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Business Formation & Planning Archives

What's an employer's obligation dealing with sexual harassment?

If you are planning to open a one-person business in Pittsburgh, you might not need to worry too much about the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have a team of people around you, however, that's another story. Business planning that addresses the broad scope of issues is necessary, including establishing employment policies and assigning consequences in cases of sexual harassment.

Whether you hire full or part-time employees or engage independent contractors in your business, there are laws that you need to comply with to protect your workers. In addition to that, you want to avoid the hassle and costly loss of goodwill that can occur when harassment allegations arise.

The necessity of employer vigilance

Considering the headlines that have splashed across the internet news outlets in recent weeks, it's apparent that issues surrounding sexual harassment are coming front and center. The spotlight is not dim in Pennsylvania, either. As recently reported, there are issues at the State Capitol as well.

Something that should also raise the awareness of current and prospective employers is a recent federal court decision out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the matter of Jones v. Pennsylvania State Police, a female trooper is claiming that two corporals in her chain of command failed to take prompt action when they were aware, or should have been aware, of harassment by a fellow trooper. To be clear, the alleged misconduct was brought to a halt, but the claimant alleges that it went on for nearly a year before that happened.

In the course of the discovery phase of the case, the PSP noted that it had acted to end the harassment and asked the court for summary judgment. But the court ruled there is a question of fact for a trial to determine about whether the two corporals were management-level employees and whether they acted promptly enough.

The takeaway from the decision, according to legal observers, is that while the law appears clear on what constitutes sexual harassment, there still can be questions about what constitutes proper and timely management response. This requires employers to remain vigilant which means working with experienced legal counsel, like those at Kisner Law Firm, to create a proactive plan to help prevent and defend against harassment and contacting your legal team if questions do arise. 

2018 marks sales tax changes in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Legislature modified its state sales and use tax laws for 2018. Some of the changes are already in effect and others will be rolling out in the coming months.

House Bill 542 was passed on October 30, 2017 after several amendments. The biggest change in the law will affect out-of-state vendors.

The law imposes new requirements on marketplace facilitators, referrers and remote vendors that do at least $10,000 worth of annual sales in Pennsylvania. Starting March 1, 2018 they will now have an obligation to collect and remit tax on sales delivered into the state.

Pennsylvania is offering an opt-out to businesses that comply with reporting requirements and register with the Department of Revenue by March 31.

Pennsylvania businesses affected by new sales taxes

HB 542 also establishes new sales taxes on certain industries. Consumer fireworks will have a special 12 percent tax on the purchase price, which includes state and local taxes. This does not include ground or handheld sparkling devices, novelties or toy caps.

Fees are also being imposed on carsharing purchases. Carsharing is defined as "a membership-based service that provides an alternative to personal car ownership." Fees are $0.25 for rentals under two hours, $0.50 for rentals lasting two to three hours, $1.25 for rentals between three and four hours, and $2 for rentals over four hours.

Exemptions from sales taxes

Other businesses are exempt from sales and use tax under HB 542. Kegs used to contain malt or brewed beverages became exempt as of the bill's passage.

The law also specified, as of its passage, that taxable canned software includes support services "except separately invoiced help desk or call center support." Since August 21, 2016, Pennsylvania has taxed the transfer of certain digital products, including apps, books, canned software, games, music and video.

If you are starting a business in these industries in 2018, an accounting professional can explain how taxes do or do not affect the product you sell and adjust pricing accordingly for your customers. As you are working on the business formation, you can discuss legal needs with an experienced business law attorney who understands how to be successful in Pennsylvania enterprise. 

How to avoid The Royal Scam: The Importance of Buy Sell Provisions

We frequently stress the importance of "exit" terms, also known as buy sell provisions, when clients first meet with us regarding a new or expanding business. Many times, though, this discussion is met with objections. What we hear most often from clients is that everyone is working in perfect harmony and they are King(s) of the World that will be together forever. However, this is Pretzel Logic and Only a Fool Would Say That. Since they Don't Take [you] Alive, at some point  Everything Must Go - either voluntarily or by force. We strongly believe it is far better for parties to determine their own fate rather than be left Reelin in the Years.

In the absence of a buy sell agreement, whether executed at inception or Century's End, a deceased owner's estate will take the place of the deceased. This means that after an owner dies, the surviving owner(s) could show up on Monday morning and find a Change of the Guard (be it a spouse, child or Josie, who was named in the will) telling them I Got the News, we, the heirs, are now a part of the business. Well, call me Deacon Blues.

Clients often doubt the probability of this situation occuring Here In the Western World but two recent Rolling Stones articles highlight a post-mortem business dispute involving Steely Dan member and co-founder Donald Fagen and the estate of late member and co-founder Walter Becker, who died after a swift four-month battle with esophageal cancer. Here, Becker's estate is contesting the validity of a 1972 buy sell agreement entered into before the two became Show Biz Kids with the release of breakthrough album, Can't Buy a Thrill. Fagen filed suit to enforce the 45 year [My] Old School agreement and to prevent widow Delia Becker from allegedly seeking appointment as a director on behalf of the estate, as could be her right without the buy sell agreement.   

As Any Major Dude Will Tell You, the start of the business is an exciting and joyous occasion, and before you are Through With [the] Buzz, it's the perfect time to determine what will happen when things are not so harmonious. If you are uncomfortable having these discussions or unsure where to start, it doesn't have to be Two Against Nature, let us do the Dirty Work. We can provide advice regarding a variety of options for exit strategies, buy-sell and other protective provisions so you, your partners, family, Cousin Dupree, Peg, Rikki, and company can protect those Green Ear[n]ings.

Don't Do It Again by putting off these decisions, contact Kisner Law Firm's experienced attorneys today to help you protect Everything You Did before you have to Sign In [a] Stranger to your business.

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Kisner Law Firm, LLC
Gulf Tower
707 Grant St., Suite 2646
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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Phone: 412-880-5605
Fax: 412-235-6704

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