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Blog: Opinions & Observations

Deciphering Who Is a Joint Employer

October 20, 2017

If your company uses contract labor or temporary staffing, recent agency actions and court decisions may have turned your company into a joint employer who is legally responsible for its contract workers’ overtime pay.  Traditionally, companies were not considered joint employers unless they had direct control over the wages and other conditions of employment of another company’s employee.  However, Obama-era agency actions significantly broadened the scope of what may be...

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Virginia Supreme Court Creates New Uniform Scheduling Order for Eminent Domain/Condemnation Cases

September 11, 2017

Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1:18 governing scheduling orders in civil cases was recently amended by the Virginia Supreme Court, effective August 1, 2017. The amendment creates a new Uniform Condemnation Scheduling Order (the “New Scheduling Order”) that may ease the time crunch facing condemnors and condemnation counsel face in finding and disclosing rebuttal witnesses.  A link to the new Rule 1:18 is included at the end of this column.  The Virginia Supreme Court created...

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Can Local Governments Discipline Employees for Violation of their Social Media Policies?

August 08, 2017

Earlier this year the Fourth Circuit decided a case that pitted two fundamental interests against each other: a public employee’s First Amendment right to free speech and the government’s ability to provide efficient and effective service to the public. In the age of social media, the historic tension between these two interests has only become more contentious. In Grutzmacher v. Howard County, 851 F.3d 333 (4th Cir. 2017),  a battalion chief of Maryland’s Howard County Fire...

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A Look at Virginia's New Laws Affecting Community Associations

July 10, 2017

The new bills signed into law on July 1, 2017 affecting Virginia community associations help clarify obligations and requirements ranging from governing documents and disclosure forms to assistance animals and disability documentation.   These new laws aim to decrease uncertainty and improve understanding of purchasers and associations.  Since the Virginia Supreme Court decided the case of Tvardek v. Powhatan Vill. Homeowners Ass’n, 291 Va. 269 in February 2016, community...

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Same or Equivalent: Placing Employees Returning from FMLA Leave

May 22, 2017

On May 16, 2017, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion addressing two issues regarding the placement of returning employees.  The Court held that employers have a choice on whether to restore an employee returning from FMLA leave to the employee’s old position or to assign the employee to an “equivalent” one, which may give employers more flexibility in making staffing decisions. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), employees who take leave...

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Legal Remedies Available to Persons Who Are Injured or Whose Property Is Damaged by 94,000 Gallons of Aviation Fuel Released at Naval Air Station Oceana on May 11, 2017

May 12, 2017

On May 11, 2017 the Navy announced that approximately 94,000 gallons of jet fuel (JP-5) were released from a bulk “fuel farm” at Naval Air Station Oceana.  The spilled fuel leaked into a waterway that carried the JP-5 into the surrounding community where it reached nearby residential properties.  A multi-agency government team is working to contain and then clean up the spill.  The federal laws that force the spiller to clean up the spill are the Resource, Conservation and...

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Can I File Suit if I Don’t Have a Signed or Written Contract?

May 08, 2017

Work is often performed without a signed contract.  What happens when one party breaches a contract when there is nothing in writing or when a written contract is not signed?  Agreements in these situations can still be breached and the court can award damages resulting from these contracts.     Verbal Contracts The most common scenario is when there is nothing in writing.  When there is no document at all, the parties have agreed to an oral contract.  Oral contracts that do...

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Supreme Court of Virginia Shifts Jurisdiction of Some Actions of Unlawful Detainer

April 04, 2017

In June of 2016, the Supreme Court of Virginia decided Parrish v. Fannie Mae, setting a new precedent for the way in which some types of unlawful detainer actions are tried in Virginia courts.  This case is significant to purchasers of foreclosed properties that are still occupied by the former owners, making litigation to gain possession more complex, time-consuming and costly.  When a bank puts a property up for foreclosure sale, the previous occupants sometimes refuse to...

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New SBA Rules Allow Greater Use of Joint Ventures by Both Small and Large Businesses for Participation in Small Business Set Asides

March 10, 2017

For businesses who are interested in contracting with a federal agency under one of the Small Business Administration’s set aside programs, two changes in the rules and regulations in 2016 governing the SBA’s small business programs have opened a crack in the door for greater participation in one of the SBA’s small business programs by small businesses, and by large business “mentors,” through a greater use of joint ventures.  In May, 2016, the SBA’s Small Business Size...

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Avoiding the Employee Retaliation Trap

March 07, 2017

Employers can be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 without ever actually discriminating against an employee.  For example, a Roanoke hair stylist recently brought suit against her former employer alleging that it subjected her to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII because she was a Caucasian woman dating an African-American man and that the salon terminated her in retaliation for complaining about harassing statements made to her about...

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