Avoiding the Pitfalls of the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA)

Because municipal employees have rights as public employees in the workplace that do not apply in the private sector, it is very important for municipalities to be aware of the issues that arise when employees engage in union activity. While an employer might be inclined to react to unrest in the employee ranks in an assertive or even an aggressive manner, the employer should be informed about relevant legal issues involved in dealing with labor organization matters. In Pennsylvania, there are legal protections for public employees who engage in union organizing and other activities under the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA). 43 Pa.C.S.A. §1101.101 et seq.


Bid Threshold Limit Increased

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reviewed the Consumer Price Index-Urban and announced an increase of 1.5% for 2016. Therefore, on January 1, 2017, the bid thresholds were increased for all contracts and purchases by boroughs, townships, municipal authorities and school districts.


Municipal Leasing

Traditionally, municipalities fund capital projects and essential equipment expenses by using tax revenues, cash reserves built over time or indebtedness through the issuance of such items as municipal bonds and bank financing. There is, however, another underutilized method of financing capital acquisitions, namely municipal leasing. Municipal leasing can provide advantages over more traditional methods of financing, including lower expenses.


The Case of “Wonder” the Service Dog & OCR Withdraws Previous Guidance on Transgender Students

Due to the importance of the Office of Civil Rights' (OCR) recent withdrawal of guidance regarding transgender students and a significant Supreme Court decision regarding Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) administrative procedures, this edition of School Law Snapshot covers both topics.


Let’s Make a Deal! Cautionary Notes for Public School Vendor Contracts

During the 1970’s, a television game show called Let’s Make a Deal entertained viewers by playing on the unknown. The host would present an audience member with a choice framed in the following manner. “I have a $50 bill that I can give you right at this moment can have what is behind Door #3.” Viewers were entertained by the possibility that the prize behind Door #3 could be a new sports car or a goat. While the unknown outcome of a choice made on daytime television was campy entertainment, unknown outcomes for public school entities subject to vendor service contracts are no laughing matter.


School Code Amendments Create Truancy Reform for Pennsylvania Schools

For a number of years, there was a perceived need to reform the provisions of the School Code related to truancy enforcement. In response to that need, Act 138 of 2016 was enacted to address concerns related to reducing excessive school absenteeism.


Labor & Employment Alert: New Overtime Regulations Blocked - Temporary Injunction Granted

Late yesterday we learned that a federal court judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks implementation and enforcement of the Department of Labor's (DOL) revised overtime regulations, which more than doubled the salary threshold for white collar exemptions and were set to take effect December 1, 2016.


Labor & Employment Alert: Election Impact on FLSA Overtime Regulation Changes

We have been getting a number of calls from clients asking what impact last week’s election results will have on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime regulations scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016 – and more importantly, whether employers can now take a “wait and see” approach to the regulations and assume that the new Republican administration and Congress will act to overturn and stop the regulations from taking effect.


Pennsylvania Supreme Court Recognizes Protected Privacy Interest in the Home Addresses of Public Employees

On October 18, 2016, in a case involving a request for the home addresses of public school employees under the Right-to-Know Law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that Article 1, Section 1, of the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees the right to informational privacy and that interest may not be violated unless it is outweighed by the public's interest in disclosure. It also notes that certain types of information including home addresses by their very nature implicate privacy concerns that require the courts to balance individual privacy interests and the public's interest in disclosure. The privacy interests of public school employees in protecting their home addresses from disclosure outweighs the public's interest in acquiring access to that information under the Right-to-Know Law.
The Supreme Court also reasoned that public employees should be afforded the opportunity to object to the disclosure of private information. However, the Court also concluded the issue was moot in the case before it.


Hello. This is a message from... FCC Issues Ruling on School "Robocalls"

Unless you happen to fall within the shrinking minority of Americans who do not use a cellphone, you have probably received a telemarketing robocall that promises a Florida vacation or an opportunity to pursue a new career that will make you rich within six months. While such calls have become a common nuisance in our everyday lives, the use of automated calls or "robocalls" by school entities has become a common, convenient way for schools to send out announcements regarding matters that range from routine notifications about school events to updates about school emergencies. Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Declaratory Ruling that provides important guidelines for schools related to a school's use of robocalls and automated texts under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).


Is Your School Website Accessible? Looking Beyond Pretty Lights & Colors

As someone who frequently relies on my wife for technical assistance with my personal laptop, tablet and smartphone, I can be easily distracted by the pretty lights and colors associated with most websites. While visual aesthetics might be a consideration for the design of school district websites, compliance with accessibility requirements under federal law should be a high priority in the design and maintenance of such sites.


Catching Fireflies & Understanding School Code Amendments on Student Diabetes Care

For some, Summer evokes memories of camping, swimming, catching fireflies and other childhood endeavors. For many involved in public education in Pennsylvania, it also means attempting to understand the latest amendments to the Pennsylvania School Code to prepare for the upcoming school year. Some of the more recent changes to the School Code include statutory changes that will affect the way school districts manage the treatment and care of students with diabetes.