Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
Last week, just before the New Year, the Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania found unconstitutional a law that banned those convicted of crimes from ever working at nursing homes or long-term-care facilities. The Older Adults Protective Services Act specifically prevented anyone who had been convicted of any crime, no matter how long ago, from ever being employed full-time at a nursing home or long-term-care facility. The Court unanimously ruled that the law violated the due process rights of law abiding citizens who had been in trouble in many cases several decades earlier. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit had convictions between 15 and 35 years prior for drug possession, writing bad checks, disorderly conduct, assault and theft. All of them had clean records since their convictions. Many had, in addition to being prevented from finding work, been fired from multiple jobs due to their criminal records. Find more information in this NPR article.
As announced publicly on October 21, and reported in various media outlets, Duke Energy has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit alleging a pattern of fraudulent behavior by Duke and its predecessor, Cincinnati Gas & Electric beginning in 2004. After seven years of litigation – even an attempt by Duke to have the U.S. Supreme Court intervene – the utility agreed to pay $80.875 million to electric customers who paid bills between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008.
The settlement amount represents seven million plus dollars more than Duke was accused of paying in bribes to 22 “favored” customers in an elaborate scheme discovered by an employee who subsequently became a whistleblower. $50 million of the settlement will be paid directly to residential and non-residential customers who submit claims to the Class Action Administrator, chosen and overseen by the two law firms who served as class co-counsel in the litigation: Freking Myers & Reul and Markovits, Stock, and DeMarco.
At least another $8 million will be spent on energy efficiency programs administered by a five person board that will report to federal district court Chief Judge Edmund J. Sargus, who will also decide the amount of attorneys’ fees to award class counsel. After payment of fees and expenses, any excess settlement amount will be added to the fund for energy efficiency programs.
If you are a class member, and can be located as a Duke customer between 2005-2008 from available information, you may receive a postcard in the mail describing the settlement and the Claims Procedure by December 31, 2015. (Given the lapse in time between 2005-2008 and the settlement, not all Class Members may be located.) You may also find the same information available at dukeclassaction.com, so even if you don’t receive a Notice, you may still complete a Claim, which is easy to do. Claim forms will also be available at https://fmr.law/duke-settlement/.
Chief Judge Sargus will conduct a Fairness Hearing on April 18, 2016 in Cincinnati, after which he will finally approve or disapprove the settlement.
If you have questions, please contact Susan Hartung at Freking Myers & Reul by email: email@example.com.
After 25 years as Freking & Betz, we are pleased to announce our new name, adding partners Kelly Mulloy Myers and George Reul in recognition of the outstanding contributions by Kelly and George to the growth of the firm, and their successes representing working people.
“After Jeff Betz retired from practice in Ohio, we maintained the name in recognition of Jeff’s status as a co-founder. Now, years later, it became clear that we should recognize the new generation of leaders both within our firm but also within the legal community,” said co-founder Randy Freking. “Jeff will continue to provide support to our Colorado office, but he does so on a part-time basis.”
Ms. Myers is a leader in the Cincinnati Bar Association. She is a graduate of the Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers, Class VI and currently serves as a Board member and Secretary of the Association and as a Board member and President of the Cincinnati Bar Foundation. She was recognized as the 2015 Southwest Ohio “Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law by Best Lawyers in America and has been consistently recognized by Ohio Super Lawyers as one of the top 25 women lawyers in Cincinnati.
Ms. Myers, a 1995 graduate of the University of Cincinnati Law School, joined the firm in 1996, and became a Partner in 2005. Kelly earned a Master of Arts in Labor and Employment Relations from the University of Cincinnati in 1996 and was one of the first attorneys in Ohio to be certified as a specialist in Labor and Employment Law by the Ohio State Bar Association. Kelly lives in Wyoming, Ohio with her husband, Todd, and daughter, Riley.
Mr. Reul has participated in jury trials in both state and federal court in Ohio and received favorable jury verdicts. He has also represented employees at the Ohio Court of claims, as well as in mediation and arbitration. Law and Politics Magazine has recognized George as an Ohio Rising Star.
George is a 1998 graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Law, joined the firm in 1998, and became a Partner in 2006. George received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University graduating with distinction and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He is a member of the Cincinnati Employment Lawyers Association and National Employment Lawyers Association, as well as the Cincinnati Bar Association, and American Bar Associations. George lives in Anderson Township with his wife, Jill and two sons, Henry and James.
Along with the new name comes our new and updated website (www.fmr.law) and, of course, new email addresses for all of the members of the firm. For example, George can now be contacted at GReul@fmr.law. Don’t worry – during the transition, the former email addresses will seamlessly forward to the new address.
Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
Shipley’s Donuts, a Katy, Texas franchise violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it ordered an employee it suspected of being pregnant to certify that she could continue working or take an unpaid leave of absence and by firing her when she refused the order. Shipley’s owner and general manager learned that a Shipley’s employee, Brooke Foley, might be pregnant. Shipley’s then ordered Foley to obtain a doctor’s release stating that her pregnancy was not “high-risk” and that she could continue performing her duties. Foley had not asked for any pregnancy-related accommodation. She refused the order and told Shipley’s that it could not require her to get such a certification. Shipley’s then terminated Foley’s employment. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an employer cannot require a pregnant employee (or in this case an employee suspected of being pregnant) to provide medical certification of the ability to continue working unless the employee requests an accommodation in connection with the pregnancy. Shipley’s learned this the hard way. Foley filed suit and the case settled earlier this month for $45,000 and other nonmonetary remedies.