Attorneys Elevated to Shareholders

sanu-devKelly A. GrantAlyson L. Knipelaurel-peltzmanMt. Laurel, NJ – – Capehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.Kelly A. Grant, Esq., Alyson L. Knipe, Esq. and Laurel B. Peltzman, Esq. have been elevated to Shareholders.

Ms. Dev concentrates her practice on school law and labor and employment law. She is experienced in representing, advising, and defending boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline and civil rights.  Ms. Dev, a Hamilton resident, received her law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in Camden and her B.A. degree in Economics and International Relations, with honors, from Boston University. During law school, she served as the Managing Research Editor of the Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy.  Upon law school graduation, Ms. Dev worked as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Ronald E. Bookbinder, Assignment Judge of the New Jersey Superior Court for Burlington County.   She is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. District Court of New Jersey.

Ms. Grant, a member of the Regulatory and Governmental Affairs Department which is based out of the firm’s Trenton office, concentrates her practice in the representation of private and public sector clients in all aspects of federal, state, and municipal civil litigation and in state administrative matters.  Ms. Grant, a Columbus resident, received her law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in Camden and her B.A degree in History and a B.S. degree in Math from Cabrini College, magna cum laude.  Upon graduation from law school, Ms. Grant served as a judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable John L. Call, Jr., P.J.F.P. for the Superior Court of New Jersey in Burlington County.   Ms. Grant is admitted to practice law in New Jersey.

Ms. Knipe focuses her practice in general insurance defense litigation throughout the federal and state courts of New York and New Jersey with a concentration in construction litigation, premises liability, NY Labor Law 240/241, and automobile accident defense.  Ms. Knipe, a Robbinsville, resident, received her law degree from Albany Law School of Union University and her  B.A. degree in Political Science from Union College, cum laude in Schenectady, NY.  She currently serves as a board member for the USTA Middle States NJ District.  Ms. Knipe is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, New York, the U.S. District Court of New Jersey and the U.S. Southern District Court of New York.

Ms. Peltzman focuses her practice in the representation of public and private sector employers in the areas of labor and employment matters. She regularly represents public and private sector clients in labor and employment litigation and provides employers with advice regarding various employment-related matters. She also provides training seminars for employers and their employees on many different topics, including appropriate behavior in the workplace. Ms. Peltzman, a Cherry Hill resident, received her law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, magna cum laude and her B.A. degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Rutgers University in New Brunswick.  She is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Ms. Peltzman is a member of the New Jersey, Camden County and Burlington County Bar Associations.  Additionally, she is a member of Philadelphia’s Regional Chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management.

Kay Sowa Chairs RCBC Board

kay-sowaMt. Laurel, NJ – –  Capehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that paralegal, Kay M. Sowa, was recently voted as Chair of the Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) Paralegal Advisory Board.

The purpose of the Paralegal Advisory Board is to promote the Paralegal program at RCBC and to develop interest among the legal and business community in the use of paralegals in the workplace.  Ms. Sowa will be working with the Advisory Board’s three subcommittees regarding the evaluation of the curriculum, assessment of the program and marketing of the program to potential students and employers.  Additionally, Ms. Sowa will work with the Director of the Paralegal program to maintain the American Bar Association accreditation of the program.

Ms. Sowa, a Mount Laurel resident, is an Internal Revenue Service Enrolled Agent eligible to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS. She is also a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor through the Institute of Certified Bankers. In addition to her paralegal duties in probate, tax and accounting matters relating to trusts, estates and individuals, she assists in estate litigation matters.

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Adopts “Predominant Benefit” Test under FLSA for Determining Meal Time Compensability

By Ralph R. Smith, 3rd, Esq.

When must an employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) compensate an employee for meal breaks taken during the course of an employee’s work day?  Throughout the country, various Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals have answered this question in different ways, but in the circuit court where New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are located (i.e. the Third Circuit), that circuit court had never answered this question until only recently in a significant precedential case for employers in this judicial region.

In Babcock v. Butler County, Docket No. 14-1467 (3rd Cir. 2015),  Sandra Babcock, a corrections officer at the Butler County Prison in Butler, Pennsylvania, filed a putative class action alleging Butler County improperly failed to pay her, and those similarly situated, overtime under the FLSA by not compensating the corrections officers for a portion of their meal periods.  Butler County Prison corrections officers worked eight and one-quarter-hour shifts, which included a one-hour meal break. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) that covered prison guards, forty-five minutes of the one-hour meal break was paid and the other fifteen minutes was unpaid. The CBA also imposed constraints on what corrections officers could and could not do during the meal break. Corrections officers had to remain on call for emergencies during the meal period and also remain in uniform and in close proximity to emergency response equipment. They also were not permitted to leave the prison during the meal break without permission from the warden or deputy warden and likewise not permitted to go outside or smoke cigarettes.

Because of the foregoing restrictions on their ability to engage in certain personal activities during their meal period, the guards argued that they should have been compensated for the entire meal period.  In response, Butler County filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the meal breaks were not compensable because the corrections officers received the “predominant benefit” of the meal period. The district court agreed and dismissed the action.

On appeal, the Third Circuit noted in its decision that two tests had been adopted primarily by other circuit courts to address the question of when compensation for meal breaks must be provided under the FLSA:  the “predominant benefit” test and the “relieved from all duties” test.  Ultimately, the Third Circuit adopted the “predominant benefit” test for these issues because it was the standard that the majority of other circuit courts had previously adopted to address such issues.

Under this test, the court assesses whether it is the employee or employer who receives the benefit of the meal break.  Applying this test to the case before it, the Court concluded that, even with the restrictions cited by the Plaintiff, on balance the corrections officers received the predominant benefit of the meal period and there was no legal duty to compensate them for the unpaid 15 minutes of the meal break.  In reaching this conclusion, the court noted that the correction officers could request authorization to leave the prison to take their meal break, and another important factor was that, if the meal break was disrupted, the terms of the CBA required that the guard be paid overtime.  Finally, in concluding its analysis, the Court cautioned that any inquiry into the predominant benefit standard had to be made on a case-by-case basis while taking into account the totality of the circumstances.

Wage and hour issues can be especially thorny ones for employers, particularly like those here that require an analysis as to whether an employee’s activities qualify as the performance of some service for an employer, thus requiring paid compensation for that time.  As Babcock illustrates, the answer to that question will often depend on which group is getting the benefit of the activities at that time, and how far (if at all) the employer’s rules place a restriction on an employee’s ability to engage in personal activities, especially when they effect time deemed to be a “break” from work for employees.  If you are wrong in assessing whether your employees should be paid, the consequences could be quite severe for not paying wages appropriately.

The Snowball Effect of the Common Law Snow and Ice Removal Immunity May Be About to Lose Momentum

By Jessica M. Anderson, Esq.

Our Legislature passed the New Jersey Tort Claims Act over forty years ago to replace and reestablish the common law rule immunizing public entities from liability for personal injury.  Although the common law doctrine of sovereign immunity was eroded to some extent by the Tort Claims Act, common law immunity for snow removal survived the enactment of our legislation.

Until roughly fifteen years ago, the majority of published cases applied the common law snow and ice removal immunity to municipalities.  However, in the 1999 Appellate decision Sykes v. Rutgers, 308 N.J. Super. 265 (App. Div. 1998), the Appellate Division held that Rutgers University was immune when a student slipped and fell on an accumulation of ice in the parking lot.  In 2001, the Sports and Exposition Authority was also found immune in the matter, O’Connell v. Sports & Exp. Auth., 337 N.J. Super. 122 (App. Div. 2001), certif. denied, 168 N.J. 293 (2001), where Plaintiff, who was attending a football game at Giants Stadium, fell on accumulated ice near the stadium seats and steps.  In 2006, UMDNJ was found immune in the unpublished decision, Smith v. University of Med. & Dentistry of N.J., 2006 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 755 (App. Div. January 9, 2006), where Plaintiff slipped and fell on refrozen ice piled next to the elevator entrance.

In the recent unpublished Appellate decision, Stair v. New Jersey Transit Inc., 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 950 (App. Div. April 24, 2015), in which I successfully represented Defendant, the Appellate Division against extended the common law snow and ice removal immunity by applying it to New Jersey Transit.  In this case, Plaintiff claimed he was injured when he slipped and fell on black ice while walking on the Woodbridge train station platform.  Of significant note were the Appellate Division’s comments emphasizing the importance of the immunity in light of the multitude of claims that could be filed after every snowstorm, the substantial cost of defending such claims, and the obvious risk an individual takes when traveling in winter weather conditions.

Although the common law snow and ice removal immunity has continued to grow in strength over the past forty years, the recent concurring decision by the Honorable Jack Sabatino in Rajohn Mann v. New Jersey Transit Corporation, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2804 (App. Div. December 4, 2015), invites the Supreme Court to reconsider the immunity.  Judge Sabatino discusses at length how absolute immunity might be sufficiently anachronistic in light of the additional safeguards provided by the Tort Claims Act.  He also notes that some other states, such as New York, do not confer absolute immunity upon public entities for negligent snow or ice removal.

Kelly Adler Rejoins Capehart’s Labor & Employment Department

kelly_adlerMt. Laurel, NJ – – Capehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that Kelly E. Adler, Esq. has rejoined the firm’s Labor &  Employment and School Law Departments in its Mt. Laurel office.

Ms. Adler, a Haddon Township resident, focuses her practice in the representation of public and private sector employers in the areas of labor and employment, school law, and civil rights matters.

Ms. Adler received her law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law and her B.S. degree from The College of New Jersey.  She is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Adam Segal and Andrea Katz Join Capehart’s Workers’ Compensation Department

Mt. Laurel, NJ – – Capehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that Adam M. Segal, Esq. and Andrea B. Katz,  Esq. have recently joined the Firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department in its Mount Laurel office.

Mr. Segal, a Philadelphia resident, and Ms. Katz, an Englewood, New Jersey resident, represent insurance carriers and employers in the defense of workers’ compensation claims at all stages of litigation.

Mr. Segal received his law degree, cum laude, from Widener School of Law and his B.S. degree in Business Economics from Lehigh University.  He is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Ms. Katz received her law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law and her B.A. degree in International Affairs, cum laude, from George Washington University. She previously served as Chief of Staff for Deputy Assembly Speaker Valerie Vainieri Huttle.  Ms Katz is admitted to practice law in New Jersey.

Brittany A. Verga Joins Capehart Scatchard’s Estate Department

brittany_vergaCapehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that Brittany A. Verga, Esq. recently joined the Firm’s Health Care and Estate and Trust Administration Departments in its Mt. Laurel office.

Ms. Verga, a Haddonfield resident, focuses her practice in assisting physicians, dentists, physician groups and hospitals with the various legal issues each face. She also practices in the areas of estate and tax planning, estate administration, small business representation, elder law, and probate litigation.

Ms. Verga received her law degree from Rutgers University Law School of Law in Camden, a Master of Public Health degree from Rutgers School of Public Health, and her B.A. degree in philosophy, magna cum laude, from George Washington University.  Upon law school graduation, Ms. Verga worked as a law clerk to the Honorable Eugene J. McCaffrey, Jr. in the New Jersey Superior Court, Gloucester County Vicinage.  She is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.