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News Release: MRR Promotes Tami Zupkow Hannon to Partner

Tami HannnonMazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., LPA (MRR) is pleased to announce Tami Zupkow Hannon has been elected to the firm’s partnership.

Tami joined MRR’s Cleveland office in 2007. Her practice concentration is civil rights defense. She has represented numerous governmental agencies, elected and appointed officials, and has extensive experience in defending law enforcement departments, officers and correctional facilities. She combines her civil defense experience with her knowledge of employment law to provide timely, personalized and comprehensive employment guidance to both public and private employers. Tami has been named an Ohio Super Lawyer Rising Star for Municipal Law since 2013. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Akron School of Law. She received her undergraduate degree from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

“We are very proud of Tami’s accomplishments and extremely pleased to welcome her as a partner,” said MRR Managing Partner and President Joe Nicholas. “She is a remarkably talented and creative lawyer.”

MRR Ohio Legislation Update: December 18, 2015 – December 31, 2015

Notes from the Senate:

  • S.B. No. 256 was introduced to generally require law enforcement agencies to maintain a policy designed to eliminate biased policing and status-based profiling

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

Stacy Pollock 8860

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Getting Social – How Law Enforcement Can (And Should) Be Using Social Media

By: Curtis M. Graham, Esq.

There is no question that social networking websites have changed the way we live and connect. These sites have also presented opportunities and challenges for law enforcement departments around the country. From community outreach to criminal investigations, it is clear that law enforcement officials have a valuable new tool at their disposal. However, it is critical that they understand how to properly use these sites and avoid common pitfalls.

A recent survey found that Facebook is the most fruitful social network for law enforcement, followed by YouTube. The various social media outlets can be searched when law enforcement officials suspect that a particular individual may be openly boasting about criminal activity or posting incriminating photographs or videos online. Officials may also receive tips through their department’s home page which can then be followed up on. If there is an urgent situation (such as a credible threat of violence), officials may file an emergency request with the site to access information. However, many sites have their own legal teams to review requests and the standard for having such a request granted is very high.

The creation of a sound internal policy is the first step toward using social media to an agency’s benefit. Drafting this policy will require consideration of a number of issues, the most important being compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The logical starting point is the Fourth Amendment, which provides that every person has the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of their “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Officials should be mindful that the degree of Fourth Amendment protection is almost entirely dependent upon the location from which information is seized, the method of its collection and the type of information obtained. Another source of guidance is 28 CFR Part 23, which is a standard for law enforcement agencies that operate federally funded, multijurisdictional criminal intelligence systems. The purpose behind the regulation is to protect individuals’ privacy and constitutional rights during the collection, storage and dissemination of criminal intelligence information.

Each social networking website features its own unique characteristics; this means a one-size-fits-all approach to drafting a policy should be avoided. However, it is always a good idea to be educated about privacy settings and terms-of-service requirements that seem to apply across all platforms. As just one example, photographs that are posted on public, unrestricted profile pages are treated differently than information on pages viewable only by “friends” of the user when it comes to privacy expectations.

With the abundance of information now available online, law enforcement agencies must take steps to ensure that they are following the law when they gather and act on that information. A thorough social media policy can go a long way in achieving that goal.


For questions or more information on “Getting Social – How Law Enforcement Can (And Should) Be Using Social Media,” contact:


Curtis M. Graham  – MRR Lexington
Phone: 859.899.8516
Fax: 859.899.8498
Email: cgraham@mrrlaw.com

MRR Article: Long Term Experience Need Not Apply!

Can Requesting Certain Experience Levels Expose You to Liability for Age Discrimination?

By: Tami Z. Hannon, Esq.

We’ve all seen the ads – “seeking a candidate with 5 – 7 years of experience” or “seeking entry level candidates.” But at some point do these ads put you and your company at risk for a claim of age discrimination?  That was just the issue recently addressed by Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals in the case of Ceglia v. Youngstown State University when the Court was called upon to determine whether a request for a “mid-career level” applicant was code for age discrimination.

In that case, Youngstown State sought an applicant for a full-time instructor position. The plaintiff, who had over 20 years of experience, applied for the position. When he was not interviewed or selected for the position, the plaintiff asked why. He was told that the University was looking for “mid-career” applicants and not “someone who had been around for a long time.” Neither of these requirements was expressly stated in the job posting. Instead, the University chose to hire a 44-year old applicant who had little prior teaching experience.

The plaintiff sued alleging age discrimination. The Court of Claims dismissed the case, finding that the search committee had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not offering the position to the plaintiff in light of alleged past performance issues. The plaintiff appealed. The Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision, finding that it was a question for the jury as to whether “mid-career level” and not wanting “someone who had been around for a long time” was actually code for age discrimination.

In addressing these issues, the Court reasoned that these comments created an inference that the Committee denied the applicant the position because of his age, despite the Committee’s statements that they were referring to career experience. Further troubling to the Court was the fact that the position was awarded to someone who was NOT a mid-career level individual. While the Court did not ultimately determine whether there was in fact discrimination, the Court found that there was enough evidence to present the case to a jury. In other words, the court was not willing to dismiss the case without going to a full trial.

So what can you do to protect yourself from similar claims?

  • Clearly state what qualifications are being sought in the job posting. Make certain any specified qualifications are related to the position being sought and the needs of the organization.
  • Focus on the needs of the position, not the qualifications of the candidate – especially qualifications that can directly relate to the age of a candidate. For example, rather than “mid-career level” applicant, use phrases such as “entry-level position” or “mid-level position” to refer to the job level.
  • Interview applicants that fit within the parameters of the stated requirements and qualifications for your job. If you are listing a requirement in your posting, the individuals interviewed and selected should fit within those requirements.

In light of developing and changing laws, it is always a good idea to constantly review hiring procedures. If you have any questions or concerns about your practices or policies, please contact MRR and we would be happy to review those with you.


For questions or more information on “Long Term Experience Need Not Apply!,” contact:


Tami Z. Hannon  – MRR Cleveland
Phone: 440.424.0009
Fax: 440.248.8861
Email: thannon@mrrlaw.com

When Filming is a Protected First Amendment Right

In 2014, the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, determined that citizens have a clearly established constitutional right to film police officers performing their duties. See Crawford v. Geiger, 996 F.Supp.2d 603 (N.D. Ohio 2014). Federal courts across the country, including the First, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal, have upheld an individual’s right to record officers. Id. at 617. The opinion in Crawford noted that freedom of the press gives the general public the right to record events considered “newsworthy.” New technology allows for almost instantaneous distribution of this newsworthy content. Id. at 61.

At the time of the decision in Crawford, no federal appellate court considering the issue had ruled against a citizen filming police. Id. at 617. While recognizing a constitutional right to film police officers, the right is not absolute. “[A]s of August 26, 2012, the right of a citizen to film police activity in a public setting where there was no present danger of harm to officers or others was clearly established.” Id. at 616.

An individual in the Northern District of Ohio has a constitutionally protected right to record an officer performing his or her duties. However, officers can limit recordings when members of the public actually interfere with police activities, create an unsafe environment, or prevent officers from doing their jobs. Annoyance at the presence of a news-gathering citizen is not enough to limit filming. If a citizen creates a dangerous situation by recording an officer’s activities, the officer should ask the citizen to stop recording; however, the officer should not take the recording device and/or search it without a warrant. Failure to obtain a search warrant may result in additional constitutional violations. Public policy favors dissemination of information on government action, which is reinforced with the decision in Crawford protecting the public’s right to record police officers.


 

News Release: MRR attorneys named 2016 Ohio Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

MRR is pleased to announce that two of its Ohio attorneys have been selected as 2016 Ohio Super Lawyers and another four have been named 2016 Ohio Rising Stars by Super Lawyers magazine.

The Super Lawyers selection process evaluates lawyers based upon multiple criteria, including professional achievement and peer recognition; honors and awards; firm and bar involvement and leadership; scholarship and professional writings; community service and pro bono activities; and other outstanding achievements.

“Rising Stars” are the top up-and-coming attorneys who have been practicing for no more than 10 years. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

MRR’s attorneys selected as 2016 Ohio Super Lawyers:

Cleveland: Todd M. Raskin and Frank H. Scialdone

Todd Raskin

Raskin

Frank Sciadone

Scialdone

 

 

 

 

 

 


MRR’s attorneys selected as 2016 Ohio Rising Stars:

Cleveland: Tami Z. Hannon, Mary Beth Klemencic, and Cara M. Wright.

Columbus: Stacy V. Pollock

Tami Hannnon

Hannon

Mary Beth Klemencic

Klemencic

Cara Wright

Wright

SVP.V2

Pollock

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Law Enforcement and the ADA

By: Casey C. Stansbury, Esq.

Law enforcement officers encounter individuals with disabilities nearly every day. These disabilities may include people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with epilepsy or cerebral palsy, persons with autism or Asperger’s, and persons with psychiatric difficulties. However, case law across the country has been inconsistent in determining the circumstances under which police can be held liable when dealing with a person with a mental disability. Questions frequently arise when police interact with individuals who may be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The most recent United States Supreme Court case to deal with these issues is Sheehan v. the City and County of San Francisco.

In Sheehan, the Court was asked to determine whether two San Francisco police officers could be sued over their use of force when arresting a knife-wielding woman with a history of mental illness in a confrontation in which the woman was shot multiple times. In the 6-2 decision released in May of this year, the Court granted the officers qualified immunity on the Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim. However, the Court did not address whether the officers should have provided the Plaintiff with “accommodations” or taken special precautions under the ADA because of her disability.

Cases like Sheehan are extremely fact-intensive and ADA concerns merit special attention by law enforcement departments in training and development of official policies and procedures as well as consideration by officers in the field when encountering members of the public with suspected disabilities. This blog will be updated with developments in this rapidly changing area of law.


For questions or more information on “Law Enforcement and the ADA,” contact:


Casey C. Stansbury  – MRR Lexington
Phone: 800.936.9198
Fax: 440.248.8861
Email: cstansbury@mrrlaw.com

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder ranked in 2016 U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Firms”

BLF 2014_Silver_GeneralMazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., LPA (MRR) is pleased to announce its inclusion in the Best Law Firms list for 2016, published by U.S. News & World Report in conjunction with Best Lawyers. MRR received a Metropolitan Tier 1 ranking in Cleveland, Civil Rights Law.

“We are very proud to be held in such high esteem by our clients and peers time after time, achieving professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings,” said Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr., MRR’s President and Managing Partner. We are thrilled to once again be chosen as one of the region’s top law firms.”

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings, for the sixth consecutive year, are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. Clients and peers were asked to evaluate firms based on the following criteria: responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, integrity and civility, as well as whether they would refer a matter to the firm and/or consider the firm a worthy competitor.

ABOUT “BEST LAW FIRMS”
The U.S. News – Best Lawyers ® “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer listed in the 21st Edition of The Best Lawyers in America © list for that particular location and specialty.

ABOUT U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT
U.S. News & World Report is a digital news information company that empowers people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affection their lives. Focusing on Education, Health, Personal Finance, Travel, Cars and News & Opinion, www.usnews.com provides consumer advice, rankings, news and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all stages of life. 30 million people visit www.usnews.com each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, DC.

Three MRR Attorneys Named to 2016 “Best Lawyers in America” List

2016 Best Lawyers firm logoMRR is pleased to announce that three attorneys have been named to the 2016 Edition of Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review 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, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

MRR would like to congratulate Todd M. Raskin (Civil Rights law), John T. McLandrich (Civil Rights law) and Stacy V. Pollock (Education law) for being named among the Best Lawyers in America for 2016.

Todd Raskin is a founding partner of MRR and has tried more than 100 cases to conclusion in 35 years of private practice. His diverse practice focuses on civil rights and government liability defense, as well as the defense of both public and private employers. He has defended clients in state and federal courts throughout Ohio and surrounding states, including in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Ohio Supreme Court.

John McLandrich, MRR’s Chairman of the Board, has defended civil claims in federal and state courts throughout Ohio for more than 25 years. He has also served as lead counsel on over 100 public entity appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Both Todd and John have consistently been selected Best Lawyers for Civil Rights law, in addition to each being selected as “Lawyer of The Year” by Best Lawyers in America for Civil Rights law in Cleveland, Ohio, respectively, in 2013 and 2014.

Stacy Pollock, a first-time recipient, is an associate in MRR’s Columbus office selected for her work in Education law. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources who represents and advises public and private employers in labor and workers’ compensation matters, including schools and school administrators.

About Best Lawyers®
Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Because Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which almost 50,000 leading attorneys cast nearly five million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas, and because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. The Best Lawyers in America© 2015 (Copyright 2013 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, SC). For more information, visit bestlawyers.com.

MRR Article: The State of Transgender Employment Discrimination

By: Neil S. Sarkar, Esq.
Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., LPA

Virtually everyone has been talking over the last few months about Caitlyn Jenner, the transwoman (formerly) known as Bruce Jenner, perhaps due to the potentially polarizing nature of the subject involving how to interact with transgender persons in our society.

At the same time, many still remain unfamiliar with the laws addressing the issue of transgender discrimination, including in the workplace. Regardless of how business owners or other employers might feel personally about this subject, suffice it to say that it is here to stay as are accompanying legal obligations to ensure transgender civil rights in the workplace. With this in mind, now appears to be an opportune time to review some of the new rules in place and recent cases that may apply to employers.

In early June, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a guidance on transgender bathroom access. OSHA promulgated this guidance based on its pronouncement that transgender employees should have the right of restroom access that corresponds to their gender identity. This guidance has been instituted with an eye towards ensuring that transgender employees are given the right to work in a way that is consistent with how they live the rest of their daily lives—regardless of their actual birth gender.

In its guidance, OSHA cites laws that call for the idea of affording employees access to restroom facilities based on gender identity. In describing best practices, OSHA indicates that many employers have adopted written policies of their own to ensure that all employees – including transgender employees – have prompt access to appropriate facilities. Workplace safety is implicated because OSHA states that restricting employees to using only restrooms that are inconsistent with their gender identity, for example, “singles out” transgender persons and may otherwise make them avoid using bathrooms altogether while at work, potentially causing them physical injury or illness as a result. OSHA’s guidance calls for employers to find solutions that are safe and convenient and respect transgender employees.

At the same time, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently filed an employment transgender discrimination lawsuit against a Michigan employer in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. This region is part of the Sixth Circuit, which means that if the case is appealed, this decision could apply to employers in Ohio. In this case, the plaintiff, Aimee Stephens, formerly worked as an employee at Michigan-based funeral home, where Stephens was its funeral director. By all indications, Stephens worked there for years until one day, July 31, 2013, she sent her employer a letter that she would be undergoing a gender transition from male to female and thereafter would be wearing appropriate female business attire while on the job. In the EEOC’s complaint, it is alleged that the employer fired Stephens about two weeks later, telling Stephens that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable.

Filing suit, the EEOC asserted that this employer violated Stephens’ rights based on gender-based considerations, thereby violating Title VII which prohibits sex discrimination in employment. More precisely, the EEOC alleged that Stephens was fired because she failed to conform to sex or gender-based preferences, expectations or stereotypes in the workplace.

In response, the employer moved to dismiss the EEOC’s lawsuit on the grounds that transgender employees are not in a legally protected class under Title VII as other individuals are in the legally protected class based, for example, on race, color, religion, gender or national origin. Denying the employer’s motion, the Court noted that the lawsuit should proceed based on the EEOC’s legal argument that the employer in this case fired Stephens for failing to conform to its own gender-based preferences, expectations or stereotypes.

This analysis is important, and employers should take heed: had the EEOC simply argued that Stephens, as a trans-sexual, should have legally protected class status, the Court would have granted the employer’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, the Court focused on the point that the EEOC asserted that Stephens was being discriminated against in violation of Title VII because she failed to conform to her employer’s own gender-based preferences, expectations or stereotypes. That is, Stephens was being discriminated against based on unlawful sex-stereotyping gender discrimination. As such, this lawsuit will be allowed to proceed to adjudication. Further, it is precisely the legal issue of improper gender-based stereotyping against trans-gender individuals or, in some instances, individuals with a specific sexual orientation that many employers do not understand. As such, many of these same employers, just like the funeral home in the above case, not only may not understand what they should be considering to do so as to comply with Title VII and other applicable state or local laws; they also may be subject to legal liability for failing to take proactive steps to address these issues.

Based on OSHA’s recent guidance, heightened attention to the issues of transgender discrimination, and cases such as these, it behooves employers – regardless of how they may personally feel on this topic–to do the following in order to prevent, position, and protect their business and comply with applicable laws:

  • Adopt a well drafted policy prohibiting against gender and trans-gender discrimination and harassment;
  • Provide appropriate training (including anti-harassment training) for all personnel, including both managers and employees, to identify and prevent and/or remedy gender and trans-gender discrimination and harassment;
  • Ensure that these policies also are consistent with any other personnel policies, including those concerning workplace harassment, equal employment opportunity, and social media use;
  • Consider adopting similar policies pertaining to preventing and correcting sexual orientation discrimination; and
  • Make sure your policies confirm to all applicable federal, state and local laws that apply to your workplace

For more information or if you have any questions, contact Neil at 440.287.8292 or via email at nsarkar@mrrlaw.com.

Neil SarkarAbout the Author: Neil S. Sarkar is a Partner with Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder. He focuses his practice on employment and labor law, civil rights and government liability, in addition to counseling and litigation, business law and insurance defense. He devotes much of his practice to defending employers before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Labor Relations Board and state government agencies including the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the State Employment Relations Board.