Employment Law Update: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Employers' Contractual Rights to Require Individual Claims Via Arbitration

In a significant and far-reaching decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employment agreements that require the arbitration of certain employment claims brought by employees on an individual basis will be enforced as written.  Employees may not band together to form a quasi-class action against their employer in an arbitration setting if the employment agreement specifically prohibits it. 

Today's decision in the case of Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis addressed an issue that has been unresolved in employment law for decades.  It also potentially affects every employer and every employee in the United States.

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Employment Law Update: Philadelphia Ordinance on Wage History Blocked

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia was awarded a preliminary injunction in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the implementation of a City of Philadelphia Ordinance which purported to: 1) prohibit an employer from inquiring about a prospective employee's wage history and 2) make it illegal for an employer to rely on wage history "at any stage in the employment process" to determine a salary for an employee.

The Court held that the "Inquiry Provision" of the City Ordinance violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment. The Court allowed the "Reliance Provision" to stand. 

The City's rationale was that relying on salary history arguably could perpetuate a perceived wage gap between genders.  

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Copyright Law Update: The "Monkey Selfie" Case Ends in the 9th Circuit

In order to understand the impact of the 9th Circuit's recent ruling in Naruto v. Slater, we have to quickly survey the history of the case.  David Slater is a photographer from the UK.  In 2011, Slater was in Indonesian jungle photographing a group of macaques.  Slater sets up a camera in a clearing to work without his presence.  

Subsequently, a macaque approaches the camera, starts to handle the camera, and in so doing presses the shutter button down, resulting in a series of images which immediately became known as the "monkey selfies".  

Slater takes those images, includes them in a book of his collected work, and begins to sell the book independently. 

That's when PETA alleged that Slater was infringing on - wait for it - the monkey's copyright in the "monkey selfie" photographs included in Slater's published collection. 

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Capital Gains Tax, Explained

The tax filing deadline is approaching, and there are quite a few new wrinkles in the Tax Code for individuals to consider.  Recently, I have fielded quite a few questions about the recent changes in how capital gains tax is calculated.  Here are the basics you need to know this tax season:

A capital gain is realized when a capital asset is sold or exchanged at a price higher than the price paid for that asset (or its “basis”). Basis is defined as an asset’s purchase price, plus commissions and the cost of improvements (if any), minus depreciation. 

A capital loss happens when an asset is sold for less than its basis. Capital gains and losses are not adjusted for inflation. 

Long term capital gains and losses occur if the asset was held for more than one year.  

Short term capital gains and losses occur if the asset was held for less than one year.  

So what are the capital gains tax rates?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changes things up quite a bit from the prior methods of capital gains taxation.  

Let’s first address an easy concept:  Short term capital gains are taxed at the same rate as ordinary income.  If you have bought and sold a capital asset within one year, you just pay your normal federal income tax rate on that gain.  

For long term capital gains, however, it not that straightforward. The long term capital gains tax rate is either 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on your income level. This is most easily described by the following chart:

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Gains on the sale of artworks and collectibles are taxed as ordinary income up to a maximum 28 percent rate. 

How NOT to Interview a Job Candidate, the NFL Edition

The NFL Combine just took place last week in everyone's sort-of favorite convention city,  Indianapolis, Indiana.  A jarring news story came out of that event wherein an official from an unidentified NFL team asked a prospect, LSU running bank Darrius Geice, "if he liked men" during the interview.  Yes, according to the story as reported, an NFL team asked a potential employee if he was a homosexual in the job interview. 

While that by itself is startling - that an major employer like an NFL team - can be so foolish as to ask a blatantly illegal interview question to a job candidate, the response that one hears on sports talk radio is equally surprising.  Unbelievably, there are a fair amount of people out there who have no idea that this question potentially violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964

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