April 2010 Archives

April 16, 2010

Email Policies for Small Businesses in the Greater Philadelphia Region

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently held that an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy for emails sent through a personal email account (name@gmail.com for example) over her employer's network. This is significant because prior law had held just the opposite-namely that the employer did have access to anything an employee was sending over the employer's network. While this case focused extensively on the relationship between the attorney client privilege (because the personal email the employee sent was to her lawyer about a lawsuit against her employer) and the employer's right to review company email -- this case should give pause to human resource departments that it might be a good time to update or perhaps create your employee manuals.

At our Philadelphia business law firm, we like to think of an employee handbook as not only benefiting the employee, but also providing tremendous legal benefits for the employer. By having a clearly defined policy or procedure in place, along with defined consequences for the failure to meet them, exposure to litigation is greatly reduced. In fact, business insurance carriers will often reduce your premium if you have clearly defined policies for email, communication, sexual harassment, and anti-discrimination.

As a result of this case we are now advising our clients to have communication policies in place that provide notice to employees that personal email accounts (name@gmail or name@yahoo.com for example) are subject to monitoring when sent over the company network. In addition, even if you elect not to monitor personal emails sent over the company's network, everyone should be aware that records of such emails may be discoverable in litigation. This could lead to very embarrassing situations for you and your employees. Any company, whether it is small or large, can benefit by having a strong electronic communications policy in effect to reduce company exposure in litigation.

Continue reading "Email Policies for Small Businesses in the Greater Philadelphia Region" »

April 15, 2010

New Lead Paint Rules for Contractors

Beginning April 22, 2010 all home improvement contractors are required to comply with the EPA's new rules to prevent lead poisoning. The new rules, which have actually been public for 2 years, mandate that all contractors and sub's working on homes built prior to 1978 (with a few exceptions) be certified by the EPA. Contractors will have to take a training course and submit an application to the EPA to become certified. Since the EPA could take as long as 3 months to issue the certification, we're anticipating potential complaints this summer becoming an issue.

The fines for non-certified contractors doing renovation work are substantial, running up to tens of thousands of dollars a day. From the contractor's perspective, not following the rules could lead to homeowners refusing to pay for renovation projects or even lawsuits down the road, in addition to the fines. From the homeowner's perspective, these rules will provide a degree of comfort that lead poisoning risks are being mitigated, although it will also most likely add to the total costs of renovations.

In Pennsylvania, we're still dealing with the effects of the relatively recent Home Improvement consumer Protection Act. At Danziger Shapiro & Leavitt, PC we have guided numerous clients through the new licensing requirements imposed on the renovation industry, and we've collectively learned that while there are a few hiccups, the process is not as difficult as everyone feared it would be at the start. Even more important to homeowners, we're also starting to see the effects of the new laws on lawsuits brought against unlicensed and unqualified developers and scam artists within the industry. Our firm has helped numerous homeowners over the years prosecuting these claims, and these new regulations will add more teeth to their cases.

Continue reading "New Lead Paint Rules for Contractors" »