All Articles by Network Magazine

What Employers Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Law

In April 2016, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, becoming the twenty-fourth state to do so. Although it has taken nearly two years for the Commonwealth’s regulatory system to be designed and implemented, medical marijuana is now readily available at a number of licensed dispensaries throughout the state. With tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians registered to become […]

In April 2016, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, becoming the twenty-fourth state to do so. Although it has taken nearly two years for the Commonwealth’s regulatory system to be designed and implemented, medical marijuana is now readily available at a number of licensed dispensaries throughout the state. With tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians registered to become certified to use medical marijuana and more dispensaries set to open in the coming months, employers must be prepared to address new issues regarding medical marijuana in the workplace. This article will answer some of the most common questions that employers have asked in trying to navigate the haze of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (the “Act”).

  1. What Conditions Qualify an Employee for Medical Marijuana?

Under the Act, “medical marijuana” refers to marijuana obtained for certified medical use by a Pennsylvania resident with a “serious medical condition.” The Act provides an extensive list of qualifying “serious medical conditions,” including: ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, opioid abuse, or any terminal illness, neurodegenerative disease, or spinal cord damage.

  1. What Forms Can Medical Marijuana Take?

The Act limits “medical marijuana to the following forms: pills, oils, topical forms (e.g., gels, creams, or ointments), tinctures, liquids, or other forms appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization. Although dry leaves or whole plants are allowed for vaporization or nebulization, they cannot be smoked or used in edible form under the Act.

 

 

 

  1. Can Employees Use Medical Marijuana at Work?

No. The Act makes clear that employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana at work. The Act also allows an employer to discipline an employee for using medical marijuana at work or for working while under the influence of medical marijuana when his/her conduct falls below the standard of care normally accepted for that position. In addition, the Act provides that employers can prohibit employees from performing certain safety-sensitive tasks while under the influence of marijuana, such as operating or controlling certain chemicals or high-voltage electricity.

  1. What About the Americans With Disabilities Act?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), “qualified individuals with a disability” are generally entitled to reasonable accommodation in the workplace. However, a person who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs is not a “qualified individual with a disability” for ADA purposes. Although medical marijuana has been legalized in Pennsylvania (and a majority of states) and the possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in several Pennsylvania municipalities, all forms of marijuana remain illegal under the federal Controlled Substance Act. Accordingly, Pennsylvania employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana under the ADA.

  1. What Employment Protections Does the Act Provide?

The Act prohibits employers from discharging, threatening, refusing to hire, discriminating against, or retaliating against an employee “solely on the basis of such employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.” As this provision has not yet been fully litigated in Pennsylvania’s state or federal courts, it remains to be seen just how much workplace protection the Act affords to Pennsylvania employees in practice.

  1. What Should We Do Next?

There are several key measures that an employer can take to ensure that its workplace remains both drug-free and legally compliant. As an initial matter, an employer should review, revise, and disseminate its policies and handbook to ensure that employees are clearly notified that testing positive for an illegal drug, including medical marijuana, is a policy violation that allows the employer to take adverse action to the fullest extent permitted by law. An employer should also discuss with its vendors about how positive marijuana tests will be addressed and reported. Most importantly, an employer must enforce its policies consistently among all employees and ensure that all adverse employment actions are supported by timely and thorough documentation. With the right knowledge and preparation, Pennsylvania employers can ensure that their efforts to comply with state and federal law don’t go up in smoke!

By: John Buckley, Esquire, Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A.

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What A Business Owner Should Expect From A Business Attorney

“Don’t just advise me.  Fix what needs fixing!” “Don’t just treat me as another client.  Invest yourself in my business as if it were your own!” These statements are likely to be heard from a business owner who recognizes the need of sound legal assistance, whether it be an owner of a fairly new business […]

“Don’t just advise me.  Fix what needs fixing!” “Don’t just treat me as another client.  Invest yourself in my business as if it were your own!”

These statements are likely to be heard from a business owner who recognizes the need of sound legal assistance, whether it be an owner of a fairly new business or a well-established company looking to grow.

A seasoned business law firm with attorneys and a business specialist on staff who possess first-hand knowledge of what it takes to start, build and run businesses, having experienced and learned from the failures that come from building successful enterprises, can bring that “something extra” to the table for business clients.

A business owner may simply need restructuring of the operations to maximize profits, or he/she may have inherited a company that has an antiquated culture resistant to change.  Even if the owner is aware of the issues, it is a challenge to make the changes needed to further the company while dealing with putting out the proverbial fires that occur daily.

What would a law firm with the credentials described above (“the Law Firm”) do to solve a business owner’s problem?

  • First, the Law Firm’s business specialist would thoroughly evaluate the structure of the organization, its cash flow status, personnel, operations, financial controls and tools, marketing, customer relations, vendor (IT) services, its advisors, and in-place employer-employee policies/agreements.

 

  • The business specialist would share such findings with the business attorneys on staff to develop a plan designed to address the specific needs of the business.  Depending on the size and age of the business, the plan could include a lifespan of anywhere from three to twelve months.

 

  • The proposed plan would then be presented to the business owner for a thorough review, as well as follow-up sessions to allow time for the owner to fully digest the recommendations and allow for modifications of the plan.  Upon approval of the plan, a Letter of Engagement would be formed to stipulate the services to be provided over the course of the plan.  The parties would agree to an initial retainer gauged for the work to be done in phases, with the understanding that the retainer would be replenished on an as needed and mutually agreed upon basis.

 

  • The business specialist of the Law Firm would then become a prominent advisor taking the lead on restructuring the business as well as ensuring the business owner has a strong grasp on the business by teaching him/her how to “know their numbers.”  This will allow the owner the ability to deploy new capital/structured debt to grow their business.

 

  • In a phased manner, the business attorneys of the Law Firm would address the relevant legal matters, serving as the quarterback to the client’s other advisors to integrate the services of all the company advisors into the plan’s implementation in a collaborative and cost-efficient manner.

 

  • Like any plan, changes will be required in both timing and substance due to the “reality on the ground.” Particular focus will be on the client’s cash flow and the reactions of the client and personnel to the significant changes in the company’s business culture that will be required to successfully implement the business plan.

 

The process described can be tailored to a myriad of business situations and challenges. It takes foresight and courage for any owner of a privately held business that needs the kind of help described in this article to agree to the expenditure required to underwrite this approach.  However, with the assistance of the Law Firm with the credentials described, such as Rust Law LLC, the business owner will realize that the cost of this service pales in comparison to the costs incurred prior to the plan’s implementation.  Moreover, he/she will know that the reorganized enterprise has staying power, capable of besting its competition for the foreseeable future.

Alicia E. Emili, Esq. – Mark Reese, Business Specialist – Robert N. Rust III, Esq.
RUST LAW LLC

If you are interested in discussing the contents of this article further, you are welcome to contact any of the co-authors at the offices of Rust Law, LLC at (610 821 0484).

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It’s a Trademark Because I Say It’s a Trademark

How do clients – current or prospective – separate messaging about your business’s products or services from those of your competitors?  Every marketing department, company executive, and entrepreneur knows that the answer is branding.  And so, the value of investment in brand marketing is abundantly clear.  But, what if you’re not Coca-Cola® or Nerf®?  What […]

How do clients – current or prospective – separate messaging about your business’s products or services from those of your competitors?  Every marketing department, company executive, and entrepreneur knows that the answer is branding.  And so, the value of investment in brand marketing is abundantly clear.  But, what if you’re not Coca-Cola® or Nerf®?  What if you’re Lehigh Valley Oats or Penn Machine Parts?

A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof that a business uses to uniquely identify or distinguish its products or services from those of its competitors and to indicate the source of the goods or services.  Federal trademark laws permit the owner of a trademark to stop competitors from labeling or advertising their products in any way that is likely to cause a reasonable consumer to be confused as to the source of those products, as it may lead the consumer to incorrectly associate the products with the rightful trademark owner. But, generally speaking, federal registration of a trademark is not available if the elements of the mark merely describe the goods or services, or their characteristics, including their geographic origin.

Consider the advantage conferred upon a lightbulb business permitted to register the trademark in the word BRIGHT.  As a shopper perused the teeming lightbulb aisle of a big box home improvement warehouse, what if one lightbulb could claim the exclusive right to display that descriptive word – BRIGHT – upon its packaging?  BRIGHT – the word that tells the consumer all she needs to know.  This is the bulb she wants to provide the bright light she seeks.  She knows it is because it says so.  She also knows that none of the other bulbs says it is bright.

The Lanham Act – the United States’ federal trademark law – permits registration of an otherwise descriptive mark if the owner of the mark can prove that it has “acquired distinctiveness.”  The legal history around the Lanham Act also refers to this as “secondary meaning.”  If an applicant for federal trademark registration can offer proof that it has used the trademark for more than five years and that the primary significance of the mark in the minds of the consuming public is not the product but the producer, the US Patent and Trademark Office must permit registration of the mark.

The power of acquired distinctiveness has benefited local companies with names like the fictitious examples above.  Consider Bethlehem Steel and Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms® (a registered trademark of Dean Foods Company).  But, while the rights of distinctiveness accrue over time, they need not accrue by chance.

In addition to permitting registration of trademarks, the Lanham Act affords protection of common law trademarks.  That is trademarks that are not registered but indicate source because the business uses them in a manner that causes them to indicate the source.  The Lanham Act also permits registration of descriptive marks that have not yet acquired secondary meaning on the Supplemental Register of the USPTO.  By leveraging the legal rights afforded under these sections of the law, in combination with legally strategic usage of otherwise descriptive marks, businesses may pave their own way to acquired distinctiveness in as little as five years.  That is, businesses may use their five-year plan to capture broad, valuable identity in trademarks that immediately convey to consumers the quality, characteristics, advantages, and value of their products.  Moreover, a business that is successful in this regard may also preclude competitors from using those terms or terms likely to cause confusion with respect to the source of the products or services.

Organizations working together through: their executives – with strategic planning; their Marcom department – executing brand marketing; and their legal advisers – guiding best practices for forming legal foundations for distinctiveness claims – can potentially grow the company’s ownership of highly advantageous, meaningful terms that become suggestive of the company’s goods and the goodwill they carry.

Douglas Panzer, Esq.
Of Counsel For Intellectual Property

Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba

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Enforceability of Prenuptial Agreements

When contemplating marriage, there is nothing more romantic than a prenuptial agreement right? Acknowledging that discussing a prenuptial agreement with your potential spouse may not be the most comfortable topic of conversions, it certainly is an important one. Both parties to a prenuptial agreement should be exceedingly careful when entering into the agreement. The language […]

When contemplating marriage, there is nothing more romantic than a prenuptial agreement right? Acknowledging that discussing a prenuptial agreement with your potential spouse may not be the most comfortable topic of conversions, it certainly is an important one.

Both parties to a prenuptial agreement should be exceedingly careful when entering into the agreement. The language that is crafted at the time of execution will be enforced explicitly if a divorce is filed. Accordingly, all the heavy lifting with regard to the agreement is done while the couple is likely quite happy and not anticipating any of the problems that may arise.

A prenuptial agreement will only be tested if a couple is considering divorce. Until that time, it is likely that neither party has revisited the document. There could easily be decades between when the pre-nuptial agreement was crafted, and when it will be enforced.

23 Pa.C.S.A. §3106 is the Pennsylvania law that addresses pre-nuptial agreements. The law does not focus on what must be included in a pre-nuptial agreement but sets out what you must show if you want the Court to declare the agreement is not enforceable. The Court will always start from the assumption that the pre-nuptial agreement is valid and enforceable. As such, the spouse who is unhappy with the terms and wishes to discard the agreement has the burden to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the agreement should not be enforceable.

There are limited ways in which a spouse can argue that a pre-nuptial agreement is unenforceable.

(1) A spouse can argue that they did not execute the agreement voluntarily. This is very difficult to do. A pre-nuptial agreement will generally have a provision in it stating that both parties are entering into the agreement knowingly and voluntarily. On occasion, a spouse will argue that they signed the pre-nuptial agreement under duress, so the agreement was not voluntary. Duress in this situation is nearly impossible to prove. This is because in Pennsylvania, duress must generally include a threat of physical violence. (Think gun to your head.) A threat from one spouse to the other threatening to take custody of the couple’s children or not follow through with the wedding are not threats that rise to level of legal duress. If you are a competent adult, who can read the pre-nuptial agreement in the language it is drafted in and you agree to sign it, then you have voluntarily agreed to the terms as far as the Court is considered. This is true even if you did not read the document but chose to sign.

(2) The other way a spouse can argue a pre-nuptial agreement is not enforceable is to show that when the agreement was drafted and signed, there was not full and fair disclosure of assets between the parties. This is the conventional argument made by a spouse seeking to discredit a pre-nuptial agreement, and generally the more successful one. The idea behind a pre-nuptial agreement is that both parties have laid all of their cards on the table so to speak. Both parties agree to disclose all of their assets, so the final agreement is a fair distribution of the total assets. If a party is unaware of an offshore bank account because that fact was not disclosed when drafting the pre-nuptial agreement, you may argue the agreement should not be enforced due to fraud or misrepresentation. At that point, you could take the matter before the Court, have the pre-nuptial agreement invalided and negotiate a completely new agreement.

Of note is that the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement are not required to be fair. The Courts will allow parties to enter into bad deals. In fact, Courts have found that parties are bound by the agreement, even if it was not read or fully understood. The duty to read the agreement or seek legal counsel before signing is on the parties. If a party blindly enters into a pre-nuptial agreement with the romantic notation that their prospective spouse would have their best interest at heart, they will be bound by that agreement unless one of the above-limited exceptions applies.

Attorney Kellie Rahl-Heffner of Gross McGinley LLP provides guidance to individuals in divorce matters, child custody, child support and protection from abuse cases. For more information, contact her at krahl-heffner@grossmcginley.com or 484-224-2802.

By: Attorney Kellie Rahl-Heffner of Gross McGinley LLP

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The Role of Intellectual Property and Human Capital in Succession Planning

Succession planning refers to the sale or other transfer of a privately-owned business to the next generation of a family business, an employee manager or management team, or an outside purchaser. A good succession plan facilitates the successful transition of the business and ensures its continued viability, in addition to providing a return on the […]

Succession planning refers to the sale or other transfer of a privately-owned business to the next generation of a family business, an employee manager or management team, or an outside purchaser. A good succession plan facilitates the successful transition of the business and ensures its continued viability, in addition to providing a return on the investment of the current owner. However, studies by the Small Business Administration show that less than 30% of the small businesses who are likely to experience a change in ownership over the next ten years have written succession plans and contingencies. One key element to any good succession plan is determining and monitoring the value of the business. Accounting professionals and valuation experts can help you establish this value, based on cash flow and liquid assets, profits, taxes, liabilities, fixed assets, such as real estate and equipment, and intangible assets. While EBITDA gets a lot of play in the business world, human capital, or the value of knowledge and experience in your employees, and intellectual property (“IP”) are just as important. If not expertly cultivated, both classes of assets can depreciate, and your business succession plan can fail before it gets off the ground.

Almost every business, no matter how small, has valuable IP upon which it relies, and most businesses will have IP in each category, determinable through an IP audit. Copyright law protects Web sites, catalogs, software, textual and digital content. Typically, copyrightable materials are protected from use by third-parties for the life of the creator plus another 70 years. For content created by the employees of a business, AKA “works-for-hire,” the owner of the content (hopefully, the owner of the business and her/his successor-owners) can exclude others from using the content for 120 years from the date it was created or 95 years from the date it is published, posted, or distributed (whichever comes first).  Trademark law covers business names, logos, and product packaging. Service and trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) will live forever, as long as they are continuously used in commerce, maintained with the USPTO via periodic confirmations of use and payment of fees, and protected against infringement. Inventions, processes, improvements, and formulations fall under the patent law which protects the innovation developed by you or your employees. Patents in the U.S. are granted by the USPTO and last 20 years if maintained through periodic payments to the USPTO. Design patents, which protect ornamental elements of functional items, are also issued by the USPTO and last 15 years from the date they are granted. Federal and state trade secret laws have evolved to give business owners a perpetual and powerful option to protect proprietary information and trade secrets, such as detailed processes that cannot be reverse engineered, valuable research results and data, business plans, and databases of information regarding products, services, customers, and/or prospects. Trade secrets can be maintained and enforced forever as long as the information has demonstrable commercial value, derives value from being maintained as a secret, and maintains its secret status by virtue of reasonable measures taken by the owner of the information.

Similarly, key executives and employees can represent immense value to an on-going business, through their exceptional performance, leadership or importance to the culture of the company. Business owners looking to identify the future leaders of their company and the foundation for its future success should identify these key individuals, as well as the most critical roles and positions. Determine ways to keep talented individuals on board, as well as potential successors for the various positions and systems in place to ensure success for those roles and departments. As noted above, despite the fact that many business owners lack the time and/or courage to face the prospect of retirement or an unexpected need to hand over the reins to their business, a succession plan can be the best chance of success and survival for small businesses. Family businesses (and the families themselves) run the risk of disruption and self-destruction without a clear-cut succession plan, in addition to potentially deleterious effects of poor estate and income tax planning. Finally, succession plans guarantee a secure retirement for the current owner(s)/leader(s) of the company while providing a level of control over the process. The thrill of creation, creativity, and control is likely what led you to take the risk of starting your own business; don’t cede this power now for fear of facing the future.

By: Nicole J. O’Hara, Esq
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP

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Morality Clauses & Employment Agreements: What Employers Need to Know

 Employers take risks every day with the people that the company hires – including top level managers and CEOs.  So, do brands and sports teams when they hire spokespeople or athletes on multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts.  Anytime there are significant dollars committed to a single person over a long period of time, real risk exists. One […]

 Employers take risks every day with the people that the company hires – including top level managers and CEOs.  So, do brands and sports teams when they hire spokespeople or athletes on multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts.  Anytime there are significant dollars committed to a single person over a long period of time, real risk exists.

One of the most impactful traits of the people you hire is their moral character.  This is especially true when the person you hire is your spokesperson, or your chief executive, or otherwise is the face of your organization.  One of the most impactful tools you have to control your contractual relationships is called morality clauses.

Long-term, multi-million-dollar employment contracts are a double-edged sword.  They can be a sign of your company’s financial health and purchasing power for star talent.  If, however, the company finds itself embroiled in a star employee’s misconduct, that same contract can become a massive liability if it is not structured properly.

Before we delve into the details of the application of a morality clause, consider this hypothetical example:

The Star Employee in a Regional and Growing Business:  Imagine that you are on the board of directors of a high-profile company.  You have hired a star performer to be your Chief Executive Officer.  He is personally responsible for generating 30-40% of the company’s annual revenue.  This continues for years. Suddenly, one day the city newspaper published a thorough, well sourced and researched story alleging the CEO was involved in multiple incidents of sexually inappropriate conduct both inside and outside the workplace with other employees.  The Board of Directors now needs an exit from the CEO’s multi-year employment contract.

Here is the question: When entering into a large or high-profile contract with an employee that has high visibility on your company or brand, how do you leave room to exit the deal if your star employee engages in conduct that the company finds socially or morally unacceptable?

This is where a well-drafted morality clause comes in useful.  A morality clause will enable an employer to unilaterally terminate an employment agreement if the employee engages in certain defined types of behavior.  The actual language of morality clauses can vary greatly from industry to industry.

Here is a sample morality clause:

If Employee commits any act, which is an offense involving moral turpitude under federal, state or local laws, or which might tend to bring Employee to public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which may embarrass, offend, insult or denigrate individuals or groups, or that may shock, insult or offend the community or the Company’s workforce or public morals or decency or prejudice Company, or which results in actual or threatened claims against Company, Company shall have the right to unilaterally terminate this Agreement without liability for the unpaid portion of any compensation due hereunder upon written notice to Employee.

 As you can see, there is quite a bit of subjectivity involved in the above language.  This is necessary because it gives the Employer more latitude to act when necessary because, at the time the contract is signed, future events and future employee behavior are completely unpredictable.

The balancing act involved is that Employers must be cautious to not throw due process out the window.  However, in today’s social media, a full-fledged existential scandal can erupt and spread within hours.  An employer that is slow to react (or is perceived to be slow to react) can find itself in the crosshairs of an angry online mob because of the misdeeds of one of its employees.  Engagement, timing, and speed are crucial.

If your employment contracts have due process provisions which require a degree of investigation before taking disciplinary action, you must ensure that the due process clauses work coherently with the morality clauses.  An independent investigation by an outside firm can take weeks or months to complete.

It is extremely important to note that morality clauses are also routinely used in family law matters.  Typically, morality clauses are part of custody agreements or a divorce settlement agreement also.  We’ll dive into that in the next article.

By: Bryan Tuk, Esq., Tuk Law Offices

Bryan Tuk is an attorney, author, and musician. His recent book: risk, create, change: a survival guide for startups and creators, is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Bryans writings at http://riskcreatechange.com

 Tuk Law Offices represents clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, focused on startups, entrepreneurs, arts & entertainment law matters, copyrights, trademarks and nonprofit organizations. You can learn about Bryans law practice at http://tuklaw.com.

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America’s Continuing Autism Epidemic

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines autism as: “a variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by repetitive behavior patterns.”  On April 26th, 2018 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its most […]

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines autism as: “a variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by repetitive behavior patterns.”  On April 26th, 2018 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its most updated autism prevalence estimates for America’s children.  These estimates are pulled from data in a biennial report based off of the evaluation of medical and education records.  1 in 59 children are now estimated to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Let that sink in.  1 out of every 59 children.  This new ratio is an increase of 15% from the last reported estimate in 2016.  This most recent increase in prevalence continues the trend that researchers have seen over the last twenty plus years.

When I began my career in the mental health field in 2004, the autism prevalence ratios were estimated to be 1 in every 166 children.  Throughout my career, I have witnessed this drastic increase in autism cases create the need for a plethora of new services and supports for children to address the social and behavioral needs associated with autism.  Many providers decided to implement autism specific variations of existing mental health programs.  One of the most popular of these services is Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Services or commonly referred to as BHRS.  BHRS services are intensive mental health therapies that are provided in the child’s home, in community settings and occasionally in the classroom.  These services are focused on identifying interventions to help achieve a child’s behavioral treatment goals and to transfer those skills from the provider to a parent, teacher, etc.  The increase in autism diagnoses has also created the opportunity for providers to create new programs to address this need such as afterschool groups that focus on improving social skills.  They have also begun to create support groups for parents and siblings of those with an autism diagnosis.

The mental health and developmental disabilities fields have successfully evolved and adapted over the years in an attempt to meet the growing needs of children diagnosed with autism.  There are additional supports in the home, community and the classroom for these children.  There are also government and private grants available to families to help manage the additional cost of needed sensory and adaptive communication devices for these children.  But what will happen to these children when they grow up, or “age out” of educational and children’s mental health services?  What supports are available for adults diagnosed with autism?  What supports are available to families to help with their adult child with an autism diagnosis?  The answers to these questions are pretty alarming.  Depending on your location, there are very few if any supports tailored to adults with autism in these fields.

For our nation to fully manage the continued autism epidemic; there will have to be some significant changes in our government and to the adult mental health system.  Our legislators and representatives will have first to acknowledge that the lack of supports, services, and funding for adults with autism is a current problem.  Second, they will have to acknowledge that the problem will only get worse in the future as the ever-increasing ratios of children with autism age out of services.  These adults will need assistance with housing, life skills, employment supports, and socialization.  Our legislators and representatives will need to increase funding for mental health services to allow providers to develop programs to meet the needs of these adults.  Providers will need to step up and use the increased funds to develop new programs, thinking outside the box to support this unique population.  Staff in these fields will have to become more educated on providing supports to adults with autism.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  In order to support individuals with autism throughout their entire life, not just their childhood, we as a society will have to pull together to help our nation manage this continuing autism epidemic.

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Who Can Sell Hearing Aids?

In the state of Pennsylvania, there are two different licenses that will allow you to sell hearing aids, an Audiology License and a Hearing Aid Dispensing License. The training and education that you need to obtain these licenses are very different. These differences are often misunderstood by the general public and will be explored below. […]

In the state of Pennsylvania, there are two different licenses that will allow you to sell hearing aids, an Audiology License and a Hearing Aid Dispensing License. The training and education that you need to obtain these licenses are very different. These differences are often misunderstood by the general public and will be explored below.

In 2007, the degree requirement to become a clinical audiologist was changed.  A Master’s degree was no longer acceptable to obtain licensure and all audiologists were now required to obtain a clinical doctoral degree.  At this time, if one wanted to become an Audiologist or an Au.D., they would now need to first complete a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Audiology, Communication Disorders, or a related field.  Upon completion of a Bachelor’s degree, a candidate would then apply for a doctoral program which is an additional 4 years of school.  Doctoral coursework includes many topics such as: education, anatomy and physiology of the ear and hearing, the science of sound, the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and vestibular disorders, hearing aids and their progression from analog to digital devices, programming and adjusting hearing aids, and counseling and treatment of adults and children of all ages with hearing loss.  Within those classes you learn about candidacy for treatment options, one of the most common of which is hearing aids.  However, the treatment of hearing loss is not limited to just hearing aids but also includes cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing devices and implantable hearing devices.  Audiologists get the opportunity to do clinical rotations in a variety of settings which can help to determine one’s career path.  Some of these settings could include working with an Otolaryngologist or more commonly called an ear, nose and throat physician.  Another possible clinical training setting for doctoral candidates is in a hospital.  When doing clinical internships, a doctoral candidate would perform testing, fitting and dispensing hearing aids on adults or children.  They could also conduct inter-operative monitoring, vestibular testing & rehabilitation, might also work with outside businesses to adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.  The candidate may also choose to use the business management training and clinical experience to open up a private office in the community. When a candidate finishes their Doctorate of Audiology, they will then obtain their Pennsylvania clinical audiology license.  It is then in their scope of practice to dispense and sell hearing aids as stated by Pennsylvania medical guidelines.

The other way one can legally dispense hearing aids in the state of Pennsylvania is to obtain a Hearing Aid Dispensing license.  To obtain this license, there is a high school level educational requirement, and the candidate must find another licensed Hearing Aid Dispenser to conduct an internship with.  During the internship, the candidates are taught to program and adjust hearing aids.  They are also taught to instruct adults on the use and expectations of hearing aids. Most of the time, this internship is done with someone who was willing to hire the candidate work and sell hearing aids at the same office. When the internship is complete, that candidate must then sit for a written state test.  Upon passing that test, they are awarded a Hearing Aid Dispensing license for the state of Pennsylvania.

When choosing a licensed hearing aid dispenser, it is up to the customer’s discretion which of these two licensed dispensers to choose.   It is important for the customer to realize the different level of educational requirements and clinical knowledge between the two.  Not all hearing aid dispensers are created equal, and it is important for a customer to be able to distinguish between them.  If you are in the market for a hearing aid, I hoped this article helped you to be able to make a more informed decision on your purchase.

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Staying Ahead in Business with Botox (and a Few Other Things)

It’s tough out there.  Seasoned professionals are constantly forced to look behind them to see if the up-and-coming (and often younger) professionals are nipping at their heels. Many professional women are no longer ashamed to admit they’ve had a little Botox.  Men, increasingly worried about the younger/cheaper competition, are a different story. Competition in the […]

It’s tough out there.  Seasoned professionals are constantly forced to look behind them to see if the up-and-coming (and often younger) professionals are nipping at their heels.

Many professional women are no longer ashamed to admit they’ve had a little Botox.  Men, increasingly worried about the younger/cheaper competition, are a different story.

Competition in the boardroom and beyond is driving more and more professional men into our practice for a few non-surgical tweaks to stay youthful and competitive on the job.

Here’s a list of what we see most:

Botox and Fillers

 They don’t call it “Brotox” for nothing.  With a few units of Botox, we can get rid of wrinkles and reshape the brows, eyes, mouth, and neck.  Botox injected skillfully by a board-certified dermatologist, can even eliminate the need for some surgeries.

Fillers, such as Juvederm, can help smooth out deep creases and acne scars.  Used together, a more youthful face can help men and women remain relevant and look refreshed.

The name of the game with both is that I can offer subtle changes with no downtime.  Results are seen in less than two weeks.

Hair Restoration

Hair replacement surgery was a big thing a few years ago.  Techniques are always improving, but there’s downtime to consider.

We’re seeing a different area of no-downtime growth (literally and figuratively).  We started offering PRP injections in our office to restore hair late last year.  Our phones have been ringing off the hook.

We are using the Selphyl® Platelet-Rich Fibrin Matrix System. Your own blood is drawn and spun in a centrifuge to separate the cells from the plasma. The plasma is then injected into your scalp where your hair is thinning.

You have to commit to three treatments or more and then wait for your result to grow in.  It works best for those just starting to lose their hair and who want to thicken things up before those hairs are lost forever.  The treatment works for men and women with thinning hair.

Photofacials, Lasers, and Microneedles

 Non-surgical skin procedures have seen an incredible resurgence.  In fact, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, a group that keeps track of cosmetic trends, says IPL Photo Rejuvenation was the fifth most popular non-surgical procedures for men in 2017. We’ve been huge fans of IPL for years!

IPL harnesses light to help zap away signs of aging from your face, neck and even hands., The gentle treatments use broad spectrum light to attack sun damage and redness.  There is a little discomfort and minimal downtime.  Four to six treatments are required to get the best results possible.

Laser resurfacing is a step above the IPL treatments.  The Erbium laser is designed to remove moderate lines and wrinkles. There’s also a bit of recovery time.  The CO2 laser is for more advanced treatments.  Downtime can be up to two weeks.  Results are long-lasting.

Finally, there’s a skincare newcomer that is coming on strong. Microneedling is exactly what it sounds like.  Tiny needles make small channels in your skin where we can infuse serums to hydrate your skin.   We’ve had such great success with these collagen builders; we now offer three levels of this treatment.  After a few treatments and a little time, your own collagen plumps up your skin.

In fact, Aesthetica boasts over 30 devices, laser, and RF, that allow us to customize a treatment to rejuvenate your skin.  We can tweak the appearance and texture, minimize scars and even remove unwanted hair.  There’s something for men and women in our advanced arsenal.

The best way to put your best face forward is to focus on high-quality skin care and gently, minimally invasive treatments.  Figure out what your individual goal is, and we can customize the right combination of treatments to meet or exceed your expectations.  A few non-surgical tweaks can help you stay competitive at work and at play.

David B. Vasily, M.D., F.A.A.D. is an American Board of Dermatology certified dermatologist with over 30 years of experience in the field of dermatology and skin care. Founder and president of Lehigh Valley Dermatology Associates, Inc, Dr. Vasily is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery, and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

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Are you scared to retire?

Miriam Zettlemoyer, Consultant Alliance Planning  Transitioning from working years into retirement years can be difficult.  It can create great anxiety and people sometimes rather not deal with what retirement would look like financially and just continue to work.  It can seem like the easier option.  The thought of what might be on the other side […]

Miriam Zettlemoyer, Consultant
Alliance Planning

 Transitioning from working years into retirement years can be difficult.  It can create great anxiety and people sometimes rather not deal with what retirement would look like financially and just continue to work.  It can seem like the easier option.  The thought of what might be on the other side is too daunting a task but at some point, in their life age, health and life forces you to take a look.  I always tell my clients that it might not be as bad as you think.  We start with the budget and we look at current working year’s budget to moving into retirement budget – needs versus wants come into play. Next, we look at income current versus retirement income.

Predictable income can include social security income, pensions if available and other assets like retirement accounts, annuities that can produce income if there is a shortfall between budget and income.  After doing the math on both those items we can determine if there is money for variable cost items like travel, gifting, hobbies or other.  Healthcare can be a big cost if your current employer was paying for your coverage 100% but you may find that moving into a Medicare supplement plan option could reduce your annual out of pocket costs for deductibles, co-insurance, co-pays and other even if the premiums were 100% covered by your employer.  Working with an advisor can help you also get your “stuff” in order and make you think of things that you would normally not be on your mind.  Are your wills and powers of attorneys current and say what you want them to say?  Are your beneficiaries up to date on all your accounts and policies?  Should I keep paying on my life insurance and do I still need it?  Will my car last 20 years in retirement or is that an expense I should budget for?  Lots of questions that can be difficult to think about, but relief follows once answered.  Putting a plan in place to make sure you don’t outlive your retirement can include downsizing, determining a way to reduce necessary expenses, working an extra year to increase your social security income, rolling over some assets into an income producing product, moving in with family and keeping variable expenses to a minimum.

We haven’t addressed or talked about additional health needs and long-term care that can drain the assets quickly.  This is a concern as we age, and health deteriorates that our expenses could increase and use up our assets for care needs. Assisted living costs on average are $3,500+ per month and skilled nursing costs are averaging over $7,500 per month. One of the planning options available to help cover the cost is Long-Term Care insurance. You must however purchase this when healthy and be sure that costs for the insurance even if they increase are manageable into retirement. The markets have allowed for some hybrid life insurance and long-term care options as well as a one-time deposit into a life policy to be used in long-term care situations. These newer products avoid the use it or lose it mentality of the traditional long-term care products that you pay for and if you don’t use then you forfeit all the paid premiums but still include some underwriting/health requirements in order to qualify. Contrary to widespread belief Medicare will not cover long-term care situations. Medicare covers a very limited amount of care in a nursing home and with strict rules of being in a hospital for at least three days and then transitioning directly to a skilled facility for care.

A good advisor will be able to show you different options, plan your budget and income and give you peace of mind when moving into retirement to cover all your basis.  The baby boomer generation include people born from 1946 to 1964 and they started turning 65 in 2011.  Since then there were 10,000 boomers turning 65 per day that will continue for another 12+ years until year 2030.  Are you one of them?  Are you ready?  Meet with your advisor today to review and make sure you have all your ducks in a row. If they aren’t asking you some of these questions it might be time to look for another advisor.  The sooner you start the planning process the better chance you will have for financial success.

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