Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., LPA (MRR) is pleased to announce that seven attorneys have been named to the 2018 Edition of Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most respected peer-reviewed publication in the legal profession. Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America© list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise.
MRR would like to congratulate the following attorneys named to the 2018 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© list:
Todd M. Raskin (Cleveland), Civil Rights Law
John T. McLandrich (Cleveland), Civil Rights Law
Thomas S. Mazanec (Cleveland), Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr. (Cleveland), Transportation Law
George V. Pilat (Cleveland), Insurance Law
Stacy V. Pollock (Columbus), Education Law
Barry M. Miller (Lexington), Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Insurance
About Best Lawyers®
Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. Over 79,000 leading attorneys globally are eligible to vote, and we have received more than 12 million votes to date on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. For the 2016 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, 6.7 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 55,000 leading lawyers being included in the new edition. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.” For more information, visit bestlawyers.com.
Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a Request for Information seeking comment from the public regarding the regulations governing overtime exemptions. As you likely recall, the DOL revised the salary requirement in 2016 to require that exempt employees be paid a minimum of $913 per week (or $47,476 per year). This was a substantial increase from the 2004 level, which was set at $455 per week, or $23,660 per year. That regulation met with a legal challenge and was temporarily blocked by a federal court in Texas. While that litigation is still ongoing over whether the DOL has the authority to require any minimum salary requirement, the DOL has indicated its intent not to enforce the $913 per week requirement.
In light of the litigation, along with President Trump’s Executive Order requiring administrative agencies to minimize regulatory burden, the DOL has issued a Request for Information to assist it in creating updated overtime rules. The Request for Information is open until September 25, and indicates that the DOL is open to considering a large change to the overtime regulations. The Request seeks feedback on everything from the amount of the minimum salary to the duties of exempt employees to whether there should be no minimum salary requirement at all. Specifically, the DOL requests comment on:
- Whether the $455 minimum level should be increased by an amount equal to inflation? If so, what is the appropriate measure of inflation?
- Whether the $455 minimum level should be modified to continue to exclude the lowest 20% of salaried workers in the lowest paying region, as was used in establishing the 2004 level?
- Alternatively, should the minimum level be set based upon a defining factor, such as employer size, geographic region, metropolitan area, or other factor?
- Should different minimum salary levels be set for the executive, administrative and professional exemptions rather than having one generally applicable level?
- How well does the salary amount match with the duties test? Does the salary level become the predominate factor? If not, at what point does the salary level no longer serve as a reliable indicator of exempt status? Would it be better to have solely a duties test? If so, what duties would accurately show exempt status?
- Should the standard duties test be updated? If so, with what duties?
- How did you respond to the 2016 revisions? Did you increase wages, decrease hours, switch to an hourly rate, lower the hourly rate to maintain the same pay level, change overtime policies, or some other method?
- Does it appear that certain occupations were no longer included as exempt under the higher rate? Did those occupations spend 20 – 40% of their time performing exempt functions?
- Was the cap at permitting no more than 10% of the minimum salary requirement to be paid by non-discretionary bonus a good level? Should it be tied to salary level?
- Should the minimum level be set to automatically adjust? If so, what measurement should be used? How often should it be adjusted?
This is merely the first step in the review process, but it does indicate a likelihood that revisions are forthcoming, potentially substantial. Given the political climate, any revisions would likely be more business friendly. I would not anticipate seeing any new regulations this year, but perhaps a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and draft regulations could be out next spring. Comments can be submitted by mail or electronically. Instructions for submitting comments are included in the Request for Information. MRR will continue to monitor the DOL for any new guidance on this subject.
“Tots, Blocks, and…Glocks? The Perils of Arming School Staff” by Tia Combs and appearing in the June issue of For the Defense.
Employers employing independent contractors, temp workers, and other individuals potentially involved in joint employment relationships should be breathing a bit of a sigh of relief these days. On June 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) withdrew guidance that had been in place since as early as 2015. This guidance, developed under the Obama Administration, emphasized a broad interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and supported prior efforts to crack down on employers potentially classifying employees and not complying with wage and hour laws. Not surprisingly, this withdrawal of the guidance creates a more employer-friendly environment.
Effectively, this should not change how employers operate. This withdrawal does not mean that employers can be lax in complying with federal wage laws. In announcing the withdrawal, the DOL made it a point to state that it will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction. This withdrawal, however, potentially signals that the Trump Administration will be focusing its enforcement on other areas of the law. MRR will continue to monitor the DOL for any new guidance on these subjects.
Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder (“MRR”) attorneys Todd Raskin and Frank Scialdone earned a unanimous appellate decision in favor of an Ohio township that had been improperly subjected to a probate court’s authority.
Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals reversed and vacated the Geauga County Probate Court’s ruling that invalidated a contractual agreement between a park district and Chester Township. In re Creation of Park Dist. Within Chester Twp., 2017-Ohio-4031. The agreement defined the scope of the park district’s involvement with the township’s park lands. The Eleventh District also rejected the probate court’s imposition of costs on the township for the probate court’s use of a master commissioner that consulted with a park district on allegations of financial misconduct. MRR founding partner Todd Raskin and partner Frank Scialdone handled the case on behalf of MRR’s client, Chester Township.
The heart of the case involved whether the probate court had jurisdiction over Chester Township. Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell had initially invoked the probate court’s “continuing jurisdiction” over the township based on its role in the creation of the park district in the early 1980s. In 1984, the Chester Township Board of Trustees (“Trustees”) had applied to create the Chester Township Park District (the “Park District”) in the probate court. The primary question on appeal was: Did the probate court maintain jurisdiction over the Trustees and the township as a political entity either through the exercise of its plenary power to enforce the terms of the 1984 order creating the Park District or, otherwise, through the probate court’s continuing jurisdiction over the Park District as provided in R.C. Chapter 1545.
The unanimous Eleventh District answered that question with a resounding no. The appellate court agreed with MRR’s arguments that the probate court exceeded its jurisdiction.
In this unique and complex matter, MRR’s Raskin and Scialdone asserted that probate courts have sharply limited responsibilities over Chapter 1545 park districts. In accord with MRR’s arguments, the Eleventh District held that there are no statutory provisions allowing a probate court “a general supervisory power over park district matters or  any additional jurisdiction over a party or entity other than the park district’s board of commissioners.”
The probate court’s effort to exercise broad jurisdiction over non-parties (the Township) was in part based on the court’s mistaken belief that it had “plenary power,” or complete power, over these matters. MRR asserted, and the Eleventh District held, that while “plenary power” exists in some instances not applicable to the present dispute, those matters must still be “properly before the Court” or based on a statutory grant of jurisdiction. The probate court exceeded its jurisdiction when it tried to interfere with and alter the terms of a contract entered into between the Trustees and the Park District, an agreement between two independent public entities that had been in force for decades. The Eleventh District rejected the probate court’s belief that the 1984 order gave it continuing authority. The 30-plus-year-old order did not impose any duties on the Township and the appellate court explained “there are no terms of that order to be enforced in perpetuity.”
The probate court also attempted to impose on the Township a portion of the almost $40,000 in fees of the “master commissioner” who the probate court used to investigate the conduct of the Park District Commissioners. The Eleventh District expressly rejected the imposition of fees because the probate court did not have jurisdiction.
After reviewing extensive briefing and hearing oral argument, the Eleventh District concluded that Chester Township was “not a party over which the probate court has continuing jurisdiction – the township has no authority to remove or appoint any of the Commissioners. The master commissioner’s fees imposed as costs against the township were improper.”