Bowers Harrison Recognized for Pro Bono Efforts

Southern District celebrates pro bono attorneys | The Indiana Lawyer

After enacting a rule allowing judges to assign pro bono cases to attorneys who frequently practice in federal court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana is celebrating a “banner year” for pro bono service. During 2016, 108 Indiana attorneys agreed to represent pro se litigants in the Southern District, Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said at the fourth annual Attorney Appreciation Breakfast Wednesday morning. Of those attorneys, 107 were recruited, with 67 assigned to limited appointments and 40 assigned to full appointments. That’s more than double the 27 attorneys recruited for limited appointments in 2015, and nearly triple from the 15 assigned to full appointments the same year, Magnus-Stinson said. “All of you rose to the challenge in 2016,” the chief judge told the crowd of pro bono attorneys gathered in her courtroom for the annual celebration. While Magnus-Stinson conceded that the definition of a “volunteer” attorney was altered by the implementation of Local Rule 87 in 2016, she said the service those attorneys provided to their clients made a difference regardless of whether the attorneys volunteered for a case on their own or instead were recruited under the new rule. … Mark Miller, a partner with Bowers Harrison, LLP, was among the attorneys honored at Wednesday’s breakfast.

Source: www.theindianalawyer.com/southern-district-celebrates-pro-bono-attorneys/PARAMS/article/43039

Mark Miller to Present How to Properly Conduct an Internal Investigation

On April 16, 2015, Bowers Harrison attorney, Mark E. Miller, will present on How to Properly Conduct an Internal Investigation. The seminar is sponsored by the Evansville-Area Human Resource Association and will provide employers with information on relevant issues and practical tips on how to investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment, and requests for accommodation.

 

For registration information, please contact Mark E. Miller or visit the Evansville-Area Human Resource Association website.

Are LinkedIn Contacts Protectable Trade Secrets?

Many professionals maintain robust social media accounts to raise their public profile and generate business – often at the encouragement of their employers. As just one example, LinkedIn, with its more than 347 million users, proclaims itself as the “World’s Largest Professional Network” and the leader among those social networks aimed at professionals. However, an employee’s LinkedIn contact list can be a valuable asset generated while on the job, from which competitors can gave insider information. Protecting that information is now the subject of a federal court case in Los Angeles, California.

In Cellular Accessories for Less, Inc. v. Trinitas LLC, No. 12-06736 DDP SHX, 2014 WL 4627090, (C.D. Cal., Sept. 16, 2014), Cellular Accessories for Less, Inc. (“Cellular”) sued its former employee and his new employer in California federal court, alleging that they violated various trade secret protections, including by continuing to use the former employee’s LinkedIn contacts and related data developed while he was an employee of Cellular. Cellular argued that the former employee had signed agreements that contained nondisclosure, noncompetition, and confidentiality provisions protecting “proprietary information” and trade secrets of Cellular, including the LinkedIn contacts and related data. The former employee argued that the LinkedIn contacts were not trade secrets, because they could be viewable by the public.

In its opinion, the court stated it could not decide the issue without a trial for two reasons. First, the court needed to know “to what degree the former employee’s LinkedIn contacts were indeed made public”, acknowledging that different LinkedIn users have different privacy settings managing what is “public”. Second, the court needed to know that if the former employee’s contacts were in fact public, “whether it was done with Cellular’s explicit or implicit permission.”

Commentary:

When a business is asked about protecting its proprietary and trade secret information, it often is quick to point to its “blackbook” of existing client/customer and potential leads as information that must be protected. However, businesses should understand that their employees’ LinkedIn profiles often provide the same information to competitors. Just as businesses adapt, the legal system must recognize those changes and allow businesses to protect the electronic age’s version of the blackbook (i.e., social media contact lists). The California federal court’s ruling suggests a business may claim its employees’ LinkedIn contact lists are proprietary information and trade secrets and forbid the use of those lists by a former employee and/or competitor if the employer 1) explicitly forbids its employees from allowing the public to view those LinkedIn contacts and 2) has a strong nondisclosure, noncompetition, and confidentiality agreement with employees.

For information on protecting your business’ proprietary and trade secret information, including client and pricing lists, please contact us.

Meijer Successfully Appeals Property Tax Bill; Millions of Dollars at Stake for Indiana Counties

The Indiana Board of Tax Review recently ruled that a Meijer store located in Indianapolis should have been assessed at the equivalent of $30 per square foot, not at $83 per square foot as originally determined by the Marion County Assessor in 2012. This means Meijer would only be responsible for paying almost one-third less than the original assessment.

The court’s decision covered 9 years of assessments, going back as far as 2002. Therefore, Marion County could owe Meijer a $2.4 million refund. According to Meijer, it will not be pursuing property-tax appeals for all of its Indiana stores. Instead, Meijer is hoping to enter into a settlement agreement with Marion County.

The Marion County Assessor’s office has not yet confirmed whether it will appeal the decision to a higher court. Unless this decision is successfully appealed and reversed, this case will change how all Indiana big-box stores are assessed in the future. In coming to its conclusion, the court agreed with Meijer’s assertion that “big-box” stores should be valued looking strictly at the value of the “box,” not the “highest and best use” value. Valuing the store based only on the value of the “box” means treating all big-box stores the same, whether operational or vacant.

Since millions of tax dollars are at stake, which many counties depend on for revenue, the Indiana legislature was quick to respond on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, with a bill addressing tax bills on big-box stores. The bill, which would require certain special-purpose properties to be assessed based on the cost of construction for the first seven years, unanimously passed the Indiana Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

Because the assessed value of commercial property can greatly affect Indiana commercial real estate owners, the attorneys are Bowers Harrison are closely monitoring this issue as it develops. Please subscribe to our blog or check back for more details. If you have any questions regarding the assessed value of your land, or any other real estate issues, please contact us at (812) 426-1231.

Presentación informativa sobre los nuevos cambios en la ley de inmigración

Acompáñenos a la presentación informativa sobre los nuevos cambios en la ley de inmigración. La información será presentado por los abogados Royal Gearhart y Keith Wallace de Bowers Harrison LLP, las Caridades Catolicas, y la Christian Fellowship Church. Adicionalmente se presentará información sobre derecho de la familia y opciones eficaces para resolver los conflictos familiares.

La presentación será a las 6:00 p.m. el 31 de enero en la Christian Fellowship Church auditorio 106, ubicado en 4100 Millersburg Road, Evansville, IN 47725. El evento es abierto al publico, y la información será presentado en español. Abajo se encuentra información sobre los cambios de la ley de inmigración de que se trata la presentación.

Acción Ejecutiva del Presidente sobre Inmigración

El 20 de noviembre de 2014, el presidente Obama anunció una serie de acciones ejecutivas destinadas a paliar el creciente y complejo tema de la inmigración en los Estados Unidos. El objetivo principal de estas acciones ejecutivas son para reforzar la protección contra la inmigración ilegal en nuestras fronteras, priorizar recursos de aplicación para centrarse en la deportación de criminales, ofrecer a los inmigrantes indocumentados calificados la oportunidad de permanecer en los Estados Unidos sin temor a la deportación, y agilizar los procedimientos de inmigración para impulsar la economía y promover la naturalización. Es importante señalar que las iniciativas del presidente Obama no se han aplicado aún, pero se prevé aplicar en los próximos meses. Estas iniciativas, sean aplicadas sin duda alguna tendrán un impacto significativo en las personas y las familias a las que se les dará nuevas oportunidades para obtener estatus legal en los Estados Unidos, así como tambien a las empresas estadounidenses e inversionistas extranjeros que se beneficiarán de los cambios propuestos en relación con las visas de inmigrantes y no inmigrantes. Aunque no se pueda hacer realmente mucho hasta que se implementen las iniciativas, hay ciertas acciones que tanto los individuos y las empresas pueden comenzar a hacer a fin de prepararse para los próximos cambios y nuevas oportunidades que se aproximan.

Que Significa esto para Individuos y Familias.

La expansión del programa DACA. En lo que respecta a las consecuencias de las acciones ejecutivas sobre las familias y los individuos, el anuncio más importante es la propuesta de ampliación del programa de acción diferida. En concreto, la Acción Diferida para los llegados en la Infancia (DACA), será modificada para eliminar la restricción en el tope de edad para la elegibilidad de el programa. Anteriormente, las personas tenían que haber nacido después del 15 de junio de 1981 para poder ser elegible. La eliminación de la restricción de edad permite a los individuos nacidos antes de esta fecha calificar para el programa, siempre que cumplan los demás requisitos de elegibilidad. Adicionalmente, el requisito de residencia continua será cambiado de fecha, esta vez se requiere residencia continua en los Estados Unidos, desde el 1 de enero del 2010, a diferencia del requisito anterior que era el 15 de Junio del 2007.

Se prevé que estas modificaciones deberán aplicarse en aproximadamente 90 días después del anuncio del presidente Obama el 20 de noviembre de 2014, y se abrirá la elegibilidad para el programa a millones de individuos. Los beneficios al participar en el programa de acción diferida es que los individuos serán capaces de permanecer en los Estados Unidos sin temor a la deportación, y, muy significativamente, que los individuos y los empleadores, sean capaces de obtener una tarjeta de seguro social y el permiso de trabajo para trabajar legalmente aquí en los EE.UU.

La extensión de la Acción Diferida para los Padres de los Ciudadanos y Residentes Permanentes Legales de los Estados Unidos. El programa de acción diferida también se extenderá para proporcionar la elegibilidad a los padres de ciudadanos estadounidenses y residentes permanentes legales nacidos en o antes de la fecha del anuncio del Presidente de el 20 de noviembre 2014. Este nuevo programa se refiere a la Acción Diferida para la Responsabilidad de los Padres (DAPA). Además de ser uno de los padres de un ciudadano estadounidense o residente, los individuos también deben tener residencia permanente en los Estados Unidos desde el 1 de enero del 2010, y no ser una “prioridad de control” para la retirada de los Estados Unidos, es decir, una amenaza para la seguridad nacional o la seguridad pública. Se espera que DAPA sea implementada aproximadamente 180 días después del anuncio del Presidente el 20 de noviembre de 2014.

Ampliación del programa de exención provisional. Por último, el programa de exención provisional se ampliará para permitir que los hijos e hijas de ciudadanos estadounidenses, y los cónyuges e hijos de residentes permanentes legales puedan obtener una exención provisional si una visa esta disponible. Actualmente, sólo los cónyuges e hijos menores de ciudadanos estadounidenses están autorizados a aplicar para obtener una exención provisional si una visa esta disponible La exención permite a los individuos, que sólo necesitan una exención provisional por presencia ilegal para solicitar una exención dentro los Estados Unidos y antes de su partida para sus entrevistas de visa de inmigrante en una Embajada o Consulado en el extranjero.

¿Qué pueden hacer las personas para empezar a preparar?

Las personas que se beneficiarán de la ampliación de la DACA, DAPA, y los programas de exención provisional aún no pueden solicitar estas iniciativas hasta que estas sean implementadas. Dicho esto, se puede comenzar a preparar mediante la recopilación de documentos que probaran su elegibilidad para los programas y cuando llegue el momento, todos los documentos estén listos y adjuntos con la solicitud. Si usted cree que es elegible para los nuevos programas, puede comenzar a ahorrar dinero para el proceso de solicitud, y para la recolección de documentos que acrediten:

• Su identidad;
• Su relación con un ciudadano estadounidense o residente legal permanente;
• Fecha de llegada a los Estados Unidos; y
• Residencia continua en los Estados Unidos durante los últimos cinco años.

También se recomienda que consulte a un abogado de inmigración, que puede discutir con usted su elegibilidad, los documentos que se necesita para demostrar su elegibilidad, y cualquier inquietud que aborde en su aplicación. Por favor, recuerde que estos programas aún no están disponibles, y que usted NO debe pagar a nadie para llenar o presentar cualquier solicitud hasta que USCIS anuncie que los programas están abiertos y los formularios de solicitud están disponibles.

Si usted tiene alguna pregunta sobre estos asuntos o cualquier otra cuestión de la ley de inmigración, por favor póngase en contacto con el autor, abogado Royal Gearhart.

Executive Action on Immigration Part 10: What Businesses Can Do to Start Preparing

The changes to the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs discussed in prior posts offer potentially huge benefits to businesses, employees, and foreign investors. However, the programs and initiatives proposed in the President’s executive actions are not yet effective, and will begin to be implemented in the near future. That being said, businesses can use this time to prepare themselves and their employees to be able to quickly benefit from the executive actions as soon as they are made available. Obviously, each business is different and has their own specific needs, concerns, and objectives in the realm of immigration.

During this time, businesses and employers should address and analyze their business’ specific needs and costs in regards to immigration issues and foreign workers. Businesses should begin by asking themselves what are their coming needs are in regards to labor and immigration. Could your business benefit from bringing in skilled foreign workers? How much is your company paying to renew visas and work authorizations for your current employees? Are you possibly employing undocumented workers? If so, can you reduce your liability by helping your undocumented workers obtain legal status? For foreign investors, do you currently qualify for a national interest waiver, and if not will you be able to qualify for parole when available? It is advisable that you discuss your situation with a skilled immigration attorney who can help you come up with a comprehensive plan to address the immigration needs specific to your business and employees to take full advantage of the upcoming initiatives.

Most importantly, your business should be proactive in educating your employees as to the availability of the upcoming programs and initiatives so that they can personally begin to take steps to determine their eligibility, and prepare themselves to take advantage of the programs as soon as they become available. The more educated and proactive your employees are in dealing with their own immigration issues, the less complications your business will face in the future. It is important to recognize that even with these executive actions the immigration process for individuals and businesses is incredibly complicated, and even the smallest errors in the process can have drastic consequences. Having an immigration attorney come to your facility and inform your employees of their immigration options in regards to the new initiatives is a great cost-effective way to begin positioning your company to take full advantage of the President’s executive actions regarding immigration.

This is the final post of a ten part series focusing on the President’s new executive actions regarding immigration. Prior posts have addressed the new executive actions’ impact on individuals and families, and on U.S. businesses and foreign investors.

If you have questions on this issue or any other immigration law issue, please contact us at (812) 426-1231.

Executive Action on Immigration Part 9: Changes Affecting Foreign Investors

In my recent prior posts regarding the President’s executive actions regarding immigration, I addressed the impact of the changes on U.S. businesses and employees. Today’s post specifically addresses the proposed changes and their impact in regards to foreign investors and entrepreneurs.

Clarification of the standards for National Interest Waivers. USCIS has announced that it will clarify the standard for which National Interest Waivers will be granted for inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S. economy. The hope is that this clarification will make the process of obtaining a National Interest Waiver more predictable and consistent, and thus more efficient and reliable.

Parole for eligible individuals who do not qualify for a waiver. Additionally, USCIS will also authorize parole on a case-by-case basis to certain inventors, researchers, and entrepreneurs who may not yet qualify for a National Interest Waiver but meet certain criteria for attracting investment and creating jobs in the United States. Parole will be offered to those who have been awarded substantial U.S investor financing, or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creating through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.

As with the changes addressed in the prior posts, the timing of the implementation of these specific changes are subject to the issuance of necessary guidance and regulation from USCIS, which can take upward of a year to be issued.

This is part nine of a ten part series focusing on the President’s new executive actions regarding immigration. Tomorrow’ post will be the last of this series, in which I will discuss what businesses can do now to begin to prepare for the upcoming changes.

If you have questions on this issue or any other immigration law issue, please contact us at (812) 426-1231.

Executive Action on Immigration Part 8: Specific Changes to Visa Procedures Affecting U.S. Businesses Cont’d.

Today’s post continues the prior discussion of specific changes to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa procedures and their effect on U.S. businesses. In addition to the changes addressed in the prior post, in accordance with the President’s announcement on his executive actions on immigration, USCIS will also begin to implement the following changes.

Expansion of OPT program for STEM graduates. USCIS will work with ICE to develop regulations to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students that graduate from U.S. universities with a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to improve their ability to remain in the country in a work-authorized status.

Clarification and improvement of the L-1 visa process. USCIS will provide guidance on the L-1B visa program for foreign workers with “specialized knowledge” who transfer from a company’s foreign office to its office in the United States. USCIS will also work to improve the adjudicative process to improve consistency and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

As with the changes addressed in the prior post, the timing of the implementation of these specific changes are subject to the issuance of necessary guidance and regulation from USCIS, which can take upwards of a year to be issued.

This is part eight of a ten part series focusing on the President’s new executive actions regarding immigration. Tomorrow’s post will discuss the changes specifically impacting foreign investors and entrepreneurs.

If you have questions on this issue or any other immigration law issue, please contact us at (812) 426-1231.

Executive Action on Immigration Part 7: Specific Changes to Visa Procedures Affecting U.S. Businesses

Yesterday’s post focused on the proposed general changes by USCIS to the immigration regime as a whole and their effect on U.S. businesses and employees. Today’s post will briefly begin to discuss the changes to specific immigrant and nonimmigrant programs that businesses, employees, and foreign investors will be able to take direct advantage of and benefit from. This topic will continue to be discussed in subsequent posts. Specifically, today’s post will address changes to increase portability for skilled workers and to the H1-B visa program.

Portability for Skilled Workers. USCIS will work on regulatory changes to provide clarity on adjustment portability and to remove restrictions on natural career progression and job mobility. Currently, employees with approved employment-based I-140 petitions often are forced to wait years for their immigrant visa to become available so that they and their family members can obtain lawful permanent residence. These changes will allow workers with approved employment-based petitions to change jobs more easily and avoid the lengthy adjustment delays that workers currently face.

Work Authorization for Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders. USCIS will finalize a rule to allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to obtain work authorization. This is relief for many families of individuals that are forced to wait lengthy periods to adjust status in the United States, and during this time are forced to rely on solely one income. When effective, certain spouses of H1-B visa holders can seek work authorization and help support their families.

As with the general changes to the immigration regime as a whole, the timing of the implementation of these specific changes are subject to the issuance of necessary guidance and regulation from USCIS and the Department of State, which can take upwards of a year to be issued.

This is part seven of a ten part series focusing on the President’s new executive actions regarding immigration. Tomorrow’s post will continue the discussion of the changes to specific immigrant and nonimmigrant programs that businesses, employees, and foreign investors will be able to take direct advantage of and benefit from.

If you have questions on this issue or any other immigration law issue, please contact us at (812) 426-1231.

Executive Action on Immigration Part 6 – General Changes Affecting U.S. Businesses

My previous posts on the President’s executive actions regarding immigration have focused on the new opportunities that will be available to individuals to remain in the country and work here legally. However, the proposed executive actions will also have a substantial impact on U.S. businesses and foreign investors. One of the primary goals of the executive actions is to modernize, improve, and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow the economy and create jobs, which will be accomplished through regulatory changes and corroboration between USCIS and the Department of State. This post highlights a couple of the broader changes to the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa procedures that will have more a general and indirect effect on businesses. These general changes include:

Allocation of immigrant visas to match demand. USCIS will work with the Department of State to more effectively allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals based on demand. When the government is unable to issue the allocated immigrant visas for preference immigrants in a fiscal year for which there is a demand, the Department of State will apply those unused immigrant visas in subsequent years. This will reduce backlog for those seeking a permanent resident visa, and should reduce the cost to employers who often are financially responsible for the cost of renewing temporary work visas and work authorization documents during the often lengthy time an employee’s LPR visa is being processed.

Modification and modernization of the labor market test. USCIS will work with the Department of State and the Department of Labor to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability. This includes modernizing recruitment and application requirements for its 10-year-old PERM program, which will come as a relief to many employers who for years have been forced to comply with an antiquated recruitment system with no relation to industry recruitment practices. The Department of Labor is also entertaining the idea of premium processing for PERM applications, which could be an immense benefit for foreign nationals whose nonimmigrant visas are running out of time.

These general changes are designed to modernize and improve efficiency and effectiveness of the immigration regime as a whole, which can reduce costs and confusion for businesses and employees that have immigration needs. The timing of the implementation of these changes is subject to the issuance of necessary guidance and regulation from USCIS and the Department of State, which can take upwards of a year to be issued.

This is part six of a ten part series focusing on the President’s new executive actions regarding immigration. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the changes to specific immigrant and nonimmigrant programs that businesses, employees, and foreign investors will be able to take direct advantage of and benefit from.

If you have questions on this issue or any other immigration law issue, please contact us at (812) 426-1231.