company should consider when it comes to our court system.

What type of paperwork do you have?

The first item to consider when an issue arises is whether the issue is documented.

  • If your contractor failed to properly repair the property, do you have a copy of your contract? What about pictures of the repairs?
  • Regarding tenant disputes, were your discussions and agreements in writing or, if initially in person or over the phone, did you follow-up with a letter memorializing your discussion? Do you have a copy of any demands for unpaid rent or to do/cease doing some activity?
  • Regarding an accident at the property, did you have warnings in place or written rules concerning the source of the accident?

What type of documentation was in place at the time the issue arose and what you have available will be crucial in evaluating whether and how to proceed with a lawsuit, what defenses are available, and whether settlement may be appropriate if your company is served with a court summons.

You will likely need to retain an attorney to represent the company in court. Continue reading »

Drafting the Right Lease Agreement

David A. Zobel

By David A. Zobel



Authored by David A. Zobel with contribution from James M. Heffner

Part 10 of a 12-part series on Legal Considerations for Your Missouri Leasing Business: What You Should Consider Now, Later, and Throughout the Process

Congratulations, you have a space to lease and someone interested in leasing it. Now you need to define the rules and requirements which will control the relationship between you, as landlord, and the tenant – you need to draft a lease. (Of note, it is possible to have an unwritten or oral lease, but we strongly discourage that practice as it significantly increases the likelihood you’ll end up in court with a tenant arguing who is responsible for what and when). This could be the starting point for a one-year, 10-year, or longer relationship with your tenant, so it is important that everyone understand the parties’ respective rights and obligations from the outset.

The full scope of items you might or should consider incorporating into your lease will depend upon many factors, including the nature of your property and whether your tenancy is residential or commercial. Here are a few items to consider, regardless of your company’s particular circumstances.

  1. Identify and Include the Appropriate Parties.

Landlords: The lease should identify your company as the landlord and the party to whom rent should be payable. If you operate several companies which each own a leased property and you set up another company to manage those companies (streamlining rent and other issues), please ensure you have a written property management agreement in place between your two companies and each tenant lease identifies and distinguishes each of your company’s roles.

Tenants: If your company is leasing residentially, ensure that everyone that is going to live at your property is made a party to the lease so they can be made jointly responsible for the lease’s requirements. Co-signers (often parents of the individual tenants) should also be properly identified and required to sign the lease. If your tenant happens to be another company, you may want to consider requiring the managers or members of that company to sign a personal guaranty – depending on how secure you feel that the company will fulfill the obligations of your lease. Continue reading »

Preventing Sex Discrimination: The Case for Implementing More Guard Rails

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



One of the hottest topics today is the accusations of some form of sex discrimination – which includes sexual harassment and sexual assault – related to employment. From the entertainment industry to media organizations, professional services firms, restaurants, venture capital firms, legislative bodies, and many others, the problem is widespread – but it is not new. It is just an age-old story with new players.

Lawyers are brought in after the allegations are made. Those burning allegations must be dealt with very quickly under the law. The intent is to contain the fire by creating legal closure which, in most cases, involves settling the subject claim(s) through release agreements that contain confidentiality agreements and non-disparagement clauses. With respect to  advice to prevent sexual harassment in the future, lawyers often recommend a myriad of actions including  installing new leaders, overhauling management, conducing outside legal reviews into unreported claims, creating employee advisory committees, updating sexual harassment policies, offering  more employee services, and providing more training and education to employees. Depending on whether the ultimate decision maker sincerely “walks this talk,” this all could be simple symbolic noise.

Setting aside the allegations and rumored settlements, the common threads are as follows: Continue reading »

Is a LinkedIn Offer to Connect a Violation of a Non-Solicitation/Anti-Raiding Agreement?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Today, marketing and sales are yoked through digital channels. Leads and customer relations are created and maintained on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, email, video calls, and chat rooms. Your salespeople use these tools to sell your products. Yet, change happens. Valuable salespeople with critical customer relationships and employee friendships will leave your company. Hopefully, when those employees leave your employ, you have non-competes and non-solicitation clauses in place which prohibit them from directly or indirectly soliciting employees or customers for a period of years after termination of employment.

You hear through the grapevine that your former super salesperson who just quit has an updated job status on LinkedIn. Now some of your employees and customers know where the former super salesperson is now employed. To add insult to injury, your former super salesperson has asked several of your employees to connect via LinkedIn. You are afraid of the Pied Piper effect and that more of your employees will leave you. Plus you paid good money for your lawyer to draft the darn non-solicitation agreement and you want your money’s worth!

How can you as an employer determine if your former salesperson is legally violating the non-solicitation agreement?

  1. Passive solicitation. Is the activity passive and what is the content and substance of the message conveyed? Most courts that have considered this issue have found that an update to an individual’s LinkedIn account is passive. But what about a new request to connect?In Bankers Life and Casualty Company v. American Senior Benefits, Bankers Life sued a former sales manager for updating his LinkedIn account and asking three former co-workers – current employees of his former employer – to connect. Bankers Life argued that asking existing employees to connect was targeted and it would uncover job listings of current employer. The sales manager argued that the connection request was a LinkedIn generic email simply asking to form a professional networking connection on social media. The court noted that the generic emails did not contain any discussion of Bankers Life, no mention of the new employer, and no suggestion that a job description be reviewed. Further, current Bankers Life employees had a choice whether or not to respond and connect, click on the former co-worker’s profile, or review job postings for the salesperson’s new employer. Accordingly, the mere act of asking someone to connect on a social network via a generic email generated by the network itself did not violate the non-solicitation agreement. In Pre-Paid Legal Services v. Cahill, the court held that posting on Facebook that an employee has moved and touting the new employer’s product did not constitute evidence of unlawful solicitation.Courts have also ruled that posting a job opportunity on a LinkedIn is not a solicitation and becoming “friends” with former clients on Facebook does not in and of itself violate a non-compete clause (Enhanced Network Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hypersonic Technologies Corp and Invidia and LLC v. DiFonzo).

Continue reading »

Recent Illinois and Missouri Supreme Court Decisions Reduce Litigation Risks of Companies Operating in Multiple States

Michael J. McKitrick

By Michael J. McKitrick



Authored by Michael J. McKitrick with contribution from David A. Zobel

On September 21, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court handed down its decision in Aspen American Insurance Company v. Interstate Warehousing, Inc, greatly limiting the ability of plaintiffs to sue foreign corporations in Illinois simply because the corporation is registered to do business in and may have minimal contacts with Illinois. As described below, the decision joins Illinois with a nationwide trend disfavoring forum-shopping – a practice in which plaintiffs bring suit against defendants in plaintiff-friendly venues unrelated to the defendant’s contacts and the injury giving rise to the action.

The Aspen case concerned a claim filed in Illinois by a plaintiff who had been injured in a fire which occurred in Indiana. The defendant corporation was incorporated in and maintained its principal place of business in Indiana, although it did maintain a warehouse in Illinois and was also registered to do business in Illinois. The defendant corporation moved to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of proper jurisdiction as a result of these facts and the Circuit Court agreed. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that maintenance of a warehouse in Illinois and being registered as a foreign corporation in Illinois was sufficient to impart general jurisdiction over the corporation. Continue reading »