E-commerce in Pennsylvania has been made easier, thanks to a law approved recently by Gov. Tom Ridge.
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, or EUTA, basically removes barriers to the use of electronic records, electronic signatures, electronic notarizations and acknowledgements and the use of electronic agents in the conduct of business, according to Raymond Pepe and Robert Wittie, attorneys with law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart.
The law, they say, accepts electronic forms of signatures, notarizations and records as legal when it comes to satisfying contract formation, agency relationships and the retention of records. If a law requires a signature, an electronic signature (defined as a “sound, record or process attached to or logically associated with a record or executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record)” is acceptable. Moreover, transferable records can include the execution and use of electronic notes, bills of lading and warehouse receipts.
Pennsylvania is the first state to accept in virtually its entirety the original act, created by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
The law does offer protection from misuse of electronic signatures. According to Pepe and Wittie, you can use an electronic signature if you can demonstrate: (1) that you have in place a reasonable security procedure; (2) your good-faith reliance on the procedures in agreement with other parties involved; and (3) evidence that the security procedure indicates that a message was, in fact, from the person to which the electronic signature or record is attributed.
With the prevalence of depression and its costly effects on workplace morale and productivity, what is a company to do?
Plenty, if you’re willing to reach out and help your employees while still abiding by stringent Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, according to an article in law firm Buchanan Ingersoll’s Pennsylvania Employment Law Letter. If recent studies are correct, one depressed worker can cost an employer as much as $600 in treatment and lost productivity. The main thing you can do, the article outlines, is encourage employees to seek treatment.
Consider the following:
- Make sure your employee health plan includes mental health coverage.
- Implement an employee assistance program that provides free, confidential counseling to help employees deal with issues ranging from stress to clinical depression.
- Offer mental health screening as an employee benefit.
- Educate supervisors about the signs of depression and what’s available to help employees.
- Consider Web sites for more information about depression, including NFBR at www.treatdepression.com; National Institute of Mental Health at www.nimh.nih.gov; National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association at www.ndmda.org; National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at www.nami.org; National Mental Health Association at ww.nmha.org; and American Psychological Association at www.apa.org.
If your company uses temporary workers, you remain protected from workplace injury lawsuits by them, even if you’re not the one paying Workers’ Compensation premiums for them.
A federal court has joined the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in ruling that companies directing and controlling temporary workers on a steady basis should be viewed as the “real employer” and should be protected from liability under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act even if the temporary agency is paying the premiums, according to Buchanan Ingersoll’s Pennsylvania Employment Law Letter.
The court ruled in favor of a warehouse facility that had hired a temporary employee from an agency. While the agency paid the insurance, as well as the wages, the warehouse determined the type of work to be performed and had control over the worker’s duties and responsibilities, including the right to fire him. That made him an “employee” of the warehouse, according to the court ruling.
The ruling, from Shaw v. Thrift Drug Inc., 1999, should help you succeed in asserting that your company is immune from a workplace injury lawsuit if a worker gets hurt on the job and tries to file a suit against you.
Clubbed in court
Winner International, maker of the world-famous automobile anti-theft device The Club, once again has defended patent claims in court.
At the end of January, the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, reaffirmed the 1998 opinion of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that upheld all of Winner International Royalty Corp.’s patent claims on the device.
In question were the automatic self-locking ratcheting mechanism, as spelled out in U.S. Patent No. 4,935,047, and claims 9 through 11 of the related patent application. Winner also owns a patent covering the “commercial embodiment” of the original steering wheel anti-theft device known as The Club. And its shape is a registered trademark.
At issue was the obviousness of the design, but the courts all ruled that it was “nonobvious.”
Can you say ergonomics in 300 pages or less?
The Occupational Safety and health Administration sure knows how to get on the good side of business.
Not only did this regulatory agency issue more than 300 pages of new ergonomics rules for business, it allowed only a 70-day comment period. But thanks to U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, who lashed out with a letter signed by 62 member of the House and Senate, OSHA has granted a 30-day extension beyond the Feb. 1 deadline.
Says Bond: “While there is some relief in the extension, it has come so late that it may not help many of the people who need it. This has been typical of the way OSHA has responded to the small business community on this issue.”
He adds that this rule is the most complicated and broadest rule the agency has ever attempted.
“OSHA still appears ready to try and jam this rule down the throats of small businesses who will not have had a chance to register their concerns.”
Compiled by Daniel Bates