North America

A New Bill is Proposed in Massachusetts Legislature to Adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act

A new Uniform Trade Secrets Act bill has been proposed by the Massachusetts Board of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws for the Massachusetts Legislature to consider in its 2015 legislative session. The proposed bill represents another effort to bring Massachusetts law protecting trade secrets in line with that of the vast majority of other states. As discussed here last August, previous efforts to reform Massachusetts law on trade secrets and non-compete agreements have failed, including Governor Patrick’s efforts in the last legislative session to make non-compete agreements unenforceable in Massachusetts.

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Pat Williams presented at CHOA Fall Program

Pat Williams presented this past Saturday, November 22, 2014 at the Condominium Home Owner’s Association of BC (CHOA) Fall Strata Education Program. Pat presented on the subject of Insurance for the Strata Corporation, Council, Owner and Tenant.

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OSHA Announces Its Regulatory Priorities for 2015

On November 21, 2014, the Department of Labor released its Agency Rule List, which provides the status of all rulemaking efforts at each of its agencies.  OSHA dominated the list of regulatory activity in the Department, listing 26 regulations in the prerule, proposed rule, and final rule stages. 

Of these 26 items, OSHA announced that its top regulatory priorities include:

  • Efforts to control exposure to crystalline silica
  • Enhancements to current infectious disease protocols in healthcare and other high risk environments
  • Issuance of a final rule modernizing its reporting system for occupational injuries and illnesses, requiring electronic submission of injury and illness survey data, which, notably, would be made publicly available
  • Issuance of final rules regarding procedures for handling whistleblower complaints under 9 of the 22 federal statutes which include whistleblower protection provisions that OSHA has been tasked with investigating and enforcing
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EBG is Featured Webinar Speaker – Safety of Temporary Workers in California: Strategies for Meeting Cal/OSHA and Fed/OSHA Compliance Obligations

On Monday, December 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific, our colleague Alka Ramchandani will be a featured speaker in a webinar hosted by California Employer Resources.

Ms. Ramchandani will identify the potential risks and liability associated with retaining temporary workers in California. She will provide strategies on how to minimize risk and liability when hiring temporary workers by ensuring all contractual agreements, expectations, and performance requirements are in place. 

As California companies hire more temporary workers to deal with economic, staffing, and business challenges, more employers are at risk for noncompliance with state and federal safety regulations regarding temporary workers. Although temporary contractor agencies in California are, in theory, responsible for the workers’ safety, your company as the host could be found responsible and held liable for work-related injuries and illnesses of temporary workers. 

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RSS successfully defends a firm having performed a pre-purchase inspection of a building

November 24, 2014 — Benoît Chartier successfully represented an engineering firm against a claim of some $400K arising from the discovery of a partial settlement of a building. The firm had inspected the building, a retirement home, that had been sold through a complex series of transactions.

The Superior Court’s decision, released on November 14, released our client from liability, for two reasons:

  1. Because of the series of transactions that led to the sale, our client had no obligation towards the plaintiff since the parties had no legal relationship between them;
  2. Our client had correctly carried out the mandate it had been given.

ASL (Lavolière), l.p. c. Vallières, 2014 QCCS 5475 (CANLII)

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Curing Deficiencies in Wills – Contrasting British Columbia and Alberta

In previous blog posts dated February 28 and May 27, we suggested that when the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”) came into force, the legal landscape had changed and interesting court cases would follow.  One such change to the landscape is section 58 of WESA, which allows the Court to cure deficiencies in Wills.  If a document does not comply with the formal requirements for a Will, it may nonetheless be declared to have the legal effect of a valid Will.  To date, there have not been any British Columbia cases decided under section 58.

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Complimentary Webinar – OSHA Forecast: Developments To Watch in 2015 and Beyond

To register for this webinar, please click here.

Join Valerie Butera, Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST for a 60-minute webinar.

This webinar will delve deeper into OSHA issues that will impact a wider range of industries in 2015.   In addition to a greater focus on enforcements and inspections, changes will occur for recording injuries and illnesses in the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Recordkeeping log as well as reporting changes of severe injuries or illnesses.

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SEC Office of the Whistleblower Files Annual Report to Congress on Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program

Last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower, created in 2011 pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, released its mandated report to Congress on operations for Fiscal Year 2014, ending on September 30, 2014.  A number of interesting facts, statistics and developments were reported.  Here is a selection of particularly relevant highlights:

  • FY 2014 was the most active year yet in terms of whistleblower awards. The SEC has made awards to 14 whistleblowers since inception of the program, including 9 in 2014 alone.
  • “To date, over 40% of the individuals who received awards were current or former employees;” another 20% were company consultants or contractors, or had been solicited to act as consultants.
  • According to the SEC, over 80% of those receiving awards reportedly raised their concerns internally to supervisors or compliance professionals before going to the SEC, which means nearly 20% are still skipping internal whistleblower reporting policies and systems.
  • “Several of the cases in which a whistleblower received an award concerned firms involved in the financial services industry, with some involving broker-dealers.”  Alleged wrongdoing included on-going Ponzi schemes, false or misleading statements in offering memoranda or marketing materials, and false pricing information.
  • On September 22, 2014, the SEC authorized payment of its largest whistleblower award to date — over $30 million.  This was the fourth overseas whistleblower to receive an award, highlighting that whistleblowers around the world are eligible for awards and the importance for employers of implementing whistleblower and compliance policies globally.
  • On August 29, 2014, the SEC authorized its first award to a compliance or audit professional – over $300,000 to an auditor who blew the whistle internally and waited 120 days before reporting to the SEC, during which time the company had taken no action on the allegations.  The auditor therefore satisfied one of the exceptions to exclusion from eligibility for awards for compliance and audit professionals.
  • On July 31, 2014, the SEC issued an award of over $400,000 to an independent agent of an insurance company, who had “aggressively worked internally to bring the securities law violation to the attention of appropriate personnel in an effort to obtain corrective action” regarding misleading descriptions of financial products.  Although the SEC did not disclose the name of the whistleblower or the company, the whistleblower himself went to the press after receiving the award, identifying himself as well as his employer in telling his story.
  • On June 16, 2014, the SEC exercised its own anti-retaliation enforcement authority for the first time, charging a hedge fund advisory firm with retaliating against its head trader for reporting prohibited principal transactions to the SEC.  The alleged retaliatory acts included removing the whistleblower from his position and making him a compliance assistant, stripping him of supervisory responsibility, and making him investigate the very wrongdoing he reported to the SEC without any meaningful resources to do so.  The firm and its owner paid $2.2 million to settle the charges – with full disclosure by the SEC of, and publicity regarding, the identity of the firm and its owner.

The full report is available on the SEC’s Office of Whistleblower website – click here.

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American Hospital Association Features EBG’s “Eye on Ebola” Webinar

Epstein Becker Green’s slides from the “Eye on Ebola: A Discussion About the Health Regulatory, Risk Management, and Labor and Employment Issues Impacting Health Care Providers” webinar is featured on the American Hospital Association’s Ebola Preparedness Resourcesclick here.

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HOWARD P. SPEICHER CONFIRMED FOR LAND COURT JUDGESHIP

Howard P. Speicher has been appointed as a judge in the Land Court. The Governor’s Council unanimously approved Mr. Speicher’s appointment on November 12. Mr. Speicher will fill the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Judge Harry M. Grossman.

“It has been an honor and privilege to practice with Howard for over 30 years, and we wish him all the best,” said C. Michael Malm, a founding partner of Davis Malm. “His litigation skills and dedication to the community will serve him well as a judge. While we will surely miss him and the many contributions he makes to our firm and our clients, we are proud of his accomplishments and have no doubt that he will serve the Land Court bench with distinction.”

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