Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster's Legal Link

New Federal Rule Increases Employee Eligibility for Overtime Pay

Posted in Employment Law

In a March 17, 2016 press release, the White House announced that the Department of Labor will issue a final rule today that will expand workers’ eligibility to receive overtime pay (time-and-a-half). Under the prior rule, only workers making a salary of less than $23,660 per year ($455 weekly) qualified to receive overtime pay when working over 40 hours in a week. The new rule will increase the salary threshold to $47,476 per year ($913 weekly), thus expanding coverage to over four million workers nationwide, and approximately 185,000 Pennsylvanians. We expect that restaurant/hospitality employers and retailers will be impacted the most, but all employers may be impacted depending on the current payment structure of their workforce.

Employers have six months to prepare for the final rule, which goes into effect on December 1, 2016. Options include raising an employee’s salary to keep the employee exempt from overtime, payment of time-and-a-half when necessary, or evaluation and realignment of hours and staff workload.

For more information, here’s a list of resources from the United States Department of Labor that will answer common questions about the new rule:

The impact on your business may be minimal if your employees are compensated hourly and already receive overtime pay, or if salaries are already in excess of $47,476 per year, however if your employees are salaried in the range between the former threshold of $23,660 and the new threshold, some careful planning will need to occur prior to December 1, 2016.

In the coming weeks we will post additional information to help determine whether your employees are exempt from the overtime requirement and strategies to address the adoption of the new overtime rule.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Successful Turnover: Best Practices for Transition from Developer to Association

Posted in Condominium and Homeowners Associations

Thank you to everyone who joined me and Lori Van Gorden of Horst Property Management for our real estate development seminar on May 2.  We led an informative discussion about “The Successful Turnover: Best Practices for Transition from Developer to Association.”  Lori and I have guided many developers and associations through this transition and appreciate the importance of the process.  We were happy to share our experience to try to make this as smooth and painless – for both the developer and the association – as possible.

Is there an Attorney Fee that is Too Big to Collect for Violations of Association Rules?

Posted in Condominium and Homeowners Associations

In a recent case in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, a condominium association was awarded attorneys’ fees that were almost 23 times larger than the fine and assessments they were trying to collect.  Because the litigation to collect past due assessments and a snow removal fee took three years to complete, the amounts awarded to the association broke down like this: $239 for late assessments, $500 for a snow removal special assessment, $300 capital improvement special assessment, $104 late fee, and $26,206.68 in attorney’s fees.

The matter was before the Commonwealth Court because the Unit Owner complained that the attorneys’ fees were not reasonable.  The Court disagreed and awarded all the attorneys’ fees to the Association and against the Unit Owner.  The decision made three important points that all associations should remember.  They are:

  1. An Association is not required to accept less than the full sum it is entitled. The Association can try to recover all of the attorney’s fees, late fees, and costs it incurs.
  1. Attorney’s fees should be awarded to the Association even if they are disproportionate to the assessments to be collected. Attorneys’ fees and costs that are 23 times greater than the actual fees are permitted.
  1. The Association does not need expert testimony to establish that attorneys’ fees are reasonable. In this case, the property manager testified that he worked with other attorneys in this field, and that the rate charged was “reasonable and competitive for the work involved.”  This means that the Association does not need an expert condominium attorney to testify that the attorney’s fees are reasonable.  So long as the property manager, or board member, or someone could present evidence that the fees were reasonable for the work performed, the Court was willing to accept this testimony.

Sometimes an Association can accumulate significant attorney’s fees, especially for cases involving collections or violations of rules and regulations, rental restrictions, etc. This is especially true when the Unit Owner delays or drags out the litigation.  Cases like the The Arches Condominium v. Robinson should be useful to remind courts to award Associations the attorney’s fees and costs to which they are entitled.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

Congratulations to Christina Hausner

Posted in Outside the Law

Congratulations to our partner and colleague, Christina L. Hausner, on being appointed as the solicitor for the County of Lancaster.

Chris has practiced with RKG for 34 years.  She joined Craig, Gary, and Jon in 1982, upon completing her clerkship with the Lancaster County Common Pleas Court Judges Wilson Bucher and Ronald Buckwalter. Her practice areas include employment law, municipal law and civil litigation. Chris is known through our office as a thoughtful and thorough attorney.  While she has skillfully litigated cases in Pennsylvania courts, including administrative, and federal courts, she also has provided careful advice to municipal clients regarding sensitive and occasionally polarizing public issues.

Chris ran and oversaw the firm’s litigation meetings, often advising other attorneys about case management and procedure. We will miss not only her guidance, but her humor and insight around the office.

Chris is working with other RKG attorneys to transition clients. If you have any questions for Chris or just want to wish her well, feel free to call the office at 293-9293 or email her at clh@rkglaw.com.

Remembering David Greer

Posted in Julie Miller, Outside the Law

This article was first published in the Lancaster Bar Association’s quarterly newsletter to reflect on the life of David Greer, a friend, colleague and influential member of the Lancaster legal community, who passed away in August of 2015. David spent his last few years practicing law with Russell, Krafft and Gruber and everyone in our office feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with David.

Remembering David Greer

I met David Greer when he joined Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in 2008. He joined us at a time when he was ready to begin winding up his practice of more than 30 years. My partners and I all wish that our relationship with him would have begun earlier, as he was a pleasure to work with and to learn from. He spent the majority of his legal career working with Carl and Louise Herr and Judge Jay Hoberg, and managing their firm, Herr, Greer and Hoberg. That partnership formed the basis of Dave’s lasting footprint on the Lancaster legal community. However, we are grateful for the time we spent working with him, as it provided us an opportunity to get to know him both as a professional and as a friend.

At Dave’s memorial service held on December 9, 2015, Jon Gruber mentioned that we found Dave to be a very calming presence within the office, and he was. He was mild-mannered, yet jovial, and he lit up when he spoke of his wife, Linda, his four daughters, and his grandchildren.  By the time Dave came to work with us, his practice had become concentrated on advising businesses and estate planning and administration. He enjoyed the relationships he had with his clients and was always available – even after he retired – to weigh in or assist where his expertise was needed.

Dave loved sports, so much that he followed those events in which our office staff and/or their children participated with the same interest that he showed for Penn State football or the Philadelphia Phillies. His passion for boxing was paramount, though, and he judged professional boxing bouts in Maryland and Pennsylvania. He was regarded in that circle as a fair and consistent judge.  The Executive Director of the Maryland State Athletic Commission described Dave as a “true gentleman,” words which we have used in our office to describe Dave both before and after his death.

David and Linda travelled extensively throughout their lives and loved to find new places off the beaten path.  Afterhe retired,  they embarked on a cross country trip travelling the “blue highways,” visiting friends and national parks along the way.  He made sure to send us friendly postcards letting us know of their whereabouts. One postcard, sent in 2012 from Yellowstone National Park, reads:

Yellowstone never gets old, no matter how many visits one makes. This time there was lots of snow, ice covered the lake and bison abound.

There are others he sent from the Redwood National and State Parks and from the home of Lyndon B. Johnson in Texas, where he noted that he was “writing from the home of Chris Hausner’s favorite politician”. We still display all of his postcards in our office kitchen, as he remains part of our firm’s culture, even though his time practicing with us lasted just a few years. In a relatively short period of time, he made a lasting impression on all of us at RKG. He was our colleague, mentor and friend.  He is and will continue to be, missed.

Julie Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Dickinson School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Collaborative Law and traditional Family Law.

Public Service Announcement – Pennsylvania Primary Voter Registration Deadlines

Posted in Matt Landis, Outside the Law

The Pennsylvania primary elections will be held on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The deadline for registering to vote in the primary is rapidly approaching, and is Monday, March 28, 2016. You can check your registration status and polling place using the following online form: Voter Registration Status

If you need to register to vote or change your party affiliation, you can register to vote online or download a paper form to submit here: Voter Registration Application

Keep in mind, only registered Republicans can vote for the Republican candidates (as of this writing, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump) and similarly, only registered Democrats may vote for the Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders). Therefore, if you are registered as a member of the Independent party, any other party affiliation, or no party affiliation, you may not vote for any of the above listed candidates.

But wait! Any registered voter in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, regardless of party affiliation, can vote on the ballot measures that are certified for the April 2016 election:

  1. The Judicial Retirement Age Amendment, which would raise the state judicial retirement age from 70 to 75; and
  1. The Philadelphia Traffic Court Abolition Amendment, which would eliminate the Traffic Court in the City of Philadelphia.
Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University.

What Kinds of Leasing Restrictions are Allowed by the FHA?

Posted in Condominium and Homeowners Associations

Community Associations Institute (CAI)  reposted a blog article from Eric Boucher at Ready Set Loan Condo Team.  The article discussed the hot topic in condominium/HOA law across the country – leasing restrictions.  FHA has come out with much more definite guidance about what kinds of leasing restrictions will disqualify a community from being FHA approved.  The article explains:

Allowable Leasing Restrictions – The association can:

  • Restrict total number of units that can be rented at any given time
  • Restrict the total percentage of units that may be leased at any given time
  • Create a hardship clause for exception to the first two above
  • Require that the Board be provided with a copy of the lease
  • Require that the lease must be in writing
  • Request the names of the tenants
  • Require that the lease conforms to the legal governing documents of the association
  • Set minimum and maximum lease periods
  • Require unit owner to check the Registered Sex Offenders list
  • Require rent to be assigned to association if the unit owner is delinquent in the payment of his/her common charges
  • Require that the lease be on a specific form

Continue Reading

If I Were 50 Cent, I’d Be Tired of Using (Ayo) Technology [1]

Posted in Legal Tidbits, Matt Landis

As much as I love social media, I’ve been Patiently Waiting [2] for a recent example of a cautionary tale when it comes to social media use. Hate It or Love It [3], Rapper 50 Cent’s recent Instagram posts are “Exhibit A” as to why it’s important to consider refraining from posting on social media during an active (or pending) court case.

The whole issue may have been avoided had 50 Cent followed his own advice from his lyrics in the classic track “What Up Gangsta” from his 2003 debut studio album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”:

They say I walk around like got an “S” on my chest
Naw, that’s a semi-auto, and a vest on my chest
I try not to say nothing, the DA might want to play in court [4]

Except in this case, “trying not to say nothing” meant “posting stacks of money on Instagram” and it wasn’t the DA, it was a federal bankruptcy judge. 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson III, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and the case is ongoing. Continue Reading

Legal Links – March 11, 2016

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

 1. Teens Sue For Right to Vote. As the fields narrow for Democrats and Republicans to determine their nominees for the 2016 Presidential Election, a group of 17 year olds have sued the Ohio Secretary of State to restore their right to vote in the primary since they will turn 18 in time to vote in the general election.

Interested in an overview of the development of voting laws in the United States? MassVOTE, a nonprofit organization with a mission of  promoting a culture of active political participation has a comprehensive timeline available here. Continue Reading

Update on Electricity Generated by Methane Digesters

Posted in Agriculture

In September we blogged about an update on efforts to protect farmers’ ability to sell excess electricity generated by methane digesters used on the farms. Electric companies are trying to limit the amount of electricity farmers can sell. But a proposed bill introduced by State Representative David Zimmerman, would remove the limits on the excess electricity produced by methane digesters. Recently, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission adopted regulations that accomplished the same goal. While some sources of renewable electricity, like solar farms, are limited to the amount of electricity they can sell back to electric companies, most farmers will not be subject to these same limits. According to the new regulations, the limits will not apply to electricity generators if they are part of the DEP’s Chesapeake Watershed Implementation Plan, or part of a farm’s approved Nutrient Management Plan. In the Susquehanna Valley, we believe that this should allow any farmer with an anaerobic methane digester to sell all of his or her excess electricity to the appropriate power companies. Continue Reading

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