The Legal Insider
In this issue:
Things You Can Do to Make 2018 Your Year
Maybe 2017 wasn't the best year you've had, or maybe it was. Either way, why not do what you can to make 2018 your best year yet? If you have been putting off a few things like setting up a will, a power of attorney, or even getting life insurance, you are not alone. Many of us are procrastinators, so maybe this New Year's resolution could entail crossing burdens off the list, once and for all (or at least for now). A few steps you can take toward lifting the stress, getting it done, and to stop thinking about what you should be doing:
- Get a Will - If you have assets, you may wish to consult an attorney. Estate planning can be stressful, so leave it to the professionals and speak with an experienced lawyer who can ensure no stone is left unturned.
- Set Up a Power of Attorney - You never know what tomorrow can bring. In case you are incapacitated and incapable of making your own decisions, make sure you have someone you trust set up as your agent. You can also have your attorney set this up while they are drafting your will (since you won't be procrastinating step one).
- Think About Life Insurance - If you have dependents, you may want to consider purchasing a policy. It's not for everyone, but if you have kids in diapers, you may want to do a little research.
- Getting Fit? - If you are planning on hitting the gym to burn off all those frosted cookies, do the math on gym memberships. Just be prepared for the commitment that comes from signing a year-long contract.
- Save, Save, Save - You never know when that rainy day may come. Stay on top of new tax laws, and prepare yourself now, for what you may owe in April. Ask yourself, "Do I want it, or do I need it?" before making purchases. Mobile investing apps can also help you save by investing roundups from your credit or debit card purchases.
The new year may just be your best one best yet. Small steps can lead to big rewards. If you pencil these steps into your calendar, it makes procrastinating a little tougher on the psyche. All you have to do is make a plan, and stick to it (easier said than done, but unburdening yourself will cause you less stress down the road).
Understanding the Employment and Labor Laws to Take Effect in 2018
With the New Year comes new updates to employment and labor laws. The most anticipated update is state minimum wage rates, since the federal minimum rate has remained unchanged since 2009. Highly-populated states tend to raise their minimum wage rates at the beginning of the year to match the higher cost of living. For instance, California will now have a minimum wage rate of $10.50 for employers with 25 or fewer employees, and $11.00 for employers with 26 or more employees. Maine will jump a dollar to $10.00 an hour, and New York will go up to $11.00 across the board, regardless of company size. Check your state's laws for adjustments in 2018.
Just like minimum wage variations, states have other new enactments that are different from one another. In California, employers will now be barred from consenting to allow immigration enforcement agents to enter nonpublic areas of the workplace without a warrant. California has also introduced the Ban-the-Box law which makes it unlawful for an employer with 5 or more employees to seek disclosure of an applicant's conviction history on an employment application.
Federal activity regarding employment and labor laws is slower than anticipated, but will likely pick up pace as the year progresses. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations will likely be revisited by the Department of Labor, and two new bills, the Save Local Business Act that will clarify when an entity will be deemed a "joint employer," and the Workflex in the 21st Century Act are moving to the Senate for approval. The Workflex Act would exempt employers from local and state paid leave laws, if they offered employees a flexible work schedule and a minimum number of compensable leave days per year. Also in 2018, the elective contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k) will increase from $18,000 to $18,500.
Year 2018 is an exciting time for change, especially at the state and local levels. Pregnancy accommodations, equal pay, paid time off, and background checks are all evolving. Stay up to date and informed, as even more changes will occur as the year goes on. If you are an employer, it may be beneficial to discuss these changes with an employment attorney to cover all of your bases.
Dangerous Toys: How to Keep Your Kids Safe
For many parents, the holidays already have a big impact on their wallets. The last thing they need are hospital bills for injuries their kids sustained from the toys they just bought with their second mortgage. Sometimes, these types of injuries are from careless use by the consumer, e.g., not reading and/or ignoring the instructions, putting the toy together wrong, failing to remove the tags, etc. In other instances, it is the toy itself that can cause injury.
If it is the latter, and the toy has caused injury as a result of a defective design, be sure to document it with photos, hospital documents, and witness statements. If the injury wasn't severe enough to warrant medical care, you may not have a personal injury claim, but you can still report the product. If the injury is serious, contact an attorney immediately. You and your attorney will have to prove:
- The product was defective;
- The manufacturer's or designer's negligence caused the product to be defective;
- Your child was injured because of their negligence; and
- Your child's injuries resulted in compensable damages.
Alternatively, if you were negligent in handling the toy and it was your negligence that caused the injury, you may have an uphill battle if you were to attempt a lawsuit against the toy company. Many injuries also occur because children weren't properly supervised. Be sure to do your part in taking reasonable care to prevent injury and protect your actions in case of child play-gone-wrong. If you even question whether or not you may have a case, it never hurts to consult a personal injury attorney. It's always better to play it safe than sorry.
A Year in Review: Top 3 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2017
1) Texting During Movie: Man Sues a Date for Texting During a Movie
Most of us have had a less-than stellar first date, but getting sued for the cost of it nears the top of the list of dating gone wrong. Take Brendan Vezmar of Austin, Texas for example. He sued his date for the cost of her movie ticket because of her incessant texting habit during the show. While movie theaters have become quite expensive that's no excuse for pettiness. The woman wound up reimbursing Mr. Vezmar for her ticket so long as he would leave her alone. It's unclear which party fared better: him for getting his money back, or her for being spared further contact.
2) Christmas Tree Negligence: Man Sues Apartment Complex Owners for a "Recklessly and/or Negligently" Discarded Tree
For some people, when Christmas is over, so is the holiday cheer. A man in New Jersey claimed he was disfigured, disabled, and suffered severe, permanent injuries — and continues to suffer both mental and physical pain — from his neighbor's Christmas tree that was left on the sidewalk for trash pickup. Granted, the tree was discarded in March, so it's feasible that he disagreed with the owners for holding onto the Christmas spirit for an extra three months — but still. How does one sustain disfiguring and disabling injuries from an abandoned tree? Is the only reasonable explanation for injuries of this sort, an elusive wild animal residing within the branches who attacked said plaintiff for coming a little too close? Oh, to be a fly on the wall during jury deliberations.
3) Man Sues Over Fake Butter: A Man Sued Dunkin' Donuts Over the Use of Fake Butter on His Bagels
This story is made-to-order, well, maybe not. Dunkin' Donuts fake-buttered the wrong man's bagels and has since reached a settlement with the Massachusetts native. Jan Polanik claimed that the donut chain spread butter substitute on his bagels when instead, he ordered real butter. There is nothing fake about a class action suit, and that is exactly what has come to fruition. The chain does have whipped butter packets that are served on the side, but when employees are asked to butter someone's biscuit, er bagel, they use a butter-substitute spread for temperature and food safety reasons. Lesson for the day: you want real butter, spread your own!