Featured Post

Redesigned Permanent Resident Card and Employment Authorization Documents

Social Security card and permanent resident on USA flagAs we mentioned in an earlier post, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as the Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS began issuing new cards on May 1, 2017. For more information on the changes and additional information for both employers and employees, USCIS has provided a brief overview entitled “Redesigned Permanent Resident Card and Employment Authorization Document.”

>> Download PDF

New Rules: OCR Issues Internal Memorandum Impacting Enforcement Practices for Pending and Future Investigations

Pile of binders partially obscured by a magnifying glassEarlier this month, the U. S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights’ Acting Assistant Secretary issued an internal memorandum to Regional Directors eliminating certain existing internal procedures and detailing new practices regarding the investigation of OCR complaints.  With the articulated goals of assisting regional offices in clearing case backlogs and ensuring timely resolution of the complaints, the memorandum instructs that investigative teams should:

  1. No longer follow a “one size fits all approach to the investigation of any category of complaints;”
  2. Not mandate “that any one type of complaint is automatically treated differently than any other type of complaint with respect to” scope, the type or amount of data needed or the type or amount of oversight required from the federal headquarters;
  3. No longer automatically confer with the federal headquarters on certain cases;
  4. “Only apply a ‘systemic’ or ‘class-action’ approach where the individual complaint allegations themselves raises systemic or class-wide issues or the investigative teams determines a systemic approach is warranted through conversations with the complainant;” and
  5. No longer adhere to the rule requiring the production of “three (3) years of past complaint data/files in order to assess a recipient’s compliance….”

In tandem with the above, the memorandum explicitly empowers investigative teams “to determine on a case-by-case basis the type and scope of evidence that is necessary to support a legally sound investigation and determination, with the understanding that all OCR investigations are to be framed in their scope by the allegations of each particular complaint.”  In short, the new directives make clear that decision-making authority and discretion lies with the regional office and their investigative teams, rather than with the federal headquarters.  Importantly, these new practices regarding investigations are effective immediately and apply to new cases as well as those currently pending.

Although there are no direct burdens placed on recipient schools as result of OCR’s internal memorandum, it is unclear how the change in practices will impact the approach of regional offices and their investigative teams in pending and future investigations.  Consequently, it is important that recipient schools engage in periodic review, and make changes where necessary, of their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that fall within OCR’s jurisdiction.

The full text of the OCR’s memorandum may be found here.

Gwen Zittoun to Present at the Annual Connecticut Secondary Transition Symposium

Zittoun_G_WebOn June 22, 2017 Gwen Zittoun will present, “Legal Issues concerning Secondary Transition for Special Education Students” at the Annual Connecticut Secondary Transition Symposium to be held at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Connecticut.

The University of Connecticut Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the Connecticut Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), the Connecticut State Department of Education, and the State Education Resource Center (SERC) are hosting the 3rd Annual Symposium focused on helping school districts improve their secondary transition practices. For more information, view the event brochure.

Legislative Recap: Pregnancy Accommodations But No Paid FMLA

State capitol in Hartford, CTThis post originally appeared on the Connecticut Employment Law Blog on June 9, 2017. 

Well, the Connecticut General Assembly ended earlier this week and, as predicted, it ended with a whimper and not a bang.  Many employment law proposals failed to receive votes, including those on minimum wage and Paid FMLA, leaving many employers (and the CBIA) breathing a bit of a sigh of relief.

I’ve previously recapped most of the bills here and here, so I’m only going to recap the session here in the interests of time.

  • The Governor is expected to sign a bill expanding the requirements for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. Again, I’ve recapped the measure here but this is probably the most significant bill to come out of the session regarding employers.
  • There will be no minimum wage hike and the introduction of Paid FMLA failed to get enough votes this term.  There is little doubt that the split in the Senate along party lines slowed momentum down for what was going to be the Democrat party’s signature achievement this session.
  • Also not getting votes this session was a bill that would have prohibited many employers from running credit checks on prospective employees and a bill that would required employers to give advance notice to employees about their work shifts.
  • Another bill that would change whistleblower protections in Connecticut also failed to clear the House.

Some of the other technical changes, to workers compensation or unemployment compensation, offer up a mixed bag. I’ve covered them in a prior post.

A special session is still on the way and it’s possible that some measures will get plopped into an “implementer” bill for the budget like it did a few years ago.  But my gut tells me that the budget is unlike to be used this way given the significant financial issues in play.  Nonetheless, employers should continue to watch for any developments in this area until the special session is closed.

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 6/12/17

CASOriginally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter. Written by Attorney Peter J. Maher.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

The typical public school nurse today most likely works with several students with severe and/or life threatening conditions that often require immediate attention. With the popularity and convenience of texting, many parents prefer to communicate via text regarding treatment for their child. For example, one mother of a second grade student with diabetes works during the school day and cannot take phone calls. She requests that the nurse text her with out-of-normal-range blood sugar levels of the student so that they may communicate about the student’s treatment. How is this practice affected by FERPA? Also, can any violation of FERPA be circumvented by the parent signing a waiver?

Thank you,
Vexed by Texts Continue Reading

Environmental Attorneys Andrew Davis and Aaron Levy to Present at CCIC’s 2017 Member Forum

Levy_A_WebDavis_A_WebOn June 13, 2017, environmental attorneys Andrew N. Davis, Ph.D. and Aaron D. Levy will present a workshop titled, “Environmental Issues Facing Colleges and Universities Overall and in Construction and Renovation Projects ” at the 2017 Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC) Member Forum, Partnering for Progress. The presentation will provide an overview of the environmental issues facing colleges/universities today, and how to manage them. Presenters will address:

  • Environmental issues confronting colleges/universities
  • Environmental issues in campus construction and demolition projects/renovations
  • Handling crises, including mold, asbestos, lead, PCBs, indoor air, and other hazardous building materials
  • The process of engaging consultants, protecting the attorney-client privilege and strategic reporting

CCIC‘s Annual Forum provides members with an opportunity to gain information and discuss solutions with industry experts and colleagues from other  institutions about the latest trends on campuses. For more information on this event, visit the CCIC Member Forum event page.

Visit Shipman & Goodwin’s Environmental page to learn more about our environmental law practice.

SEE YOU IN COURT! – June 2017

SeeYouInCourtImageThe members of the Nutmeg Board of Education are tired of having to put up with the constant barrage of criticism.  Cut teaching positions?  The parents go crazy.  Add teaching positions?  The taxpayer group goes crazy.  To make matters worse, even talking about different options brings the critics out of the woodwork, who then seek to pit Board member against Board member.

As Chair of the Finance Committee, veteran Board member Bob Bombast reached out to his Board colleagues by email: “We need to do something.  If we can work together confidentially in the first instance, we can get our act together and present a united front publicly after we make the tough decisions.”  Several Board members concurred by email, and they went back and forth as to how, also by email.

Reading the emails, Mr. Superintendent saw that the Board members were conducting a discussion of Board business by email, a violation of the Freedom of Information against which he had already warned them verbally.  The next morning, he called up Mr. Board Attorney and asked for his help.  Mr. Board Attorney understood precisely what was needed, and in short order he wrote an email to the Board members warning them against conducting discussions of Board business by email.  Significantly, he captioned his email “CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEY CLIENT COMMUNICATION,” so that the Board members would know that Mr. Board Attorney was giving them confidential legal advice.

Initially, Bob Bombast was annoyed at being chastised again, wondering whether Mr. Board Attorney didn’t have anything better to do.  But then Bob had a Eureka moment.  Since emails to and from the Board lawyer are confidential, he figured, sending emails through Mr. Board Attorney would be a great way to take care of Board business discretely and confidentially.

He promptly wrote back to Mr. Board Attorney, thanking him for his wise counsel, and he also expressed appreciation for the fact that the Board can now discuss controversial matters with Board counsel confidentially, whether by email or in person.

Bob and the Board then continued their email discussions of Board business, but now they carefully assured that Mr. Board Attorney was copied on all the emails going back and forth.   Indeed, the Board members included some pretty extraordinary statements in their emails, seemingly secure in their belief that that the public would never see their emails as long as Mr. Board Attorney was included on the email.

With the budget pressures this spring, the Board is considering some drastic cuts, including possibly closing a school.  Given the significance of these issues, Bob decided that an in-person private discussion is needed.  Accordingly, he has called an executive session of the Finance Committee, invited Mr. Board Attorney to attend the meeting, and posted it as “Discussion of Confidential Attorney-Client Communications.”

Can the Committee go ahead with the budget discussion in executive session? Continue Reading

Save The Date: A Legal Primer – Tax and Charitable Giving for Independent Schools

Save the date of September 13, 2017 and join Shipman & Goodwin tax and trusts and estates attorneys Ray Casella and Danielle Ferrucci as they present this complimentary webinar for independent schools. Presenters will discuss tax issues specific to private educational institutions, including:

  • Golden piggy bank with grad cap and calculator on woodproperty tax exemptions for housing for Heads of Schools and other faculty members
  • compensation issues
  • employee tuition remission programs
  • summer sports camps
  • activities that create taxable income

The presenters will also provide an overview of charitable giving techniques and issues, including an overview of current estate and gift tax laws.

When: September 13, 2017  12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where: Webinar

register_now button

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 5/30/17

CASOriginally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter. Written by Attorney Linda L. Yoder.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

Spring is in the air and I am spending the majority of my days at the various PPT and 504 meetings that have come on like a seasonal allergy. But to make matters worse, this is the season when parents learn if they won the lottery, the magnet school lottery that is, and I am facing a deluge of requests for 504 meetings at magnet schools throughout the State to take place now, over the summer and into the start of the new year.

While I adore traveling around our beautiful state, I do not have enough time to attend so many meetings out of district. I have contacted the 504 coordinators for the magnet schools and we have agreed to divide and conquer. They will handle the 504 meetings at their schools so that they do need to adjust to my schedule and the magnet schools in our town will do the same for students from their towns. As a safeguard, since the accommodation costs are billed back to the sending town, we have agreed that none of us will recommend services that exceed $1500 except in unusual circumstances and without giving the sending town a heads up. As a further safeguard, we agreed that since the sending town is responsible for scheduling and supervising such meetings, we could claim that the plan is invalid if the sending district did not participate and demand a do-over if we are unhappy with any of the recommendations.

I need to be in district to be available for medical emergencies and not an hour away discussing extended time on tests. Do you agree with our plan for managed care?

Thank you,
Nurses Should Call the Shots Continue Reading

Webinar: 401(k) Plans – Best Practices for Employers and Plan Administrators

Business woman portraitJoin Shipman & Goodwin pension and employee benefits attorneys for this complimentary webinar for institutions with 401(k) plans. Presenters will discuss today’s 401(k) issues that require the immediate and ongoing focus of 401(k) plan sponsors and administrators, and provide them with guidance for meeting their fiduciary duties, reducing liability and improving plan compliance and effectiveness.

When: June 15, 2017 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where: Webinar

register_now button

Legislative Update: Pregnancy Discrimination Protections Under State Law Changing?

Pregnant Businesswoman Using Digital Tablet In Her Office.This post originally appeared on the Connecticut Employment Law Blog

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the Connecticut House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a measure that would greatly expand the already broad anti-discrimination provision that exist under Connecticut law.  The bill, House Bill 6668, would make several substantive changes to the protections including defining what is a “reasonable accommodation” instead of leaving that determination open.I’ve previously written extensively about the state laws covering pregnant employees before (here and here for example) so I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the current law so you can fully understand the contemplated change. But I’ll try to break it down here.

Existing law makes it a discriminatory practice to:

  • To terminate a woman’s employment because of her pregnancy;
  • to refuse to grant to that employee a reasonable leave of absence for disability resulting from her pregnancy;
  • to deny to that employee, who is disabled as a result of pregnancy, any compensation to which she is entitled as a result of the accumulation of disability or leave benefits accrued pursuant to plans maintained by the employer;
  • to fail or refuse to reinstate the employee to her original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits and other service credits upon her signifying her intent to return unless, in the case of a private employer, the employer’s circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so.

Those provisions would remain unchanged under the bill.

Existing law also makes it a discriminatory practice to:

  • fail or refuse to make a reasonable effort to transfer a pregnant employee to any suitable temporary position which may be available in any case in which an employee gives written notice of her pregnancy to her employer and the employer or pregnant employee reasonably believes that continued employment in the position held by the pregnant employee may cause injury to the employee or fetus;
  • fail or refuse to inform the pregnant employee that a transfer pursuant to subparagraph (E) of this subdivision may be appealed under the provisions of this chapter; or
  • fail or refuse to inform employees of the employer, by any reasonable means, that they must give written notice of their pregnancy in order to be eligible for transfer to a temporary position; 

The bill would delete those three rules and instead expand existing law to make it a discriminatory practice to: Continue Reading

LexBlog