Happy New Year from all of us at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP. As we ring in the new year, remembering to write 20 instead of 19 when writing the date isn’t the only change  to be mindful of. As of January 1, 2020, many new laws, rules, and policies have taken effect that may impact you and your business.

Here’s a summary of a few of the key changes and links to additional information for several legal changes to be mindful of in 2020:

IRS Updates Standard Mileage Rate

On December 31, the IRS announced its new standard mileage rate for 2020: 57.5 cents per mile driven for business use, down one half of a cent from the rate for 2019.

Photo by Mikhail Pavstyuk on Unsplash

US Department of Labor’s New Overtime Rule

The Department of Labor’s new overtime rule went into effect as of January 1, which updates the Fair Labor Standard Act’s minimum salary thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, or professional employees from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The DOL estimates the changes will impact as many as 1.3 million employees. The change that will likely impact the most workers is raising the minimum salary requirement from $455 per week to $684 per week, or from $23,660 per year to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker. To learn more about the changes, check out the DOL’s press release on the final rule here.
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One of the most common issues I am asked about is what a small business can do about online criticism. Here are five practical tips any business can use to help manage their online reputation.

  1. Know What is Being Said About You

To effectively manage your online reputation, you need to know what is being said about your business. Keep an eye on the platforms that matter most to you. For a professional services business like mine, that means watching platforms like LinkedIn. But for other businesses Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon might be more important. And almost every business benefits from keeping an eye on Google’s reviews.

And try to keep an eye on what is being said in the news because many online newspapers allow comments to be posted after articles. We use Google Alerts to get automatic email notifications when our firm or attorneys are mentioned online.

  1. Respond, But Remember You Cannot Argue with Crazy

It is important not to ignore online criticism. But you also cannot argue with a crazy customer. Remember that the primary purpose of responding to an online critique is not to resolve that customer’s situation (more on that below). The purpose is so the rest of the world reading the criticism can see you responded in an empathetic and respectful manner. Use some form of “we are sorry to hear you had a bad experience,” but do not use a stock response. Craft each response based upon the criticism leveled. That shows you are aware of the concern and care about it.
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All digital evidence, whether emails, computer files, or text messages, comes with metadata. Metadata is nothing more than “data about data,” i.e. things your phone or computer keeps track of about a digital file. Some of the most common examples are the “last accessed date” (when a file was last opened) and its “creation date” (when a file was first created).

Great, so metadata exists. So what? I get this question all the time. Particularly from opposing counsel when I’ve demanded that he or she reproduce a set of documents with metadata, usually after he or she has already provided a PDF copy. But I’m not asking for metadata in a fit of gamesmanship or to drive up litigation costs. I do it because metadata can be as valuable as the content itself.
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I first became aware of the spotted lanternfly (“SLF”) when, as a Penn State Football season ticket holder, I received a notice that I was supposed to search my car for any evidence of SLF presence before leaving my home in Lancaster County en route to State College. I became more concerned about the SLF after I read a news article about a family whose home was overtaken by SLFs that were attached to their Christmas tree.

The SLF is an invasive plant-hopping insect that can have a detrimental impact on local agriculture. The SLF was first discovered in Berks County and has spread to a number of nearby counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. As a result, several counties, including Lancaster County have been placed in a SLF quarantine zone
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Copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office is a precondition to filing a copyright infringement lawsuit, however until earlier this month, there was a split as to when registration actually occurs. In Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that registration occurs when the Copyright Office registers a copyright. The alternative view was that registration occurs when a copyright owners submits a proper application to the Copyright Office. Therefore, you must have a copyright registration certificate from the Copyright Office before filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
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This is part two of a three-part series about courtroom procedure and etiquette. Part one of this series was How Do I Get There?

In my previous post, I walked through what a litigant or witness can expect from the time they enter the courthouse to when they enter the courtroom. In this second installment of the series, I will discuss who you can expect to see in a courtroom and what their role is.

When you are in a courtroom, the star of the show is the judge. The judge sits at the “bench,” which is typically located on an elevated platform in the front, center of the courtroom. The judge presides over the hearing, rules on objections, instructs jurors and is responsible for how things are done in the courtroom. Each judge has different requirements and expectations for parties, their attorneys, witnesses and observers. For example, some judges require attorneys to stand up any time they speak, while other judges permit attorneys to remain seated. Some judges allow jurors to take notes, while others do not. Your attorney can clue you in to what the particular judge you are appearing before prefers.
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This is part one of a three-part series about courtroom procedure and etiquette.

For many, the idea of “going to court” can be intimidating and nerve wracking. An appearance in court often involves difficult and important life circumstances. As lawyers, we often take for granted how infrequently most people appear in court since it is something many of us do on a regular basis.

Whether you are in court due to a custody or divorce matter affecting your family, a civil matter affecting your business or financial well-being, or a criminal matter affecting your personal liberties or rights as a victim, knowing what to expect and how to present yourself can reduce some of the stress and allow you to focus on presenting the best case.

To help reduce some of the stress associated with appearing in court, I have put together a three part series walking you through the process from before you arrive in the courthouse to when you walk out at the end of your hearing.

In this first part of the series, I will discuss the process from entering the courthouse to arriving at and entering the designated courtroom. Future posts will include information on who you can expect to be present in the courtroom and how to present yourself in appearance and speech.
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