News and Publications

05.11.2017
Article

Commonwealth Court Concludes a Pencil is Not a "Weapon" in Student Expulsion Case

In the case of S.A. v. Pittsburgh Public School District, the Commonwealth Court recently held that a pencil is not a "weapon" for the purpose of enforcing the district's student code of conduct.

03.01.2017
Article

The Importance of Developing Job Descriptions & Employee Handbooks

For municipal officials who may never have been required to think about, much less participate in, traditional human resources tasks such as recruiting and hiring staff, developing and implementing employee policies, and receiving and processing employee complaints, engaging in those tasks may be daunting and unpleasant.

03.01.2017
Article

Tax Relief for Volunteer Fire Fighters & Emergency Medical Service Agencies

Pennsylvania volunteer fire fighters and emergency service professionals received a Christmas gift from our legislature when Act 172 of 2016 was adopted last year. Act 172 authorizes municipalities to adopt an ordinance providing tax relief in the form of a tax credit for volunteer fire fighters and emergency service professionals residing within the municipality.

03.01.2017
Article

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.

03.01.2017
Article

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.

03.01.2017
Article

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.

02.24.2017
Article

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.

01.30.2017
Article

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 or...you 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.

12.01.2016
Article

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.

11.23.2016
Article

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.

11.16.2016
Article

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.

10.24.2016
Article

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.

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