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Archive for the tag “charity”

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia: Help for the Helpless (featuring James W. Cushing!)

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

The Clinic’s monthly newsletter for June 2017 is out and, much to my surprise, I am featured in the lead article!  Although I do not really view what I do as particularly noteworthy, I am thankful, humbled, and honored by the recognition.  I hope that as the weeks and months progress, the Clinic can continue to grow and flourish in its service to those in need in the Philadelphia area.  Please continue to pray for us and donate to us your time, talents, and treasure as you feel led (if you want to give to our ministry, please see here).  Thanks to everyone who makes this vital ministry possible and thanks, above all, to God from whom all blessings flow.

 

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia Autumn 2016 Banquet!

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

We just celebrated our fourth annual autumn Philadelphia banquet and our third annual Bucks County banquet!  At the banquets we had opportunity to hear clients’ stories told by them personally, stories of attorneys who served our clients, and how God has blessed the clients, attorneys, and the Clinic.

Last year at this time the Clinic established a daring budget and goals for 2016.  We opened more clinics; we recruited more attorneys; and, despite taking a risk on our budgeted expenditures, we will meet our expenses through the gracious gifts our donors and, more importantly, God.

It is amazing just how much God has blessed the Clinic, and our clients through the Clinic.  For a glimpse into our work, please check out the videos below, especially the 2016 video which is brand new!

2017 looks to be another great year!  We may be expanding into other locations in and around Philadelphia.  We serve hundreds of people each year, and there are many more we can reach through our services and, more importantly, many more we can reach with the Gospel of Christ.

Of course, like any charity organization, in order to help others we need your help to do it.  Please come out to one of our Clinic locations to see what we are doing first hand; our Clinic locations are described here.   If you can, help out by volunteering; also, we are always in need of money to fund our ministry.  If you feel led to donate, you can do so here.  If you cannot do these things, please pray for us and our ministry.

Finally, the Clinic exists to help people secure justice in the American legal system here in the Philadelphia area.  More importantly, however, the Clinic exists for people to be the face of Jesus to those who need it and to help people, not just through their legal issues, but through their spiritual ones as well, which so often are closely related to their legal issues.  Help us heed Christ’s call to help “the least of these” and pursue religion “that is pure and undefiled” by giving to our efforts.  Always remember that Jesus identified himself as among those called “least” as they, in the end, will be great.

Please be sure to watch these great videos as they show a few of the personal stories of the people the Clinic has helped.  Thanks and God bless.

2016 Video:

2015 Video:

2014 Video:

2013 Video:

Unemployment Compensation Ruling Cannot be the Basis for Collateral Estoppel

Many cases sounding in employment law involve other related parallel matters like unemployment compensation. Applicants for unemployment compensation, and their employers, engage in a legal administrative process wherein they make allegations and, fairly frequently, have to testify on the record at a hearing before a referee which can be reviewed by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review and Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Based on the evidence presented, findings of facts and law are made during the unemployment compensation process relative to the applicant’s eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits.

The legal doctrine of collateral estoppel, sometimes called “issue preclusion,” serves to prevent a litigant from re-litigating issues which have been the subject of a finding of fact and/or law in a prior litigation. The recent case of Mathis v. Christian Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. 91 F.Supp.3d 651 (U.S.E.D.PA 2015) addresses whether findings of fact and/or law during unemployment compensation litigation can serve as the basis for collateral estoppel in court.

In Mathis, the District Court finds itself ruling upon what is, in effect if not in name, a motion to reconsider its ruling granting a motion to dismiss. The Plaintiff in Mathis is a self-described atheist, while the Defendant, Christian Heating and Air Conditioning (“CHAC”), is a company owned and operated explicitly as a Christian company.

As part of its work rules, all employees of CHAC are obliged to wear an identification badge with CHAC’s mission statement which reads as follows: “This company is not only a business, it is a ministry. It is set on standards that are higher than man’s own. Our goal is to run this company in a way most pleasing to the lord [sic].” Plaintiff alleges that people from CHAC would regularly make comments to him about his lack of religious belief and insist he attend church. Further, as it conflicted with his atheistic beliefs, he covered the above-quoted mission statement on his identification badge with a piece of tape. According to Plaintiff, his superior at CHAC informed him that the mission statement cannot be covered and refusing to remove the tape would result in his termination. Plaintiff refused to remove the tape and was promptly terminated.

Plaintiff, upon termination, filed for unemployment compensation benefits. An employee who voluntarily quits his employment is ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits. During the unemployment compensation process, a finding of fact was made by Unemployment Compensation that CHAC told Plaintiff that he could remove the tape on his badge and continue his employment, or leave and terminate his employment relationship with CHAC. Plaintiff then chose to leave instead of removing the tape. As a result, it was found that, for purposes of unemployment compensation, Plaintiff’s termination from CHAC was the result of Plaintiff’s voluntary decision to quit his employment with CHAC.

Plaintiff also filed charges against CHAC with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on the basis of employment discrimination based on religion which resulted in Plaintiff receiving his right to file suit against CHAC in federal court, which he did, giving rise to the Mathis matter.

CHAC argued that Plaintiff’s discrimination claims were all barred by collateral estoppel as these same allegations were made in the context of the unemployment compensation litigation which made specific findings of fact upon which a ruling was entered against Defendant. Specifically, CHAC filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims on the basis that the unemployment litigation found he was not terminated due to religious discrimination but, rather, he voluntarily quit his job with CHAC. Based on the collateral estoppel argument, the Court granted CHAC’s Motion to Dismiss in part, ruling that Plaintiff was barred by collateral estoppel from re-litigating issues essential to his failure to accommodate his atheism claim. Plaintiff also made a retaliation claim (which is a separate issue from that described herein) against CHAC which survived the motion to dismiss.

After the Court’s ruling on the aforesaid motion to dismiss, Plaintiff discovered a Pennsylvania law which directly applied to his case as described above. As a result, Plaintiff filed what was, in essence (though not in name), a motion for reconsideration in light of the newly discovered law.

Plaintiff uncovered 43 P.S. Section 829 which reads as follows: “No finding of fact or law, judgment, conclusion or final order made with respect to a claim for unemployment compensation under this act may be deemed to be conclusive or binding in any separate or subsequent action or proceeding in another forum.”

To put it simply, the above-quoted law specifically states that any findings of fact or law in unemployment compensation litigation simply cannot be used as the basis for a collateral estoppel argument and/or defense.

In light of the clear terms of 43 P.S. Section 829, the Court reconsidered its granting of CHAC’s motion to dismiss by reversing its decision and denied it in toto to allow all of Plaintiff’s claims against CHAC to move forward.

Originally published on February 24, 2016 in Upon Further Review and can be found here.

The (Unemployment Compensation) Benefits of Not Minding One’s Own Business

The discernment of who is or who is not an independent contractor for the purposes of unemployment compensation has become more refined per the recent Commonwealth Court matter of Staffmore v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 92 A.3d 844 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2014).

The Claimant for unemployment compensation benefits went through a series of appeals and reversals until he found himself before Commonwealth Court. The Claimant was found ineligible for benefits by the Unemployment Compensation Service Center, but that decision was reversed after an appeal to, and hearing before, an unemployment compensation Referee. The Employer appealed to the Unemployed Compensation Board of Review which reversed the Referee’s decision. The Claimant filed for reconsideration which resulted in reversal of the Board’s decision. That decision was reversed after the Employer filed for reconsideration. However, after reviewing the case again, the Board found in favor of the Claimant, which led to the Employer appealing to the Commonwealth Court.

The Employer is a staffing service which provides workers to agencies for the care of children. Claimant worked for the Employer as therapeutic support staff. He was free to accept or reject clients, he signed an independent contract agreement, he was supervised by a behavioral specialist, who was not an employee of Employer but developed a treatment plan Claimant was obliged to follow. Claimant only worked seven (7) hours per week providing services for a single client. Claimant worked in the education field while he also worked for the Employer. Eventually, Claimant’s client no longer needed further services and Claimant subsequently advised the Employer that he would not accept any further assignments from the Employer.

It was uncontested that Claimant was free from the Employer’s control. The only issue before the Court was whether Claimant was customarily engaged in an independently-established trade, occupation, profession and/or business. If he was, he would be ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits as he would be an independent contractor. Of course, the Court made it clear that unemployment compensation law is to be construed and applied liberally in order to ensure the broadest possible availability of benefits.

In its review of the case law, the Court noted that a worker is an independent contractor only if he is in business for himself. To that end, he must be customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business. The Court was clear that the Employer bears the burden to supply evidence of Claimant’s engagement in an independent business.

Although the Claimant was free from the control of the Employer, he testified that he was never, at any relevant time, customarily engaged in the business of providing therapeutic support. Claimant testified that his primary source of income, and indeed his chosen field, was working in education, not as therapeutic support staff, and never held himself out as being available for employment by anyone else other than Employer. Significantly, the Employer provided no evidence that Claimant provided comparable services to any other business or entity.

Based on the above, the Court found that the Employer simply did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Claimant was engaged in an established business; however, the Court was concerned that Claimant testified that he appeared to have quit his position with the Employer. Consequently, the Court ruled that while Claimant may be eligible for benefits as he was not self-employed, he could be ineligible due to having voluntarily quit. As a result, the Court remanded the case back to the unemployment compensation referee to elicit more information on the circumstances of Claimant’s termination of his employment with the Employer.

Originally published on December 28, 2015 in Upon Further Review and can be found here.

Coordinating Unemployment Compensation With Severance Packages

When one applies for unemployment compensation, it is important to coordinate said application based on when one’s severance package expires and whether one is still within one’s base year, which is the length of time preceding an application for unemployment compensation.  The base year and one’s income earned over that period of time determines the calculations of the amount of one’s unemployment compensation benefits (see 43 P.S. §753(a)).  A credit week is a week within a base year where an employee (i.e.: a claimant for unemployment compensation benefits) has worked and earned above a specific threshold income (see 43 P.S. §753(g.1)).  In order to be eligible for benefits, one must receive employment income for a minimum of eighteen (18) credit weeks within a base year (see 43 P.S. §804(c)).

 

43 P.S. § 804(d)(1)(iii) states the following: “[n]otwithstanding any other provisions of this section each eligible employe who is unemployed with respect to any week ending subsequent to July 1, 1980 shall be paid with respect to such week, compensation in an amount equal to his weekly benefit rate less the total of … the amount of severance pay that is attributed to the week.”  In other words, when one applies for unemployment compensation benefits one must report the income received from a severance package and that income is deducted from the unemployment compensation benefits if they are collected simultaneously.

 

A severance package can be paid over time or in a lump sum.  If it is paid over time, usually in consecutive payroll periods, each week one receives a severance payment, said payment is considered income for a credit week which goes toward the unemployment compensation claimant’s base year, and this should be considered and accounted for before a claim for unemployment compensation benefits is made.  If the severance payment is received as a lump sum, the Court and the Department of Labor have tended to aggregate the severance on a pro-rata basis based on one’s typical earnings.  By example, if someone earns $1,000 per week, a $10,000 severance payment would be considered a ten (10) week severance.  (See: Ross v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 127 Pa.Cmwlth. 457 (1989)).

 

“Severance pay” is considered to be one or more payments made by a employer to an employee due to an employee’ separation from employment (without regard to whether the employer is contractually obligated to provide the pay).  Severance specifically does not include payments from a pension, retirement package, or accrued leave and/or supplemental unemployment benefits.  The law, pursuant to Section 43 P.S. §§ 804(e)(1)(2)(ii) and 804(d)(1) of the Unemployment Compensation law, lays out how severance packages are calculated and attributed for the purposes of benefits.

 

Based on the above, it would seem, in most cases, that the best time to apply for unemployment compensation benefits is after the expiration of one’s receipt of a severance package. As receipt of a severance package counts toward one’s base year, waiting until after the package is fully paid will not affect one’s eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits.  Furthermore, waiting until after one’s severance is paid avoids having one’s benefits deducted by the value of the severance package.  Instead, waiting until the severance package is fully paid before applying for benefits allows one to potentially receive the full severance package and a full complement of unemployment compensation benefits.  On the other hand, one ought not wait too long after the severance package expires before applying for benefits.  Regardless of the source or type of income one receives, one must always have at least eighteen (18) credit weeks within a base year to be eligible for benefits, and benefits always begin upon application for them not on one’s last day of work or receipt of the last severance payment.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on October 23, 2015 and can be found here.

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – Please Remember Us in Your Charitable Giving for 2015

Hello folks and Merry Christmas!  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

Of course, like any charity organization, in order to help others we need your help to do it.  Please come out to one of our Clinic locations to see what we are doing first hand; our Clinic locations are described here.   If you can, help out by volunteering; also, we are always in need of money to fund our ministry.  If you feel led to donate, you can do so here.  If you cannot do these things, please pray for us and our ministry.

Finally, the Clinic exists to help people secure justice in the American legal system here in the Philadelphia area.  More importantly, however, the Clinic exists for people to be the face of Jesus to those who need it and to help people, not just through their legal issues, but through their spiritual ones as well, which so often are closely related to their legal issues.  Help us heed Christ’s call to help “the least of these” and pursue religion “that is pure and undefiled” by giving to our efforts.  Always remember that Jesus identified himself as among those called “least” as they, in the end, will be great.

Please be sure to watch these great videos as they show a few of the personal stories of the people the Clinic has helped.  Thanks and God bless.

2015 video:

2014 video:

2013 video:

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia Autumn 2015 Banquet!

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

We just celebrated our third annual autumn Philadelphia banquet and out second annual Bucks County banquet!  At the banquets we had opportunity to hear clients’ stories told by them personally, stories of attorneys who served our clients, and how God has blessed the clients, attorneys, and the Clinic.

Last year at this time the Clinic established a daring budget and goals for 2015.  We opened more clinics; we recruited more attorneys; and, despite taking a risk on our budgeted expenditures, we will meet our expenses through the gracious gifts our donors and, more importantly, God.

It is amazing just how much God has blessed the Clinic, and our clients through the Clinic.  For a glimpse into our work, please check out the videos below, especially the 2015 video which is brand new!

2016 looks to be another great year!  We hope to expand into Camden and another two locations in Philadelphia.  We serve hundreds of people each year, and there are many more we can reach through our services and, more importantly, many more we can reach with the Gospel of Christ.

Of course, like any charity organization, in order to help others we need your help to do it.  Please come out to one of our Clinic locations to see what we are doing first hand; our Clinic locations are described here.   If you can, help out by volunteering; also, we are always in need of money to fund our ministry.  If you feel led to donate, you can do so here.  If you cannot do these things, please pray for us and our ministry.

Finally, the Clinic exists to help people secure justice in the American legal system here in the Philadelphia area.  More importantly, however, the Clinic exists for people to be the face of Jesus to those who need it and to help people, not just through their legal issues, but through their spiritual ones as well, which so often are closely related to their legal issues.  Help us heed Christ’s call to help “the least of these” and pursue religion “that is pure and undefiled” by giving to our efforts.  Always remember that Jesus identified himself as among those called “least” as they, in the end, will be great.

Please be sure to watch these great videos as they show a few of the personal stories of the people the Clinic has helped.  Thanks and God bless.

2015 video:

2014 video:

2013 video:

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – Please Remember Us in Your Charitable Giving

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

Of course, like any charity organization, in order to help others we need your help to do it.  Please come out to one of our Clinic locations to see what we are doing first hand; our Clinic locations are described here.   If you can, help out by volunteering; also, we are always in need of money to fund our ministry.  If you feel led to donate, you can do so here.  If you cannot do these things, please pray for us and our ministry.

Finally, the Clinic exists to help people secure justice in the American legal system here in the Philadelphia area.  More importantly, however, the Clinic exists for people to be the face of Jesus to those who need it and to help people, not just through their legal issues, but through their spiritual ones as well, which so often are closely related to their legal issues.  Help us heed Christ’s call to help “the least of these” and pursue religion “that is pure and undefiled” by giving to our efforts.  Always remember that Jesus identified himself as among those called “least” as they, in the end, will be great.

Please be sure to watch these great videos as they show a few of the personal stories of the people the Clinic has helped.  Thanks and God bless.

“Like Streams of Water”

and

“A Community of Grace”

Unemployment Compensation Isn’t Very Charitable

A typical unemployment compensation matter is rather straightforward. The employer pays the unemployment compensation tax for each employee and the employee, if separated from employment through no fault of his own and if he has worked sufficient benefit weeks, applies for and receives benefits. This fairly typical scenario is significantly different when the employer is a not-for-profit entity.

If the employer is not-for-profit, while it is, with exception for the below, obliged to contribute toward unemployment compensation taxes, it is not obliged to do so with regularity per employee as with a typical employer. Instead, a not-for-profit entity has two other options available to it in order to accommodate the fact that it does not make a profit and may not have many assets to contribute toward the tax.

First, the not-for-profit entity can elect to use the “contributory method.” Under the contributory method, the employer must pay its unemployment compensation taxes quarterly and for the first $8,750 of each employee’s compensation, at a rate specified by the unemployment compensation law which can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor’s website.

Second, the not-for-profit entity can elect to use the “reimbursable method”. Under the reimbursable method the employer must simply reimburse the Unemployment Compensation Fund, dollar-for-dollar, for the benefits outlaid. The reimbursement must be paid on a monthly or quarterly basis or else the not-for-profit employer will be switched to the contributory method.

Now, if the not-for-profit entity is a religious organization, it, pursuant to 43 Pa.C.A. Section 753(l)(4)(8)(a), is subject to a religious exemption and need not pay into the unemployment compensation fund at all but, as a result, none of the employees who work for that religious organization are able to collect unemployment compensation benefits regardless of the cause or reason for their termination and/or separation from employment. The aforesaid statute indicates that the religious organization exemption only applies to houses of worship, associations of the same, and/or entities which function and/or operate and/or are supported and/or controlled by the same which exist primarily for religious purposes. In applying this statute, cases such as Imani Christian Academy v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 42 A.3d 1171 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011) make it clear that an entity such as an even a religious school would likely not be eligible for the exemption as the a school’s primary purpose is education as opposed to religion. The law is clear that an entity’s primary focus must be religion in order to receive the exemption.

The rules and law for unemployment compensation are generally applicable to most employers, however if the employer at issue is a not-for-profit entity and/or a religious organization, it must be aware of the special rules and guidelines which apply specifically to them.

Originally published on May 14, 2014 in The Legal Intelligencer Blog and can be seen here.

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – June 2015 Update

The Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia’s monthly newsletter is out and can be seen below.  I hope that as the weeks and months progress, the Clinic can continue to grow and flourish in its service to those in need in the Philadelphia area.  Please continue to pray for us and donate to us your time, talents, and treasure as you feel led (if you want to give to our ministry, please see here).  Thanks to everyone who makes this vital ministry possible and thanks, above all, to God from whom all blessings flow.

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