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- Securities Alert: SEC Amends Regulation A Exemption to apply to Offerings of up to $50 Million of Securities AnnuallyOn March 25, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted amendments to Regulation A, which provides an exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) for smaller securities offerings by private (non-SEC reporting) companies.
- Oil and Gas Alert: U.S. District Court Certifies Question to Supreme Court of Ohio Relating to Deduction of Post-Production CostsThe U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio recently certified an important question of law concerning the deduction of post-production costs to the Supreme Court of Ohio: Does Ohio follow the “at the well” rule (which permits the deduction of post-production costs) or does it follow some version of the “marketable product” rule (which limits the deduction of post-production costs under certain circumstances)?
- The National Labor Relations Board has determined that confidentiality statements used in internal investigations are unlawful. Now, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has weighed in on employee confidentiality agreements.
- On March 18, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that those engaged in crude petroleum and natural gas extraction, drilling, and related support activities are engaged in “high hazard” activities and will be subject to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program has been in effect since 2010, when it replaced the prior Enhanced Enforcement Program. When the program started, OSHA placed its national emphasis on the “high-hazard” industries that involved fall hazards and hazards from amputations; combustible dust, crystalline silica; excavation and/or trenching; lead; and shipbreaking. This announcement is an expansion of the program’s “high hazard” activities. This is important for the oil and gas industry because OSHA concentrates the majority of its resources to inspecting employers from “high-hazard” industries.
- Underscoring a national trend, Virginia joined 18 states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin) limiting employer access to the social media accounts of job applicants and employees.
- On March 25, 2015, the Supreme Court announced its long-awaited decision in Young v. United Parcel Service regarding the scope of required accommodations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The case involves a former driver for UPS who claimed that UPS violated the PDA by not offering her light duty when she was pregnant and subject to a 20-pound lifting restriction, despite accommodating nonpregnant drivers with the same lifting restriction.
- On March 24, 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court decided the Fairfield County v. Nally (former Ohio EPA Director) case. This was a challenge brought by Fairfield County to a Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limit, which was based on a total maximum daily load (TMDL) report prepared by Ohio EPA to limit phosphorus discharges from the county’s wastewater treatment plant.
- Labor and Employment Alert: The NLRB’s Employee Handbook Policy Guidance — It’s Not Just For Union WorkplacesOn March 18, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) general counsel released a report addressing “problematic” employee handbook provisions that could be “reasonably construed” as having a chilling effect on employees’ Section 7 activity under the National Labor Relations Act (basically, the right to engage in “concerted activities” for collective bargaining or “other mutual aid and protection”).
- No company today is immune from negative reviews on websites such as My3Cents.com. In fact, My3Cents.com has received an aggregate 2.2 star rating (out of 5) on its own website.
- The IRS will need detailed information from employers to enforce three Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax provisions. The IRS must determine whether: (1) an employer owes a pay or play penalty for failing to offer affordable, minimum value health coverage to its full-time employees; (2) employees and/or their family members are entitled to tax credits (subsidies) for the purchase of health insurance in the public exchanges; and (3) employees and/or their family members owe penalties for failing to maintain health coverage.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a study on March 10, 2015 that concludes that pre-dispute arbitration agreements restrict a consumers’ relief. This study is the latest step in the CFPB’s analysis of lenders’ arbitration practices and is widely regarded as a precursor to new regulations.
- Client Alert: Upholding a DOL Rule that Mortgage Loan Originators do not Qualify for the Administrative Exemption, a Unanimous Supreme Court Defers to Federal Agencies When Amending and Repealing Interpretative RulesIn Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, the Supreme Court unanimously held that federal agencies do not have to engage in formal notice-and-comment rulemaking when changing their interpretative rules (even when, as in the case before the Court, those changes are significant).
- Labor and Employment Alert: Unanimous Supreme Court Defers to Federal Agencies When Amending and Repealing Interpretative Rules (For Now)In Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, the Supreme Court unanimously held that federal agencies do not have to engage in formal notice-and-comment rulemaking when changing their interpretative rules (even when, as in the case before the Court, those changes are significant).
- Over the past year, Pennsylvania has continued to lead the northeastern United States in natural gas production. According to a report published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on November 25, 2014, Pennsylvania became the second-largest shale gas producing state in the nation in 2013, and production continued to increase throughout 2014.
- 2014 was a year of continued growth and expansion for Ohio’s oil and gas industry. Drilling and production increased dramatically, with more than 50 Utica rigs operating in Ohio at year end and over 550 new drilling permits having been issued as of October 2014, which is more than all of 2013.
- With Governor Scott Walker’s signature today, Wisconsin has become the latest state to enact a right-to-work law. Indiana and Michigan last did so in 2012. Wisconsin brings the total number of right-to-work states to 25.
- Businesses have a lot to gain from positive online reviews. Even a business that has overall strong reviews, however, can suffer if a disgruntled person publishes a false and defamatory post. Complaints.com is one website where businesses can become victims of internet defamation, and the website’s header – which reads “CONSUMERS IN CONTROL” – implies the difficulty of a business’s internet reputation being in the hands of other persons.
- Labor and Employment Alert: Is There No Rest From Wage-Hour Class Actions For Weary Employers in California?Any employer who has done business in California is familiar with the state’s byzantine wage-hours laws and the immense liability for even minor violations. The complexity of these laws – and the potential exposure facing employers – has not been lost on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as the recent case of Mendoza v. Nordstrom demonstrates.
- There is no denying that online reviews are important for businesses. After all, customers regularly search them out and are increasingly relying them.
- Several employment laws recently became effective in Washington, D.C. that impose new requirements on employers operating within the District on wage transparency, marijuana testing, pregnancy accommodations and concealed weapons. Employers should review their current operations and policies to ensure they comply with the new laws’ requirements.
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