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Court Rejects Christian Adoption Agency’s Challenge To Anti-Discrimination Regulation

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In New Hope Family Services v. Poole, (ND NY, May 16, 2019), a New York federal district court rejected a constitutional challenge by a Christian adoption agency to New York’s anti-discrimination provisions. Regulations of New York’s Office of Children & Family Services prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating, among other things, on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. New Hope Family Services will not place children with same-sex couples or with unmarried couples. Inquiries from such couples are referred to other agencies. The court rejected New Hope’s contention that the regulation violates its free exercise rights because it was adopted to target faith-based agencies.  Instead, the court found that the regulation “is facially neutral and generally applicable, and that it has been neutrally and generally applied in this case….” The court also rejected New Hope’s free speech and equal protection challenges to New York’s regulation. In a press release, ADF said that the decision is likely to be appealed.

You can learn more about this issue here.

NBI SEMINAR MATERIALS: Traditional Ways to Manage Unemployment Compensation Costs

I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal educationseminar hosted by the National Business Institute.  The subject was “Human Resource Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on Unemployment Compensation.  I was joined by other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Copied below are the materials I wrote for the section entitled “Traditional Ways to Manage Unemployment Compensation Costs.”



Traditional Ways to Manage Unemployment Compensation Costs

Many employers appear to be under the impression that since they pay unemployment compensation through mandatory taxes, there is little they can do to manage their unemployment compensation costs.  The fact is, however, is that there are a few ways to manage unemployment compensation costs.

The first, and most basic, way an employer can manage unemployment compensation costs is to contest a claim for benefits.  For example, if a claimant is found to have voluntarily quits his employment or commits willful misconduct (see above), the employer is not charged for the benefits, however employers must be proactive at every step – specifically contesting a claim, submitting its forms in a timely fashion to the Department of Labor, appealing an adverse determination and/or attending a referee’s hearing – in order to ensure, to the best of its ability, that it is not charged for benefits.  To that end, providing the Department of Labor complete paperwork, a full description of the cause of the employee’s separation from employment, and supplying additional information as it becomes available is a must.  Similarly, employers are given notice by the Department of Labor of their employees’ base period wages, which can also be appealed in order to avoid an award of benefits being charged to their account.  Being sure to attend all hearings, submitting all documents within time allotted, and appealing adverse decisions can all help reduce costs.

An employer’s tax rate for unemployment compensation depends on the the number and frequency of successful claims for benefits, therefore, successfully contesting benefits can help reduce the applicable tax burden.

If a claimant is successful in securing benefits, an employer may be eligible for relief from being charged for the claimant’s benefits if it properly files for it.  An employer may be relieved of charges if, for example, the claimant was terminated for cause or voluntarily quit, or if the claimant became unemployed due to natural disaster, and/or the claimant is self-employed,

There are also some every day strategies and policies which can be implemented to help manage unemployment compensation costs.

  • First, being diligent and careful about who one hires, and ensuring a good work environment, helps ensure employees will have longer terms of employment, and less need for benefits. Relatedly, be liberal about offering leaves of absence as this also reduces the odds of employees quitting.  Keeping turnover to a minimum is the goal.  When employees are terminated (for whatever reason), it may be advisable to conduct an exit interview to document the reason for termination.
  • Second, it is vital to maintain complete and detailed employment records. These records include each and every disciplinary issue, work quality issue, and/or personality issue, and the dates of these issues, the names of all involved, the details of the investigation of these issues, and how they were resolved.
  • Third, an employer should be sure to furnish its employees with a copy of its employment manual/policies (with signed verification of receipt). So doing ensures all of its employees have had notice of what is expected of them, how discipline is applied and enforced, and what the work rules are.


Court Properly Applied Neutral Principles In Dealing With Factional Dispute In Church

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

Nelson v. Brewer(IL App., May 10, 2019), involved a dispute between two factions of a congregational church over control of the church, identity of its pastor and control of its property. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s action under Sec. 112.55 of the Illinois Non-Profit Corporation Act appointing a custodian to secure the church’s property and bring the church’s corporate governance documents in to compliance with law. The court also, through a series of orders, provided for selection of a 5-person board for the church. The appellate court said in part:

We find the circuit court in this case properly applied the neutral principles of law as it found both parties have an equal right to PTC property and carefully applied section 112.55 of the Act to remediate the church’s corporate governance. The court specifically refused to issue an opinion as to who is the rightful pastor because that question is religious in nature. Instead the court limited its findings to corporate reorganization by examining PTC’s articles of incorporation, bylaws, other corporate governing documents, the land trust, and pertinent state statutes to resolve the matter.

You can learn more about this issue here.

NBI SEMINAR MATERIALS: What you Need to Know About the Hearing Process

I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal educationseminar hosted by the National Business Institute.  The subject was “Human Resource Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on Unemployment Compensation.  I was joined by other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Copied below are the materials I wrote for the section entitled “What you Need to Know About the Hearing Process.”



Unemployment Compensation hearings are heard by a fact-finder known as a referee.  The hearings are semi-formal in nature, but generally follow typical adversarial hearing procedure.  Perhaps the single most important thing to know about referees’ hearings is that they are the one, and only, opportunity for either party to present evidence, testimony, and argument in support of his position with regard to the claim for benefits.  The referee’s decision is based solely on the file maintained by the Department of Labor and the testimony and evidence offered at the hearing.  It is unfortunately common for parties not to take the referee’s hearing seriously, or believe it is only some sort of preliminary (or intermediate (as opposed to final)) hearing, as it is not in a court or before a judge, however, as stated above, it is actually vitally important as it is the only fact-finding hearing in the unemployment compensation process.  Similarly unfortunate is that claimants are often told by the Department of Labor that they do not need an attorney at the hearing, however, considering how significant the referee’s hearings are to a claimant’s eligibility, it is highly recommended that the parties are represented at them.

Referees’ hearings take place at one’s local Unemployment Compensation hearing office, specifically in the referee’s office.  The hearings are audio recorded and transcribed if appealed to the Board of Review.  The referee’s office makes the complete claim file available to the parties prior to the hearing and, to that end, the parties should appear at least fifteen minutes prior to the hearing to review it.  The file typically consists of the correspondence between the parties and the Department of Labor, the application filed by the claimant, any response made by the employer, the income records from the claimant, and the initial determination of (in)eligibility.

As stated above, the hearing itself takes place in the referee’s personal office.  The arrangement of the room typically consists of the referee’s desk at the front (where the referees’ sits) and a long table perpendicular to the referee where the parties sit on opposing sides (some referees’ office have a traditional courtroom set up with the parties at side-by-side tables facing the referee).  The parties can be accompanied by their attorneys (or non-attorney representative), witnesses, and non-participating observers.  By statute, the parties may have a non-attorney representative instead of a lawyer who functions in a similar capacity as a lawyer.

The hearing begins with the referee reviewing and identifying literally every page in the claim file (which was just reviewed by the parties).  Upon completion of the review, the parties may object to the admissibility of the documents in the claim file.  Typically, the objections are to relevance (for containing information irrelevant to the claim) and hearsay.  It is not uncommon for the documents in the file, especially from the employer, to be written (or prepared) by a non-party who is not present at the hearing.  For example, the employer may appear at a referee’s hearing through its owner and a witness who saw the events giving rise to the employee’s termination.  By contrast, the contents of the file may have been written and/or prepared by the employer’s Human Relations director who is not present at the hearing, and, therefore, the contents would be hearsay.  If the objections are sustained, the documents objected to are not considered when the referee renders his decision.

After the file is reviewed, the hearing commences in a way that follows the traditional procedure of an adversarial hearing.  The hearing typically begins with an opening statement from the parties (some referee’s dispense with this portion of the hearing).  After open statements, the party which appealed the decision calls and examines its witnesses.  Through the witnesses, documents may be submitted as evidence.  The witnesses may be cross-examined by the adverse party.  When finished, the adverse party calls and examines its witnesses.  Closing arguments – if permitted by the referee – are then offered and the hearing concludes.

A very common mistake made by the parties – especially the employer – is not bringing the appropriate witnesses.  For example, employers often assert that a claimant was terminated from his employ due to willful misconduct, which would render the claimant ineligible for benefits.  This same employer may appear at the hearing with the owner and the human relations director as witnesses, neither of whom witnessed the misconduct that gave rise to claimant’s termination.  Unfortunately for the employer, the only testimony they would be able to provide regarding the misconduct is inadmissible hearsay.  So, needless to say, it is vitally important to bring the proper and relevant witnesses to the hearing.

As a referee’s hearing follows traditional adversarial procedures, the parties are free to make various objections as permitted by the rules of evidence.  As a referee’s hearing is semi-formal (similar to a district court (i.e.: small claims) hearing), objections for “best evidence” – and the like – are often not enforced.  Similarly, if a health condition is an issue, it is not necessary to call the physician or health care professional as a witness to ensure medical records are admissible as evidence.  The burden of proof lies with the party making the assertion.  For example, if the claimant was terminated for willful misconduct, the employer bears the burden to prove that it occurred.

A referee’s decision is issued within about two weeks of the hearing and is appealable to the Board of Review by the date listed on the determination/opinion issued by the referee.

Defamation Suit Dismissed Under Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In In re Alief Vietnamese Alliance Church and Phan Phung Hung, (TX App., April 30, 2019), a Texas state appellate court held that a defamation claim by a church’s former interim pastor, Paul Nguyen, against the Church and its senior pastor Phan Phung Hung should be dismissed under the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.  At issue were statements by Hung that Nguyen had committed adultery with a female church member. In a 2-1 decision, the majority said in part:

We conclude that Hung’s allegedly defamatory statements are … “inextricably intertwined” with matters relating to an internal struggle between a current and former leader of the Church over Church governance, the standard of morals required of leaders of the Church, and the reason for Nguyen’s leaving or being expelled from the Church….

Even if there is a dispute over Hung’s motivation in making the statements—either as part of a disciplinary procedure due to the alleged adultery or merely out of vindictiveness towards Nguyen, who had criticized Hung’s pastoring decisions—these statements were made in the context of expelling a member and former leader of the Church, or, alternatively, the Church member’s voluntarily quitting his leadership positions and quitting the Church—and then refusing to meet with Church leadership to resolve the dispute—either version of which is inherently an ecclesiastical concern as a matter of law.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Inheritance and Child Support

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too.  Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

Flight Attendants are Fighting a Culture of Harassment at American Airlines

The Melissa Chinery and Laura Medlin cases against American Airlines, cases currently being litigated by my firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., have been featured in an article entitled “Flight Attendants are Fighting a Culture of Harassment at American Airlines,” in Ms. Magazine b published on November 26, 2018, which can be found here.


There’s little that female candidates for public office can do when men post vile and harassing messages about them on social media. But when flight attendant Melissa Chinery’s male co-workers took to Facebook to make offensive and threatening comments about her when she ran to be president of the flight attendants’ union, she filed a sexual harassment grievance with her employer.

Instead of disciplining her harassers, however, American Airlines promoted them.

Two flight attendants have filed a lawsuit against American Airlines for fostering a culture of sexist online harassment among employees. (Kristoffer Trolle / Creative Commons)

Chinery and fellow AA flight attendant Laura Medlin have filed sexual harassment lawsuits against the airline for failing to respond to their complaints about male co-workers posting hundreds of derogatory messages about them on social media work group pages. They allege that male co-workers called them “c*nts,” a “flipper” (slang for prostitute) and a “sow.” One man posted a photo of a “bedazzled vagina.” Another wrote: “I can’t stand these crusty c*nts.”

Chinery first heard about the harassment from her flight service manager, but after filing her complaint, Chinery alleges that, after filing her complaint, she faced retaliation, including threats of discipline and repeated drug and alcohol tests. “My manager called me, then failed to take any action to stop the problem,” Chinery told SavvyStews. “No apologies from anyone, just an escalated attack.” AA’s Human Resources failed to even respond to Medlin’s complaints for many months.

Instead of disciplining the men, AA ultimately promoted two of them to positions in the training department. One is now working full time at American’s headquarters, training flight attendants for their annual airworthiness qualification, where he has the ability to pass or fail female flight attendants. The promotions gave another man access to Chinery and Medlin’s personal information and schedules; he knows where they are, what hotels they are staying in and other information that could compromise their safety.

Meanwhile, the men continue to insult their female co-workers on social media. At least 11 other American female flight attendants have reportedly been bullied and harassed by their male co-workers. This behavior was apparently not bad enough for George H.W. Bush-appointed Judge Eduardo C. Robreno to allow the case to go to trial. Robreno dismissed the combined suits in September, ruling that the behavior was not severe or pervasive; Chinery and Medlin have filed an appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Unlike office workers, flight attendants don’t see each other every day, transforming social media into a main means of communication—the new “virtual water cooler,” where co-workers talk and exchange ideas. What happens on social media has a direct impact on employees’ work experience. “Given the unique nature of social media, the harassment our clients experienced was all-pervasive and impossible to escape,” Faye Riva Cohen, the women’s attorney, told the media. “We believe that the Judge failed to adequately consider the power of social media and its impact on the workplace.”

In addition to the harassment itself, American Airlines attorneys have subjected Chinery and Medlin to invasive demands for personal information—including their medical records, medications they take and medical conditions they have. They demanded records from a C-section, pap smears and mammograms. AA attorneys questioned the women about their finances and other personal matters, presumably hoping to dig up something shameful so they could pressure the women to drop the suit for fear the information would be made public; they even deposed Chinery’s 74-year old father.

The men, on the other hand, were protected, never having to produce any personal information in the lawsuit. Rather than protecting their female employees, AA’s former Chief Financial Officer invited them to his wedding.

Chinery and Medlin have spent decades working for American Airlines, but they have yet to receive so much as an apology for the harassment they have had to endure, and American has shared no plan with them to prevent this sort of behavior in the future. That means it’s up to all of the customers flying the word’s biggest airline to demand justice for its female employees.

If you fly American, contact the airline and ask them what they are doing to ensure that all women are treated respectfully in their workplace. Demand that they create a safe workplace, one that is free from gender-based hostility and harassment, and demand that the human resources staff respond promptly and effectively to complaints of harassment.

Do this for Chinery, Medlin and the thousands of women who work at American Airlines who can’t afford to fight back.

NBI SEMINAR MATERIALS: When is it Important to Fight an Unemployment Compensation Claim

I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal educationseminar hosted by the National Business Institute.  The subject was “Human Resource Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on Unemployment Compensation.  I was joined by other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Copied below are the materials I wrote for the section entitled “When is it Important to Fight an Unemployment Compensation Claim.”



When is it Important to Fight an Unemployment Compensation Claim

As mentioned above, it is not atypical for an initial claim for benefits to be denied.  Two parties can contest an application for benefits: the employer and/or the Department of Labor.

When a claimant applies for benefits, the employer is alerted and is given the opportunity to supply the Department of Labor information about the claimant.  Often the information provided by the claimant matches that of the employer, but sometimes it does not, which could trigger a finding of ineligibility for the claimant.  Other times, the employer specifically provides information to the Department of Labor in order to prevent a successful application for benefits (e.g.: detailing the willful misconduct which led to the termination), which also typically triggers a finding of ineligibility.

There are times when the employer does not provide anything to the Department of Labor (or the information it provided agrees with the claimant), yet the claimant is still found ineligible.  In these cases, the Department of Labor makes a determination based on the application itself and, based on that alone, the claimant is determined to be ineligible.  For example, if the claimant has insufficient benefit weeks, and/or his application makes it appear he quit voluntarily, and/or he has a medical condition rendering him unable to work, then the Department of Labor could determine the claimant to be ineligible based on the information provided on the claimant’s application alone.

When a claimant is found to be ineligible for benefits (or when an employer’s ex-employee is found eligible) and one disagrees with the determination, one has a right to appeal the decision.  As noted above, it is critically important to file the appeal (via email and/or facsimile and/or mail) by the appeal deadline listed on the Notice of Determination, otherwise the appeal will be dismissed without consideration of its underlying merits.

It is almost always important to “fight” (e.g.: appeal) an adverse unemployment compensation determination.  Obviously, a claimant should appeal an adverse determination in order to secure benefits for himself.  An employer should appeal an adverse determination order to keep its costs down by avoiding paying out benefits for the claimant (more on this below).

A timely appeal of an adverse unemployment compensation determination leads to a hearing before a referee.

Texas “No Boycott of Israel” Law Held Unconstitutional

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

A Texas federal district court last week held unconstitutional the Texas statute requiring all state contracts for goods or services to include a written verification from the contracting company that it is not, and during the contract will not, boycott Israel. In Amawi v. Pflugerville Independent School District(WD TX, April 25, 2019), a Texas federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the anti-BDS statute or enforcement of any clause in state contracts barring boycott of Israel.  The court, in a 56-page opinion, said in part:

Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claims that H.B. 89 is unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it (1) is an impermissible content- and viewpoint-based restriction on protected expression; (2) imposes unconstitutional conditions on public employment; (3) compels speech for an impermissible purpose; and (4) is void for vagueness.

The suit was brought by five individuals who wished to contract, or had contracted, to provide services such as speech therapy and early childhood evaluations for a school district; translation of an art essay for a state University museum; judging high school debate tournaments; and providing podcasts for a public radio station. The court concluded that all of these were contracts with sole proprietorships, and were thus covered by the statute. Washington Post reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Visitation or Custody for a Pet?

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too.  Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

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