Important:

Our office is currently closed, but we continue to provide legal services by working remotely.

In light of Governor Wolf’s emergency declaration and current recommendations our office is currently closed.  Our attorneys and staff continue to work remotely, however, and we can assure you they are set up to respond to your calls, emails and all communications.  For more details on AMM operations during this time, read our full update.  

Thank you for your understanding, and please take care.

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The increased attention to sexual harassment in the work place is reflected in the increasing number of sexual harassment suits filed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-a federal agency whose responsibilities include enforcing federal nondiscrimination laws.

This trend magnifies the need for employers to be aware of an opinion by a judge of the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, holding that an employer may be liable for the sexual harassment of one of its employees by a nonemployee.    

In this case, Hewett v. BS Transportation of Illinois, LLC, et al., the Court considered various claims by an employee, Hewitt, including a claim of sexual harassment, against his employer, BS Transportation.

Specifically, Hewitt alleged that he was a freight driver for BS Transportation whose job responsibilities included weekly loading of oil at a Sunoco refinery.

According to the allegations in Hewitt’s complaint:


During the course of Hewitt’s employment, a Sunoco employee sexually harassed Hewitt, first with sexual
comments and hand gestures and then after Hewitt asked the employee to stop, with more aggressive behavior including
physical contact. Hewitt made complaints to the Sunoco employee’s supervisor, as well as Hewitt’s supervisor at BS
Transportation who was also the owner of BS Transportation. Although Hewitt’s supervisor indicated he would
“handle the matter” with the Sunoco employee, the supervisor did not investigate the complaint nor did the Sunoco
employee’s supervisor.  After a pause in his harassment of Hewitt, Sunoco’s employee again engaged in sexual
harassment of Hewitt, who again complained to Hewitt’s supervisor. Hewitt’s supervisor did not notify Sunoco of
these latest actions by the Sunoco employee. Shortly after the resumption of the harassment, Hewitt’s employment
with BS Transportation ended.


As a result of the alleged harassment described above, Hewitt filed suit in federal court alleging, among other claims, sexual discrimination by BS Transportation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (The Court dismissed claims against Sunoco and its employee). While dismissing certain claims against BS Transportation and its supervisor, the Court did permit the sex discrimination claim to proceed-deeming it a claim of hostile work environment. (The Court in allowing the case to proceed did not make any factual findings regarding Hewitt’s allegation. Rather the Court needed to decide at this stage whether Hewitt stated a plausible claim against his employer).

The Court noted that the claim in this case was not like most claims of employment discrimination, where the offending conduct is alleged to have been committed by an employee of the employer. This case instead involved a nonemployee.  The Court, however, allowed  the case to proceed  based on the allegations that a management -level  employee  (Hewitt’s supervisor)of BS Transportation was aware of the harassment complaints and failed to investigate or take appropriate action and that BS Transportation failed to notify Sunoco when Sunoco’s employee allegedly resumed harassment of Hewitt.

Pointing to decisions of other courts, the Court in this case held that an employer may be liable for employment discrimination  “where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate action”(quoting Johnson-Harris v. AmQuip Cranes Rental ,LLC).  The Court ruled that Hewitt had alleged sufficient facts to let the matter go forward. The Court also found that Hewitt stated a claim (yet to be proven) that BS Transportation’s supervisory employee had aided or abetted an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The obvious takeaway from this decision is that an employer must have procedures in place to immediately and thoroughly investigate claims of workplace discrimination of any type.  These procedures, of course, go along with anti-discrimination policies and procedures that may be used by an employee to file a complaint with the employer.

The less obvious lesson from this case is that an employer could be found liable for the unlawful conduct of a nonemployee if it fails to take appropriate action, including a thorough investigation. The reasoning of this case can easily be applied to other nonemployees who come into contact with an employer’s employees- vendors, outside maintenance personnel, salespeople, customers and so on. An employer must be alert as to any such claim that could give rise to a lawsuit.

Antheil Maslow & MacMinn, LLP is proud to sponsor National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Bucks County, PA's Stride for Mental Health Awareness walk.  The walk is Saturday May 18th beginning at 1 pm at Warminster Community Park, 350 E. Bristol Road, Warminster.  Funds raised support NAMI Bucks County's education and support program expansions throughout the area.  NAMI Bucks County is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support and education to end the stigma that surrounds mental health issues,  and promote recovery for individuals living with mental illness. For more information, to donate, sponsor and register, visit www.namibucksstride.org.

https://bit.ly/2V20Y3o

Antheil Maslow & MacMinn Co-founding Partner Susan Maslow received the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Business & Arts Award at the Chamber's 73rd Annual Celebration Luncheon on Friday, April 12th.  This is the Chamber's 23rd Business and Arts Award, which is bestowed on a business person or organization that has extended itself in support of the arts in the community.  Ms. Maslow is being recognized for her extraordinary commitment and creative dedication to the arts in Bucks County through her efforts on the many Bucks Fever Award premier events and other cultural Chamber endeavors. 

Susan Maslow is an experienced general business and transactional attorney, with a long history of service on a variety of local nonprofit boards including Big Brothers Big Sisters Bucks County, Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition, and Pearl S. Buck International.  She has been active on the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors since 2008, and is the current Vice President of Cinema for the Bucks Fever Arts Program.

Recently, the Bucks County Bar Association (“BCBA”), an organization of attorneys dedicated to promoting and advancing the legal system and justice throughout Bucks County, conducted a plebiscite (peer evaluation) to evaluate ten attorneys who announced their candidacy for three vacancies on the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, and the four current Judges of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas who are running for retention.

Election day is Tuesday, May 21st.   To assist in your decision making, here is a link to the plebiscite results.

The divorce is final. No more deadlines to meet, papers to file or waiting time for all of it to be over. Now that the hard part is behind you, it is time for a fresh start. However, there might be a few things remaining for you to do before you can officially move on to the next chapter.

The following is a checklist of things that you might still need to do after your divorce is finalized:

  • Review your divorce decree and create a list of things that you and your former spouse still need to satisfy. It could help if you create a calendar to visualize when certain things are due such as alimony/child support payments or when certain things are scheduled to terminate.

  • Divide investment assets and retirement plans according to the terms of the divorce settlement agreement. Dividing a 401(k) or pension will require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO is a court order telling the administrators of the retirement plan or the 401(k) how to divide the account. Most QDROs need to be drafted by an attorney or a CPA, signed by you and the former spouse, filed with the court and signed by a judge. If you are the recipient of a portion of your former spouse’s retirement account and you need the QDRO, it is imperative that you follow-up with your attorney to ensure the implementation of the QDRO is done in a timely fashion.

  • Update all beneficiary designations with your workplace retirement plans, investment accounts, retirement accounts, trusts, annuities, life insurance, bank accounts, credit cards and any other place you might have listed your former spouse as a beneficiary.

  • Obtain your own insurance coverage for your health, automobile, home and life insurance.

  • Review your credit report to cancel any joint credit cards and close any joint accounts. Also, look through your credit report for any joint debts that you were not aware of.

  • Update your estate planning documents including your will, any trusts, durable and health care power of attorneys.  If you never had a will, this is a good time to consider making one.

  • Change your emergency contacts with your workplace, doctors, health club, etc.

  • If you changed your name back to your maiden name, you will need to notify different agencies. Most importantly, you will need to change your name on your social security card, passport and your driver’s license. You should also consider changing your name on your social media accounts. 

  • Consider changing your passwords to any emails or online accounts (i.e. Paypal, Facebook, etc.) that you might have shared the access information with your former spouse.  Confirm that your spouse isn’t either a signer or authorized user on any of your online accounts.

  • After the divorce, your financial circumstances have likely changed. You should consider developing, by yourself or with the help of a professional, a new financial plan for your new life.

Getting these things done might seem a burden now, after all you have been through, but it is necessary to avoid trouble later on.  It is better that you go through this checklist and handle these issues as soon as your divorce is finalized to prevent possible future complications.

Once these things are done, you get to close that chapter and enjoy your new life with no worries about unhandled matters left over from the divorce.

Elizabeth J. Fineman, a Partner with the law firm of Antheil Maslow & MacMinn, LLP in Doylestown, Bucks County has been named co-editor-in-chief of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Pennsylvania Family Lawyer magazine.  Ms. Fineman shares editor duties with Judy McIntire Springer of Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP in Philadelphia. 

Fineman practices exclusively in family law and handles a variety of issues, including divorce, child support, alimony/spousal support, marital taxation, equitable distribution and child custody matters. She has handled many high-income support cases involving an intricate knowledge of both family law and complex financial issues.

The law firm of Antheil Maslow & MacMinn, LLP will host a meet the candidate event for Bucks County Court of Common Pleas judicial candidate Denise Bowman at its Doylestown office

Tuesday, April 23rd: 7 – 9 pm
131 West State Street

Bowman, an experienced and respected attorney and community leader is a partner at the firm in its Commercial Litigation Department.   She has represented and advocated for numerous businesses, individuals, non-profits and governmental entities throughout Bucks County in a wide variety of civil and commercial disputes.  An attorney for 20 years, she has represented clients at both the trial and appellate levels.  Ms. Bowman is a highly effective negotiator, and she is a formally trained mediator and experienced arbitrator.

Elaine Yandrisevits, an Associate in Antheil Maslow & MacMinn's Estates & Trusts practice group, will participate as faculty on April 23 & 24 at a National Business Institute continuing education program at the Sheraton University City Hotel in Philadelphia.  The program will highlight information crucial to effective adminstration of an estate in Pennsylvania.

This two-day basic level seminar will provide attorneys, accountants, tax professionals Financial Planners, Trust Officers and Paralegals an overview of the latest court and tax rules and the most effective transfer tools to ensure each client's estate is laid to rest according to the decedent's wishes, with minimal tax burden. This comprehensive program will cover all the skills needed to administer estates that include trusts and/or business interests.

Course Content

  • Crucial notice and filing requirements when opening the estate

  • Forms and checklists that will help you in administration.

  • Understand how income and estate tax deductions interact and find the most advantageous way to structure the tax returns

  • Learn how to use disclaimers more effectively.

  • Clarify what must be done when the trust becomes irrevocable.

  • Practical legal ethics guide focused on trusts and estates practice.

  • Prevent mistakes in final petition and ensure each estate is closed quickly and without disputes.

    To register, visit Estate Administration Boot Camp

 

One of the trickiest issues we deal with in business control disputes relates to the impact and management of personal guaranties on the part of the individual shareholders/members.  A personal guaranty can be an impediment to a transaction among the shareholders consolidating ownership, an impediment to the withdrawal of a shareholder/member, or even a trigger of default under the terms of financing agreements in place between a business and its bank.  Managing the impact and expectations of business owners as to a personal guaranty should be considered in the early stages of any potential transaction.

In nearly every small business banking relationship, the bank requires personal guaranties on the part of business owners.  Personal guaranties, often even the more overbearing “spousal” personal guaranties, are the norm.  Of course, the purpose from the bank’s perspective is to increase the level of security against repayment.  The individual terms of the personal guaranty are governed by the language of the agreements. 

The net effect of a personal guaranty is to, in effect, pierce the corporate veil and render the guarantor liable for the debt to the bank (or other creditor party to the guaranty agreement).  In this way, not only does the bank obtain another source from which it can recover, but also dramatically impacts its practical bargaining power.     Often we see shareholder agreements including and incorporating indemnification provisions which reference those situations in which a shareholder/member has guarantied an obligation to a lender.  The value of such indemnification provisions is suspect given that the bank is always going to look to the path of least resistance to recover the extent of its obligation.  In a guaranty the company is the primary obligor to the creditor.  It is the primary obligor’s default which leads to exposure under a personal guaranty.  In that instance, the company is not likely in a position to indemnify as its assets are likely devoted to the repayment of the primary guarantied obligation.

The best and most frequent approach to a personal guaranty in a business control dispute is to secure the release of the guaranty by the bank or other creditor as part of the transaction.  Certainly, if the debt is retired in a third party sale, accounts are closed and the issue is moot.   Not necessarily so in an ownership consolidation transaction involving a transfer among existing owners or members, or where one or more shareholders/members leaves the business.  In that case, the business may continue and banking relationships may remain unmodified.  The bank is not required to release the guaranty.  Even further, under certain circumstances and agreements, a transaction may constitute an event of default of the credit arrangement.  Management of the personal guaranty becomes an important part of the deal.

It is obviously always better to secure a release of a guaranty contemporaneous with a transaction.  If that course of action is unavailable, indemnity is the only other option.  In such cases, indemnification should flow from both the company and individuals as, if the guaranty is ever an issue, it is likely the Company’s ability to pay in the first place, which gives rise to creditor’s pursuit of the guarantor.    

Elaine Yandrisevits, an associate in Antheil Maslow & MacMinn’s Estates and Trusts practice group, will participate as faculty on March 28th at a Pennsylvania Bar Institute continuing education program in Philadelphia, with simulcast at various locations. This basic to intermediate level program will teach the essential procedures for closing an Pennsylvania estate including: the advantages and disadvantages of the methods used to close an estate, steps involved in a Formal Court Accounting and Audit, Family Settlement Agreements and Receipts and Releases.  To register visit www.pbi.org/meetings

Course Content

Examine Each Step of a Formal Court Accounting and the Audit Process

  •  Learn the statutory requirements for filing an account
  • Understand the nuances involved in providing proper notice to an accounting
  • Know what forms to use and when
  • Understand how to handle objections to the accounting and walk through the audit process

Family Settlement Agreements and Receipts and Releases

  • Understand what elements are required in a family settlement agreement
  • Avoid common mistakes when drafting a family settlement agreement
  • Review sample agreements and discuss enforceable issues