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Answers to Common Legal Questions

We realize laws and regulations can be daunting to understand. Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions we hear from clients.

Q: What laws regulate the wages and hours in a long term care facility?
A: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the main federal law governing minimum wage and overtime. It applies to most private employers. Pennsylvania employers must also comply with the overtime requirements of Pennsylvania's Minimum Wage Act. Although the Pennsylvania act is similar to the FLSA, there are differences with regard to the methodology for calculating overtime (40 hours per week under both laws, however the FLSA grants an exception for long term care facilities to utilize the 8/80 method whereby the PA law does not). There have been a number of lawsuits brought by employees over these differences. Employers should be aware of the differences, and model their policies and procedures accordingly.

Q: What laws must employers follow when hiring new employees?
A: A prospective employer must avoid any illegal discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, religion or other characteristic protected by law during the hiring process. In certain jurisdictions, local ordinances may also be applicable which expand upon the number of protected classes. For example, recent ìban the boxî ordinances prohibit an employer from asking questions about criminal convictions during the application process or during the first interview.

Q: Can employers monitor their employees' emails or access to social networking sites?
A: Employers may monitor web sites visited by their employees and may block their employees from visiting certain web sites. Employers can also limit employees' Internet usage to business-related web sites. If the employer has a company policy that its computer systems are to be used only for work-related activities, it may discipline an employee who uses its equipment for personal reasons. All such policies should be contained in an employee handbook and the employer should require all employees to acknowledge their understanding and receipt of such policies.

Q: Can an employer consider someone's disability during the hiring process?
A: An employer may describe the essential functions necessary to perform the position, but may not ask whether the prospective employee has a disability that may affect his or her ability to perform the job. The employer also may not ask if a reasonable accommodation will be necessary in order to perform the essential functions of the job. The employer may, however, ask if the employee can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

Q: What is "At-Will" employment?
A: In Pennsylvania, all employment is considered ìat-willî unless a contract is signed by both parties indicating otherwise. ìAt-Willî employment means that the employee can be terminated at any time for any reason or for no reason as long as the reason is not based on illegal discrimination or other grounds which may violate a ìpublic policyî which the courts determine is an exception to at-will employment.

Q: How much time do Medical Assistance Program providers have to appeal DPW decisions about payment?
A: The Medical Assistance Provider Appeal Law (67 Pa. C.S.A. ß 1102) establishes a general rule of 30 days from notice of the DPW action, unless the notice is sent by mail, in which case providers have 33 days from the date of the notice, unless there is good cause, as recognized under court approved standards, for additional time. If an appeal is mailed, it is deemed filed on the date of the post-mark on the appeal as long as it is a U.S. Post Mark (appeals with any other post marks will not be deemed filed until they are received by DPWís Bureau of Hearings and Appeals). This means that Medical Assistance Program providers have less time to get an appeal in than Medicare providers do.

Q: What rights do we have to collect a past due balance when a resident or family refuse to pay for nursing care and services?
A: Under Pennsylvania law, a nursing facility has numerous rights and options to pursue to liquidate an account receivable. The facts and family background related to each problem account are varied and diverse. But in every circumstance, your Business Office should be trained and able to enforce the facilityís rights under the terms of the Admission Agreement if it is written and executed properly. The Pennsylvania debt collection law outlines what your facility can and should not do when collecting a debt. Many of our clients contact us for a full range of options including the following legal services: asset and location searches, demand for payment or financial information to complete a Medicaid application, negotiation of a Settlement Agreement, Decedentís Estate Claims, Bankruptcy Court Claims, Notice of Intent to Discharge, Social Security Representative Payee and preparation of Medicaid appeals, requests for injunctive relief, Magisterial District Justice Complaints, County Court Complaints, judgment liens and garnishments, and Petitions for financial guardianship.

Q: What is a Title?
A: A title is comprised of the legal rights that a person has to the ownership and possession of land. Being that it is possible that someone other than the owner has a legal right to the property, if that right can be established, that person can claim the property outright or make demands on the owner as to its use.

Q: What Can Make a Title Defective?
A: Any number of problems that remain undisclosed after even the most meticulous search of public records can make a title defective. These hidden ìdefectsî are dangerous because you may not learn of them for many months or even years. However, they could force you to spend a substantial sum on a legal defense that could still result in the loss of your property.

Q: How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?
A: The one-time premium is directly related to the value of your home. Typically, it is less expensive than your annual auto insurance. Paid once when you purchase your home, it continues to provide coverage for as long as you or your heirs own the property.

If you've got questions about these matters or any others, please contact us today. Our team looks forward to learning about your needs and providing counsel.

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