All Articles by Network Magazine

What is Workplace Harassment?

There is a lot of misunderstanding as to what “workplace harassment” is. Specifically, we need to ask, what illegal workplace harassment is. The reality is that there is a lot of harassment in the workplace that is perfectly legal. Stated otherwise: In “at will” states such as Pennsylvania you can harass an employee for no […]

There is a lot of misunderstanding as to what “workplace harassment” is. Specifically, we need to ask, what illegal workplace harassment is. The reality is that there is a lot of harassment in the workplace that is perfectly legal. Stated otherwise: In “at will” states such as Pennsylvania you can harass an employee for no reason or any reason except an illegal reason. What is illegal harassment, therefore?

Harassment in the workplace is sometimes called “a hostile work environment” and is properly characterized as a form of discrimination. It is this “discrimination” component which differentiates illegal harassment from harassment which is not covered by the law. Since illegal harassment or hostile work environment is linked to discrimination, it must, therefore, relate to a federal or state law making the discrimination at issue illegal. To discriminate means to treat unequally- but if I harass or even fire my secretary “unequally” and unfairly because she is a Cowboys fan and the other secretaries are Eagles fans, this type of unequal treatment is not actionable. What are the laws therefore upon which a harassment claim may be based? The main ones are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion and national origin; The ADEA, age discrimination act; and the ADA, which prohibits disability discrimination. Recently “sex” has been interpreted to include sexual preference and sexual orientation as well. In Pennsylvania, the PHRA mirrors the above federal protections in many ways.

What conduct constitutes harassment? Unlawful harassment based on the above laws is: a) offensive and unwelcome conduct; which is b) severe OR pervasive. In addition, retaliation for a person complaining, filing a Charge, reporting or participating in an investigation of harassment under the above laws, is prohibited. “Severe” can be one very serious incident, and “pervasive” can be a series of continuous less severe insults, threats, slurs, offensive statements and the like. No single factor will determine whether there is unlawful harassment or hostile work environment; however, the courts and the EEOC regulations have focused on whether the harassment “unreasonably interferes with the employees’ work performance.” Harassment itself is a harm punishable by the law without the need of economic damage such as from a demotion or firing.

When is an employer liable? The short answer is that an employer is most at risk for the acts of its supervisors. An employer is liable for the authorized acts of its supervising employees. This, however, provides an easy escape for employers who simply state that “harassment and discrimination are never authorized.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court in the 1998 cases of Farragher and Ellerth, stated that an employer is strictly liable for supervisor’s harassment if the harassment causes termination, failure to promote or hire or loss of wages-what is called a “tangible employment action.” For harassment, by non-supervisors, the employer is liable if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and corrective remedial action. A defense for the employer is to show that the employee failed to take advantage of preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.

What can employers do to prevent such claims? Employers can: 1. Prevent harassment by having appropriate and enforced policies and well trained and sensitive HR staff. Training and education of employees are critical. 2. Employers can conduct a proper and effective investigation of the allegations of harassment. The investigation must be thorough, non-retaliatory, prompt, effective and impartial.

To prevent illegal harassment there needs to be a clear understanding of what it is, how it is proven and the circumstances under which employers may be held liable. Whether an employer or employee, this area of the law is very complex and therefore consultation with experienced HR counsel at the earliest opportunity is critical.

 

For over 25 years Attorney Kounoupis has represented employees and sued most of the Fortune 500 corporations, insurance companies, as well as federal, state and county governments. If your top managers and executives have not yet secretly consulted with him, they probably will in the future.

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2019-six-things

Six “Things” That are (or Should be) in Every Lease

Here are six “things” that I think must be in every commercial real estate lease. You may have a different list. Also, state law may dictate changes or additions. The names of the landlord and the tenant. (That’s obvious.) The address of the premises. (This may also seem obvious, but in early 2015, I received […]

Here are six “things” that I think must be in every commercial real estate lease. You may have a different list. Also, state law may dictate changes or additions.

  1. The names of the landlord and the tenant. (That’s obvious.)
  1. The address of the premises. (This may also seem obvious, but in early 2015, I received a lease from a landlord that had no address for the premises – no street, city or state. Nothing. There were also other errors in the lease. When I pointed out these errors, I was told by the landlord that I was being “picky.” The lease took over three years to be signed.)
  1. Consideration – who’s giving what to whom? (Attorneys Jordan L. Paust and Robert D. Upp in their book “Business Law” defined it as follows: “Consideration is something of value which is a benefit to one party or a loss to the other party. It is the inducement to the contract.”) Rent is the most common form of consideration given by a tenant to a landlord, but it is NOT mandatory. There are many leases (particularly land that’s leased for farming where the tenant grows crops and removes the weeds) in which a tenant takes care of the property, but pays no rent.
  1. The use – what can the tenant use the space for? In my opinion, this is the most important provision in the lease. (This is different from the question “Why do you as the tenant want to lease space in the first place?” If it takes you longer than five seconds to respond with a succinct answer, you haven’t thought through the question. Remember – leases are LONG TERM CONTRACTS. You cannot terminate a lease except where it states you can (end of the term; fire; possibly landlord’s default; maybe others). You do NOT want to break the lease. Going to war with the landlord is very dangerous and often expensive.)

    Once you understand WHY you want to lease the space, then you must determine if the premises can be used for your intended purpose. If you’re the tenant and you cannot use the premises for your intended purpose, then you’re out of business. This provision also protects the landlord, because it can limit the tenant’s activities.

  1. The term – the beginning and ending dates of the lease.
  1. Signatures of the landlord and the tenant. Some state laws may permit the exchange of emails as “signatures.” However, I am not an attorney, so I urge you to consult a good commercial real estate attorney about this.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other provisions that are important and can appear in a lease. But if you don’t have all six of the above, then you have nothing.

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2019-Lehigh-Valley-evolution

The Lehigh Valley Is A Region that Embodies Meaningful Evolution

Those of us who live and work in the Lehigh Valley every day already know what a special place it is. Now we want to make sure the rest of the world knows as well. It’s not difficult to demonstrate the economic success our region has continued to experience. Just take a look at our […]

Those of us who live and work in the Lehigh Valley every day already know what a special place it is. Now we want to make sure the rest of the world knows as well.

It’s not difficult to demonstrate the economic success our region has continued to experience. Just take a look at our gross domestic product (GDP) – the measurement of a region’s economic output – which reached a record-high $40.1 billion this year.

That’s the first time we’ve ever surpassed the $40 billion mark, which means that, once again, the Lehigh Valley economy has never been better. Our GDP is larger than that of Vermont ($27.4 billion) and Wyoming ($34 billion), as well as 112 other countries in the world. In fact, if we were a country, we’d be the 88th largest in the world in terms of economic output.

Not only is our regional economy strong, but it’s also very well-balanced. In many metropolitan areas, much of the economic output comes from one single sector, and then there is a significant drop-off among the rest.

However, that’s not the case in the Lehigh Valley: our top two sectors are very close together, with finance, insurance, and real estate making up $7.6 billion, and manufacturing making up $7.4 billion. Likewise, our next two highest sectors are nearly even, with education, health care, and social assistance comprising $5.5 billion, and professional services at $5.2 billion.

What all of this means is, simply put, all our eggs are not in one basket. An economy that depends too much on a single sector means when that industry suffers, so too does the region. That’s not the case in the Lehigh Valley; the days of depending too much on a single employer like Bethlehem Steel are long gone.

And yet manufacturing is not just a thing of the past in the Lehigh Valley: it’s part of our present and future as well.

Manufacturing made up 18.4 percent of our overall regional economy last year, which is a much higher percentage than the 11.6 percent it represents in the overall U.S. economy. Manufacturing was also our fastest-growing economic sector, having grown just over 10 percent compared to the previous year.

This balance of our history and deep roots and the forward-thinking evolution of the Lehigh Valley economy is directly at the heart of a new marketing campaign LVEDC is rolling out this year, which will be anchored by the phrase: “Made Possible in Lehigh Valley.”

We’ve commissioned this campaign to increase outside awareness of the Lehigh Valley, develop a positive image of the region, and market it as a desirable and attractive place to live to drive talent acquisition and retention.

The availability of skilled labor is now the single largest important factor driving company locations, even more so than overall operating costs, which had been the primary consideration for many years. That’s why we’ve been focused at LVEDC on strategies and initiatives that will help the region attract, develop, and retain talent.

That’s why we commissioned a year-long study to analyze the regional talent market, the findings of which we are executing on right now. It’s also why LVEDC has created a new five-person workgroup responsible specifically for research and analysis and directing initiatives to support retention and growth of companies in the region.

Our “Made Possible in Lehigh Valley” marketing campaign was purposely designed so that companies and other stakeholders in the region can leverage it to attract new talent. This campaign will let people know we are a region that has something for everyone, with small-town charm and big-city amenities, where people can create the life they want, on their terms.

The Lehigh Valley exists today because of where it’s been, but it’s also a region that embodies meaningful evolution. It’s a community rich with opportunity and driven by hard work, resourcefulness, and reinvention. This is nothing new for those of us already here, but soon, the rest of the world will also know what’s been made possible in Lehigh Valley.

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Maximizing ROI from your recruiting process.

Approximately 70% of companies in the Life Sciences industry utilize a recruiting/staffing service provider to increase their network of qualified professionals and leaders. Why? There is a war for talent.  GTS Scientific was founded to provide a recruiting service for highly regarded life science organizations in need of an efficient screening and selection process.  As […]

Approximately 70% of companies in the Life Sciences industry utilize a recruiting/staffing service provider to increase their network of qualified professionals and leaders. Why? There is a war for talent.  GTS Scientific was founded to provide a recruiting service for highly regarded life science organizations in need of an efficient screening and selection process.  As a service provider, direct communication with the decision maker generates all the difference in the hiring process.

A talent acquisition strategy that aligns the interest of the end user, with that of the recruiting fulfillment team is preferable. On average, this 30-minute time investment at the beginning of the search process saves days, weeks and even months of time saved at the end of the search. ROI in this process is achieved through clear communication and most importantly a Decision Maker Intake Call (DMIC).

The most important aspect of the DMIC is the information that isn’t apparent on most job boards.  Many of these job descriptions provide an ample number of “requirements.”  The intake call requires the decision maker to select at most five of those requirements versus the 15-20 seen on formal job descriptions.  Which new hire do you remember having 20 of 20 requirements “necessary” for the role?  As talent acquisition advisors, it’s our obligation to consult the hiring manager on realistic expectations from the labor market.

The DMIC also provides detail on the organization’s market position: Are they a small, medium, or large-sized company?  How are they funded?  What does career advancement look like for an interested candidate after 12 to 24 months in the role?  These factors often determine whether the qualified candidate would be interested in the company and more importantly the long-term opportunity.

Even great operating companies often substitute the DMIC between their internal hiring manager and their recruiting service with less helpful techniques. These substitutions are paper job descriptions (often dated), or a requisition call with their internal human resources or talent acquisition representative; who at times doesn’t weigh in on the final hiring decision and often does not conduct the final interview. Each of these scenarios put the service provider in an adverse situation, left to interpret the decision maker’s request via a paper trail, or word of mouth.

Additional expectations are set during the DMIC regarding the interview process.  Most recruiters have spoken with hiring managers who would like to “interview 5-10 good candidates in order to make a decision”.  As talent acquisition advisors our role is to consult with the decision maker advising a reasonable number of candidates that are available and interested in the company and career opportunity. Hiring managers miss out on talent by extending the interview process and waiting for comparison candidates.  Four qualified candidates, at most, is what we advise for technical skill sets.  For the most niche skill sets the number of qualified candidates can be as few as one or two.  In the current labor market, qualified candidates will accept competing offers if the decision maker hesitates and wants to conduct comparison interviews.

In 2018, GTS Scientific was five times more likely to fill a hiring manager or decision makers requisition in the first 45 days when a DMIC took place. Furthermore, GTS averaged three candidates to interview for every offer accepted – 3:1 interview to offer ratio versus 5:1 interview to offer ratio – for requirements lacking a DMIC.

A 30-minute time allocation by the decision maker with their service provider before the recruiting process begins is rewarded with great service and the proper candidates.  Assuming the average interview takes 30 minutes and three managers will interview each candidate, the DMIC saves clients 2½ hours per position on unnecessary interviews alone. Providing data and analytics to a decision maker is the best way to show the operational excellence the intake call provides.

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2019-got-anxiety

Got Anxiety?

Odds are, you or someone you know probably does.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnoses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or roughly 18% of the population (aada.org).   So, what is anxiety?  Anxiety is a healthy and normal emotion.  The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings […]

Odds are, you or someone you know probably does.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnoses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or roughly 18% of the population (aada.org).   So, what is anxiety?  Anxiety is a healthy and normal emotion.  The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”  Anxiety can remind us of our “to do” list, upcoming deadlines, or help us focus before that big presentation.  These are not necessarily negative things.  So, then what’s the concern with anxiety?  A person goes from feeling normal healthy anxiety levels to having a psychological disorder when they feel disproportionate levels of distress, worry, or fear over an emotional trigger.

Anxiety is an overarching, general term that includes several psychological disorders.  Some such disorders are: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Phobias, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  These disorders are treated with a variety of methods.  Many are traditional, and some are newer concepts in the field of psychology.  The first traditional method of treating anxiety is with medication.  Several types of medications are used to treat anxiety, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Benzodiazepines, and Beta-Blockers.  These medications can be prescribed by your primary care physician or a psychiatrist.  Another traditional method to treat anxiety is through outpatient therapy.  Therapy methods could include the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy or even Hypnosis.

The treatment methods listed above may not come as news to many of you, as they have been in use for several years in the mental health field.  There are, however, some very new and interesting methods for people to learn to manage their own anxiety without the help of a doctor or therapist.  The first of which is through proper diet and nutrition.  There is ample evidence of causal links between certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies and anxiety.  Studies have shown lack of vitamins D, B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc can all be related to increased levels of anxiety.  Adding these vitamins to your diet through supplements or food intake can help reduce anxiety levels.  Other nutrients shown to help reduce anxiety include tryptophan, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids.  Exercise is another effective way to manage your own anxiety.  When the body is active, the brain produces endorphins which are hormones that promote feelings of wellbeing and improve mood.   20 minutes of cardio 3 times a week can do great benefits for one’s mental wellbeing.  Higher level activities that require concentration such as playing an organized sport can also keep the mind occupied and limit racing thoughts.

Meditation is also an excellent strategy to manage one’s anxiety levels independent of a mental health professional.  Meditation is the practice of engaging in contemplation and reflection.  Through meditation, one tries to focus their thoughts in a specific direction and not allow the mind to wander.  Many people find the practice of meditation difficult at first, but with practice, it becomes easier over time.  In the fast-paced modern world, there are many distractions for our minds and many opportunities for thoughts to wander, but this practice can have great benefits in helping us to control the directions of our thoughts.  There are many options to help one who wants to begin the practice of meditation.  One of the most recent options is the use of smartphone apps.  These apps are convenient as your phone is always with you making them readily available to use over a lunch break or before bed to help you put your mind at ease.

Overall, anxiety is becoming much more prevalent in our society.  In the information age, we are aware of so much happening around us that it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and anxious.  If you or someone you know is experiencing unhealthy levels of anxiety, please do not feel ashamed or stigmatized, these feelings are all too common.  Please consult your physician and discuss the treatment options to find what method will work best for you.

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Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® Release 2018 Annual Market Report

As the premier source of real estate information in the Lehigh Valley and its surrounding communities, the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® is pleased to provide an in-depth report on the 2018 local housing market. The information that follows is an overall look at the 2018 housing market, in addition to predictions for 2019. 2018: The […]

As the premier source of real estate information in the Lehigh Valley and its surrounding communities, the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® is pleased to provide an in-depth report on the 2018 local housing market.

The information that follows is an overall look at the 2018 housing market, in addition to predictions for 2019.

2018: The Year of Low Inventory, Rising Prices, and Picky Buyers

Home buyers, now steeped in several years of rising prices and low inventory, became more selective in their purchase choices as housing affordability in 2018 achieved a 10-year low. In turn, the housing market over the last year saw a more seasoned prudence toward residential real estate.

Yet the appetite for home buying remained strong enough to drive prices upward in virtually all markets across the country, including the Lehigh Valley. In 2018, we saw pending sales increase 0.8 percent to 8,544. Closed sales were down 0.6 percent to finish the year at 8,373.

Home prices were up compared to last year. The overall median sales price increased 7.6 percent to $199,000 for the year, and sellers received, on average, 98.1 percent of their original list price at sale, a year-over-year improvement of 0.4 percent. Single Family home prices were up 6.8 percent compared to last year, and Townhouse-Condo home prices were up 6.7 percent.

Year-over-year, the number of homes available for sale was lower by 11.9 percent. There were 1,571 active listings at the end of 2018. New listings decreased by 1.1 percent to finish the year at 11,481.

Distressed? Not in the Lehigh Valley!

The foreclosure market continues to be a hint of its former unhealthy peaks. In 2018, the percentage of closed sales that were either foreclosure or short sale decreased by 47.9 percent to end the year at 0.7 percent of the market.

What to Expect in 2019

Consumer optimism has been tested by four interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve in 2018. Meanwhile, GDP growth was at 4.2 percent in Q2 2018, dropped to 3.4 percent in Q3 2018 and is expected to be about 2.9 percent in Q4 2018 when figures are released.

We anticipate the biggest potential problem for residential real estate in 2019 to be human psychology. A fear of buying at the height of the market could create home purchase delays by a large pool of potential first-time buyers, thus creating an environment of declining sales.

If the truth of a positive economic outlook coupled with responsible lending practices and more available homes for sale captures the collective American psyche, the most likely outcome for 2019 is market balance.

Full Annual Report

Curious to know what else the Annual Report entails? Contact a Realtor® today for more information or for a full market analysis. You can find a Realtor® at www.GLVR.org

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2019-getting-paid

Getting Paid When the Client Goes Bankrupt: It’s Possible

Whether you are a small business owner, an entrepreneur or a valued member of a team, no matter your profession or trade, getting paid for your work is the lynchpin of your endeavors. So, when that customer/client for whom you have worked tirelessly for weeks, months or even years does not let- on that he […]

Whether you are a small business owner, an entrepreneur or a valued member of a team, no matter your profession or trade, getting paid for your work is the lynchpin of your endeavors. So, when that customer/client for whom you have worked tirelessly for weeks, months or even years does not let- on that he or she is struggling financially, it can be a shock that your first indication of trouble is the notice of bankruptcy that you receive in the mail.

Rather than assume that your labor will bear no fruit, you should make an inquiry further into the particulars of the customer/client’s predicament to determine if you are able to get paid because you may be pleasantly surprised. Not everyone is eligible to file for protection from creditors under the United States Bankruptcy Code. Here are a few things you should look for if you have the unfortunate experience of being listed as a creditor in bankruptcy.

  1. The amount of the debtor’s debts: There are limits to the amount of debt that an individual can hold in order to be an eligible debtor. For instance, currently, individuals with unsecured debt in excess of $394,725.00, are generally precluded from filing bankruptcy. That is why you should examine the debtor’s entire bankruptcy petition. While you will receive only a one-page notice of bankruptcy, you should go to the United States Bankruptcy Court’s website to view the entire bankruptcy petition. If the debtor deb which exceeds the statutory limits, there are steps you can take to object to the petition.
  2. Whether the debtor filed bankruptcy previously: The availability of protection from creditors under the United States Bankruptcy Court is not unlimited. Once you receive notice that your customer/client has filed bankruptcy, you should check the records of the United States Bankruptcy Court to determine if the debtor has filed bankruptcy in the past which may render the person ineligible to be a debtor. While there are some exceptions, generally an individual can only obtain a discharge of debts once every eight years.
  3. Exemptions: The United States Bankruptcy Code provides the debtor with “a fresh start” by relieving the individual of his debts. In exchange for relief from his creditors, the debtor must surrender assets which Congress has deemed as unnecessary to “a fresh start.” Accordingly, there are limits on the kinds, and the amounts, of property which an individual can retain in a bankruptcy proceeding. For example, a debtor is permitted to obtain a limited amount of equity in a primary residence and a motor vehicle. Likewise, a debtor can retain some household goods. As a creditor in a bankruptcy proceeding, you should carefully scrutinize the petition to determine whether the debtor possesses non-exempt assets.
  4. Fraudulent Conduct: As noted above, the Congressional intent in the Bankruptcy Code is to provide “a fresh start” to an individual who has little, if any, prospect of satisfying his debts in the ordinary course of his affairs. To that end, the Bankruptcy Code mandates that the debtor file for relief from creditors in good faith. Where the individual has engaged in criminal, fraudulent, intentionally false and/or malicious conduct prior to filing bankruptcy, the individual may be denied a discharge of his debts. Assume that as a creditor you loaned money to the debtor in reliance upon the statements made, or documents produced, in a loan application which have turned out to be untrue, then you are in a position to object to the debtor obtain a discharge of the debt upon which the false information is based.
  5. Fraudulent Transfers: A person who transfers money or assets, or who makes purchases of certain goods, in the months leading up to the filing of bankruptcy may not be a good faith debtor. In these circumstances, with the assistance of the case trustee and the Bankruptcy Court, you may be able to recover the money or assets from the third-party transferee in order for a distribution to be made to creditors.

The preceding are just a few examples of protections which are built-into the United States Bankruptcy Code to protect creditors and which illustrates that upon your receipt of a notice that your customer/client has filed bankruptcy you still may get paid.

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2019-off-the-rack

Off the Rack VS. Custom Clothing

Shopping for clothes is something most people do not even like to think about. People dread things such as: finding the right store, getting the proper fit, finding quality garments that last or even just finding the time to go shopping. Fortunately for the consumer, there is more than one way to shop. The clothing […]

Shopping for clothes is something most people do not even like to think about. People dread things such as: finding the right store, getting the proper fit, finding quality garments that last or even just finding the time to go shopping. Fortunately for the consumer, there is more than one way to shop. The clothing you desire can be purchased multiple ways: conveniently off the rack at a retail store, or with the help of a custom clothier.

Retail stores carry ready-made garments to fit the masses. The clothes are made in standard sizing such as: 40 regular or 38 long. The biggest benefit to buying in this common way is that the turnaround time is quick. You could be in and out of any store in just a few minutes with a new shirt, trouser, or jacket. However, it often leaves the consumer with an added step to the buying experience. That step is having to take your new garments to a tailor to get alterations. Since many don’t even like to shop; the process of going to fight mall traffic on the weekend and going into a crowded store only to find they have a limited selection in your size is unappealing at best. For the select group of people that take special care in finding what they are looking for, off the rack shopping may not be for them.

Another way of shopping for clothing is through a custom clothier. When you purchase custom clothing, you are first and foremost dealing with a trained professional. Your clothier is an expert in all things clothing. They are trained to measure you properly, provide you with a proper fit, help you pick out the best fabrics for your lifestyle, and mix and match patterns and colors. Custom clothing is specially made for an individual based upon a pattern that is created for you based on a series of measurements.

The biggest benefit that clients see from custom clothing is the convenience. Your clothier will come to your home or office at a time that is best for you. In a first time meeting, it typically takes just 40 minutes to get measurements, pick your fabrics, and style your garments to your liking. However, the turnaround time is longer than your traditional off the rack buying process. It takes 6-8 weeks for your clothes to be ordered, crafted, and delivered to your door. When you receive your clothes, your clothier will conduct a proper fitting to make sure you are 100% satisfied with the quality, and fit of the garments. If there are any alterations, they are taken care of, and your pattern is adjusted for future purchases. Once your pattern has been established, ordering custom can be as simple as making a phone call or writing an email.

Custom clothing is not perfect; but it is higher quality, one of a kind garment, made just for you. It gives you the proper fit and personalized customer service along with it. There is a much larger selection when shopping this way. Companies like the Tom James Company, offer different tiers of clothing options that compete with retail store prices. You are able to get any type of fabric, pattern or color fitted just to your liking. Everyone has different preferences in clothing and shopping, and custom allows the process to be individualized to the consumer.

There are benefits to buying off the rack and buying custom clothing. To make the best decision on what is right for you, think about these questions: Do you enjoy shopping? Do you have time to go to the store? Does everything fit you properly off the rack? Do you find everything you are looking for in the store? Does your clothing say what you want it to say about you? If you answered yes to those questions, sticking with buying off the rack may be your best decision. However, if you answered no; it may be time to contact your local clothier, and experience the luxury of custom clothing.

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CASPA the Friendly Law (For Contractors)

For more than twenty years the Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (CASPA) has been a law in Pennsylvania providing a tool for Contractors and Subcontractors to get paid. Conflict between Owners, Prime Contractors, Subcontractors, and subs of subs is a common occurrence in the realm of construction law. CASPA provides a powerful weapon for Contractors […]

For more than twenty years the Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (CASPA) has been a law in Pennsylvania providing a tool for Contractors and Subcontractors to get paid. Conflict between Owners, Prime Contractors, Subcontractors, and subs of subs is a common occurrence in the realm of construction law. CASPA provides a powerful weapon for Contractors and Subcontractors whose work is performed but who do not receive payment without a bona fide dispute. On the flip side, Owners of real estate who hire construction professionals need to be careful if there are disputes when it comes time to pay the bill.

Any time one person hires another and doesn’t pay, the unpaid party can bring a lawsuit seeking payment. CASPA has long provided unpaid Contractors with additional remedies above and beyond what is available to other claimants. It allows the unpaid party to seek not only the unpaid amounts but also a penalty equal to 1% per month of the amount unpaid, 1% interest per month, and attorney’s fees.

That is, taken together, CASPA adds a total of 24% per year to the principal amount owed to Contractors and Subcontractors. That is no small thing, and well in excess of the ordinary time value of money. Additionally, the ability of Contractors and Subcontractors to seek their attorney’s fees is a powerful remedy. Ordinarily, in the American legal system, each side pays their own attorney’s fees irrespective of who ultimately prevails in the litigation. Accounting for these costs usually provides defendants with leverage in negotiating how much they might ultimately pay. By providing this remedy, CASPA puts a thumb on the scales for unpaid Contractors in these negotiations.

That being said, CASPA also provides some protections for Owners to help prevent this leverage from being used unfairly. First, an Owner is permitted to withhold payment for a “deficiency item,” defined as

Construction work which has been performed but which the Owner, the Contractor, or the inspector will not certify as being completed according to the specifications of the construction contract. Where work is not yet completed or performed improperly, the Owner can withhold payment, provided that the Owner notifies the Contractor of the deficiency within fourteen days after receiving the invoice and pays for the completed portion of the work. CASPA also provides Contractors with similar protection as to claims made by their subs.

Although CASPA has been on the books since 1994, in 2018 it was expanded and strengthened. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a new law that overhauled CASPA and expands the remedies available to unpaid Contractors and Subcontractors. These changes became effective as of October 10, 2018.

One primary update is that CASPA’s protections expressly cannot be waived by contract. That is, even if an Owner has the leverage to insist that a Contractor waive its CASPA rights in a written contract, that provision would not be valid or enforceable. The Contractor could still pursue, for example, the interest, penalty, and attorney’s fees remedies for unpaid work.

An additional caveat in the updated CASPA is that a Contractor or Subcontractor is expressly authorized to stop performance until payment is received. An Owner is entitled to withhold payment if the work is deficient, but now the Owner is required to provide notice regarding the deficiency which allegedly justifies nonpayment within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of the disputed invoice. Owners will need to ensure that they observe this provision and provide prompt notice of deficient work along with an explanation of why they are withholding payment. An Owner who fails to provide written notice may waive their right to withhold payment for the deficient work.

The updated CASPA also deals with retainage. Retainage, sometimes called retention, is a common concept in the construction industry, where a portion of the contract price is consensually withheld until the work is substantially complete, to ensure that the Contractor or Subcontractor fulfills its obligations. Under CASPA, retainage is to be paid within thirty (30) days of final acceptance of work. If not, the unpaid Contractor can seek the same interest, penalty, and fees for non-payment mentioned above.

Where a Contractor or Subcontractor submits an invoice, which contains errors or some impropriety relating to the paperwork, CASPA imposes an affirmative duty to act on the Owner or Contractor receiving that invoice. They are required to give written notice within ten (10) working days of the error in the invoice. Once notice is received, the Owner or Contractor is still required to pay the invoice by the due date.

For public works projects, CASPA will not apply, and instead, the Pennsylvania Prompt Payment Act is applicable. CASPA also does not apply to residential construction, unless the project involves simultaneous construction of seven or more units.

As a result of these changes, Contractors, Subcontractors, Owners of real estate and real estate developers more generally will want to look over their contracts and evaluate how they deal with disputes over construction work. Everyone involved in the field will do well to pay careful attention to deadlines and act promptly to give notice of deficiency items.

As with any new law, there are important details in the amendments to CASPA for Owners, Contractors, Subcontractors, and subs of subs. If you are facing a legal challenge in a construction project, it is important to act promptly and document the situation to protect your legal interests. It is often better to consult legal counsel sooner rather than later in the process so that important rights are not lost. The lawyers at Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, P.C. are always available and willing to help.

 

Joshua A. Gildea is a shareholder and attorney in the Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba’s Litigation Group. His practice includes commercial litigation, civil litigation, bankruptcy, complex commercial matters, landlord tenant and construction matters. He also practices in the area of intellectual property law. He can be reached at jgildea@flblaw.com or 610-797-9000.

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2019-CEO-Challenges

CEO Challenges for 2019

As we enter into a new year, we face a new era of challenges with no clear resolutions.  2019 presents a combination of hurdles never before faced by businesses.  CEO’s are now faced with an unstable economy, global unrest, legalization of marijuana, and tax law changes; coupled together, these challenges leave us to merely shake […]

As we enter into a new year, we face a new era of challenges with no clear resolutions.  2019 presents a combination of hurdles never before faced by businesses.  CEO’s are now faced with an unstable economy, global unrest, legalization of marijuana, and tax law changes; coupled together, these challenges leave us to merely shake our heads and wonder how we got here.  The most significant hurdles which challenge CEOs on a daily basis are a tight workforce and advances in technology.

The United States is currently facing a tight labor market that unfortunately shows no signs of easing.  The latest data shows the December unemployment rate at 3.9%; a rate we have not seen since 2000.  The tight labor market has skyrocketed recruiting and retaining talent to the top of the hot button issues for 2019.  Every business leader knows that personnel is a company’s greatest asset and the biggest key to achieving corporate goals.  Finding workers that are highly skilled and experienced and then holding on to them is becoming increasingly problematic.

Employers in every industry are expressing the same concern – the inability to attract and retain qualified employees.  Losing qualified employees can have devastating effects on a corporation.  During a discussion with one business executive in the Lehigh Valley, he commented that his company has experienced a spike in turnover which has affected efficiency, and ultimately profits.    Another manufacturer indicated that they have not been able to replace experienced workers. Thus they have been forced to pay a large amount of overtime to existing employees, which again, impacts the bottom line.

With all of the advancements in technology, CEO’s are faced with either attracting new talent with the latest skills or reskilling their existing workforce.  Business leaders must make training a priority in order to prepare their workforce to compete in a highly competitive market. However, training requires planning and commitment.  With existing time constraints due to the tight market, there is little time available after a worker has performed his primary job responsibilities.  Business leaders need to remember that although training is not revenue generating in the short term and can be costly during implementation, it will positively affect the bottom line in the long term.

The key is to be proactive in training and advancement.  Training should be structured based on both the employer’s and employees’ needs.  Personalized training, while costly, is the most beneficial method in the long run.  When filling the gaps in your workforce, evaluate workers for advancement not only based upon leadership skills but also on their willingness to get involved in technological advancements.  The trend has been to advance employees who could not only take leadership roles but also had soft skills.  In the new era, executives also need to target employees willing and capable of developing technology skills.

During these changing times, business leaders are forced to make long-term decisions based upon predictions and presumptions.  The combination of technology, automation, and a tight labor market will force business leaders to be creative with their workforce planning. In order to provide exceptional customer service in this fast-paced digital era, business leaders will need to offer more comprehensive employment packages in their recruitment of new talent or provide the necessary training to their current workforce in order to stay viable for the next 10 to 15 years.

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