Cheers to the New Year! Our top stories from 2017!

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2017—It was a rollercoaster year for legal and business issues and the team at Colligan Law worked hard to keep you informed. As we welcome 2018, we wanted to take a minute to share our top stories of the past twelve months with you:

  1. We asked the question (again). Is a hotdog a sandwich? Just like “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” or perhaps more timely, “What is or isn’t a catch in the NFL,?”, this is one of those questions that people just can’t seem to agree upon. Well, Colligan Law attorney Rob Townsley took a look at what New York State law thinks and perhaps answered the question once and for all.

2018 New York Employment Law Update

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By Joseph F. Saeli, Jr.

There are several changes to the New York State employment laws in 2018 which every employer should be aware of.

Minimum Pay Rate Increases

These are the new pay rates for upstate New York.  The rates for New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County are higher.

  1. The general minimum wage in upstate New York increases to $10.40 per hour effective December 31, 2017.
  1. The minimum wage for fast food workers in upstate New York increases to $11.75 per hour effective December 31, 2017.
  1. The minimum salary in upstate New York for exempt Executive and Administrative employees increases to $780.00 per week effective December 31, 2017.

Conservation Easements: Save Money & Keep Your Land with Your Family

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By Robert Townsley

Conservation easements are an excellent method for maintaining ownership of one’s land while not only prohibiting development but also receiving tax benefits. A conservation easement is a legally-binding agreement between a property owner and a nonprofit organization or a government agency that restricts development on the land covered by the easement. Usually the landowner receives tax benefits in exchange for the conservation easement but sometimes they can receive a one-time payment made by the organization to purchase the easement. Donating land via a conservation easement can provide estate tax, income tax, and property tax benefits.

Have a New York Pistol Permit? Time is Running Out to Recertify!

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By John A. Moscati, Jr.

A little publicized provision of the 2013 New York S.A.F.E. Act is about to become effective and unsuspecting New York pistol permit holders may find themselves in legal jeopardy if they do not act quickly to comply with the statute.

Prior to the adoption of the S.A.F.E. Act, pistol permits issued in New York were good until revoked. The S.A.F.E. Act added a new provision to Section §400.00 of the New York Penal Law creating a five year expiration term for all pistol permits in New York. Every five (5) years a pistol permit must be renewed by filing a recertification form with the State Police. If your pistol permit was issued before January 15, 2013 the deadline to submit your recertification is January 31, 2018. If your permit was issued on or after January 15, 2013, the deadline to recertify is five years after the date the permit was issued. This means that the vast majority of pistol permits issued in New York will expire on January 31, 2018 less than ninety days from now.

Marijuana In The Workplace Changing Times

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By Joseph F. Saeli, Jr.

1. REEFER MADNESS

Our society’s response to marijuana use is changing rapidly. Eight states and the District of Columbia now permit recreational marijuana use. The use of medical marijuana is allowed in twenty-nine states. In addition, the Canadian government plans to enact legislation in the summer of 2018 which would legalize marijuana use in all of Canada.

We have come a long way from the days of Reefer Madness!

 

A Startup Sabbatical: What I learned from 11 months in politics

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By Matthew Pelkey

In the beginning of 2016 my wife came to me with a proposition—she wanted to run for New York State Senate.

Against an incumbent. With a lot more money. And she wanted my help. At the time I had been immersed in the upstate startup ecosystem. That was all about to change.

We had always been a team in nearly everything we did, so by no means did this come as a surprise. A decade earlier I had spent some time in government myself so it wasn’t completely foreign to me. And of course, I had regularly attended a mélange of political activities with my wife over the years. “Why not?”, I thought to myself.

A Fresh Start for Farmers in Distress

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By Frederick Gawronski

Farms come in all shapes and sizes. They are operated by publicly traded companies, closely held organizations and individuals. They share many of the same successes and problems, including the booms and busts directly related to external circumstances. Weather, tariffs, trade and politics are just a few of the factors outside the day to day control of a farming operation which impact the bottom line.

New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law—Coming Soon

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By Joseph F. Saeli, Jr.

New York’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law takes effect on January 1, 2018.   Most non-government employers in New York will have to comply with this law.  It is not too early to begin preparing for it.

Employees will be eligible for Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) for up to eight weeks within a fifty-two-week period.  PFL includes compensation, continued health insurance, and job protection.

PFL can be used for one of three reasons:

  1. To care for a close relative with a serious health condition.
  2. To bond with a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed child within the first twelve months after birth, adoption or foster placement.
  3. When a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty, as provided under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

Unlike the FMLA, PFL benefits are not available for an employee’s own health condition.

Racial Disparagement? The U.S. Supreme Court Rules on “The Slants” Trademark Refusal

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By Erin Gormley

Summer is often a season for music, when music lovers listen to their favorite artists at concerts, in their backyards, and in their cars with the windows down. This summer, a U.S. Supreme Court case has caused music to become a place where freedom of speech and trademark law intersect.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the rock band “The Slants,” made up of Asian-American musicians, cannot be barred from using that name, regardless of the potential of disparagement to Asian and Asian-American individuals. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) initially prohibited the band from registering the name “The Slants” as a trademark in classification 041 for “entertainment in the nature of live performances by a musical band” on the grounds that “the applied-for mark consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

How Community Capital Models Can Regenerate Upstate NY

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By Matthew Pelkey

If you’ve spent any time in Upstate New York you have no doubt experienced an unfortunate yet common site: a row of empty storefronts lining a street which once upon a time was a bustling town center. Community capital models could be the answer we’ve been looking for to revitalize neighborhoods victim to the rust belt economy.

As Upstate NY’s economy changed, many of these storefronts became boarded up relics—scars on our neighborhoods serving as a reminder of a time since past. It is important to acknowledge that there has recently been significant progress in many upstate communities, but a brisk stroll through Saranac Lake, or Watertown, or even Main Street in Buffalo leaves these scars difficult to ignore. What exactly to do about them, however, is a difficult question.