The Blog for Business Law

On February 10, the USPTO presents the “Three Contemporary Black Women Inventors” online event in celebration of Black History Month.  The event spotlights three contemporary black women inventors: Aprille Ericsson, Ayanna Howard and Arlyne Simon. Dr. Aprille Ericsson was the first woman (and first African American woman) to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University and the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in engineering as a civil servant at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  She holds one US patent. Dr. Ayanna Howard is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Zyrobotics, a company that…
Evans & Dixon’s Denise Bloch authored the below article that was recently published by the St. Louis Metropolitan Medicine in its December 2020/January 2021 issue. Federal alert indicates increased focus on speaker programs and theirpotential to violate the anti-kickback statute On November 16, 2020, the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Special Fraud Alert 1 focusing on the fraud and abuse risks related to payment, solicitation or receipt of remuneration from speaker programs conducted by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. This special alert provides notice to health care providers and companies that the OIG will be focusing more…
The Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted amendments to the “accredited investor” definition contained in Rule 501(a) of Regulation D which is one of the principal tests for determining who is eligible to invest in private capital raising transactions.  Historically, individual investors who did not meet specific income or net worth tests, regardless of financial sophistication, have been denied the opportunity to participate in such investments. In announcing the changes, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said: “For the first time, individuals will be permitted to participate in our private capital markets not only based on their income or net worth, but…
Recently, the Commerce Department disclosed the most devastating three-month collapse of the U.S. economy ever.  In the second quarter of 2020, the gross domestic product fell by 9.5%.  The effects of the coronavirus pandemic reached throughout the economy.  Consumers cut their spending.  Businesses reduced their investing.  Global trade mostly ended.  <<https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/business/economy/q2-gdp-coronavirus-economy.html>>.  Economic declines have real world consequences for businesses.  Many must now consider large-scale layoffs and closing their facilities.  Both federal law and some state laws regulate larger employers that conduct mass layoffs and plant closings.  Before implementing such a strategy, employers must know their legal duties under…
For many of our business clients, addressing the realities of estate and business succession planning amid the COVID-19 pandemic may seem unnecessarily alarmist or generally depressing. However, it is an all too necessary and practical concern for the sober-eyed, forward-thinking business leaders that make up our clientele. The lynchpin of a good succession or estate plan is understanding of how the plan works during any type of disruption. Many of our clients, quite understandably, associate estate planning exclusively with severe health issues, their own mortality, and planning for the future care and well-being of their loved ones. However, a good…
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”), requires employers to satisfy the safety and health standards and regulations issued and enforced either by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) or by an OSHA-approved State Plan. In addition, the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=3359&p_table=OSHACT, obliges employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA-approved State Plans may have standards, regulations and enforcement policies that differ from OSHA’s, but they must achieve results at least as effective as OSHA’s. (To see which states have such State…
The COVID-19 Pandemic has forced employers to face public health, customer service, workforce, travel, and business disruptions in constantly evolving circumstances.  Many of the decisions that employers must make on-the-fly create unintended consequences with serious labor and employment law liability issues.  The Business Law Blog will address these issues in a series of three blog posts to expose the subtle legal issues obscured by gut-wrenching decisions made to protect healthy workers from exposure to co-workers who may have the virus, to serve customers without putting them at risk to COVID-19 infection, and to cut losses as economic activity grinds to…
I. Illinois’ New Law Legalizing Cannabis for Adults Authorizes Employers to Maintain Zero Tolerance or Drug Free Workplace Policies and to Conduct Drug Testing. The Illinois General Assembly enacted the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“Cannabis Act”) on May 31, 2019.  Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on June 25, 2019.  It takes effect on January 1, 2020.  http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3992  The Cannabis Act, among other things, legalizes the possession and use of recreational marijuana for adults age 21 and older.  It directly addresses certain aspects of workers who use recreational marijuana both in and out of the workplace.  In…
A. The Department of Labor Issued Its Final Rule on September 24, 2019. The Department of Labor (“Department”) issued a final rule revising the regulations interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or “Act”) on September 24, 2019.  They set new and higher thresholds for both the minimum weekly equivalent salary level and the total minimum annual compensation level for “highly compensated employees” (“HCE’s”).  These new salary and annual compensation minimums affect most employees eligible for the White Collar exemptions from the Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements.   Generally, employees eligible for these exemptions perform any one or more of…
Have you ever intently followed legislation that you supported—an education bill, for instance—only to find out that another education-related proposal you didn’t like had been added to the bill as an amendment.  While this can be frustrating to the observing citizen, it certainly is not unusual and most often is appropriate under the Missouri state constitution.  That was the subject of the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent combined opinion in Calzone v. Interim Commnr. of Dep’t of Elem. & Secondary Educ. and Calzone v. Director of Dep’t of Agric., issued October 1, 2019. Applicable Constitutional Provisions The Missouri state constitution prevents…
Employers face a known but largely unquantifiable risk when they give their employees access to their confidential or proprietary information, trade secrets, and customers.  Some ignore these risks, hope for the best, and trust that they have hired only loyal, honest, and honorable workers.  Such employers basically risk the loss of critical assets and the success of their business in the fickle hands of their employees.  The same workers whose personal career experience or that of spouses, relatives, or friends has taught them because of repeated reorganizations and their attendant reductions-in-force to doubt the loyalty of employers. In view of…
Most employers that pay their outside sales representatives on a commission basis do so because of long-established practices, rather than a sound understanding as to how the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or “Act”) impacts such a compensation practice.  Generally, the Act requires employers to pay their non-exempt employees compensation at a rate equal or greater than the federal minimum wage and overtime pay if employees work more than 40 hours in the same workweek.  The FLSA, however, includes an exemption from both its minimum wage and overtime obligations for outside sales representatives that satisfy the law’s requirements for the…
Seven in ten Americans use social media, according to the Pew Research Center.  They connect with one another, access content, share information, and entertain themselves through social media.  When the Pew Research Center first surveyed the use of social media in 2005, only five percent of American adults used at least one form of social media.  By 2011, half of all American adults used social media.  Today, 72% of adult Americans interact with some form of social media. In other words, social media has gone mainstream.  It no longer involves a cutting-edge technology.  Thus, for good reason, employers have adapted…
On July 10, 2019, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed legislation that permits state universities to use public-private partnerships (also known as “P3s”) to deliver projects on their campuses.  Specifically, the law will allow a higher-education institution to enter into “a long-term concession with a private developer to construct, operate, maintain, and finance the project in exchange for annual payments subject to abatement for nonperformance.”[i] Around the nation, public universities have been turning more and more to the private sector to design, build, finance, operate, or maintain various projects.  P3s have allowed state colleges to build, renovate, or maintain student…
The unemployment rate hovered at a 49-year low of 3.6 percent in both April and May of 2019.  Low unemployment typically creates a jobseeker’s market in which workers find plentiful attractive job openings.  On the other side of the equation, however, employers usually have a more difficult time locating highly qualified candidates well-suited to the employer’s workplace culture. Both smart and lawful hiring and recruiting practices have more importance when employers face fewer candidates and more competition to hire them present in a tight labor market.  In such circumstances, employers must think strategically to recruit the best candidates.  Many employers…
SUPREME COURT RULES LAW PROHIBITING REGISTRATION OF IMMORAL OR SCANDALOUS TRADEMARKS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL Only two years ago, in the case of In re Tam, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the federal law (the Lanham Act) that prohibited registration of “disparaging” marks violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.  This week, in the case of Iancu v. Brunetti, the Court ruled that the provisions of the same law that prohibited registration of “scandalous” and “immoral” marks, was also unconstitutional.  So why is this important? Under the Lanham Act, the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) administers a federal registration system for…