(703) 369-4738

31
Aug
2021

Part 1: Medical use of cannabis oil, what the new law says!

Virginia’s new law that prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for the employee’s lawful use of cannabis oil.

Virginia recently enacted a new law that makes it unlawful for employers to discharge, discipline or discriminate against an employee for the employee’s lawful use of “cannabis oil.”  In order for the use to be lawful, it must be obtained pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a medical practitioner, who has registered to write such certifications with the Board of Pharmacy, for the treatment or to eliminate the symptoms of a person’s diagnosed conditions or disease. In addition, the patient with the certification must also register with the Board of Pharmacy as well as obtain the cannabis oil from one of the five registered medical cannabis pharmaceutical processor dispensaries in Virginia.  In the event that an employer has an employee that has a medical condition for which they have lawfully obtained cannabis oil pursuant to the above-described process, the employer may not discharge, discipline or discriminate against such employee for the employee’s lawful use of cannabis oil.  It is important to note that the new law does not protect those who are using cannabis products recreationally or who are using cannabis products for medicinal purposes but have not complied with the proper procedures required by the law.

CBD Oil Chemical markersThat leads us to the next question – what is Cannabis oil?

The new law defines cannabis oil as “any formulation of processed Cannabis plant extract, which may include industrial hemp extract acquired by a pharmaceutical processor … or a dilution of the resin of a Cannabis plant that contains at least five milligrams of cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A) and no more than 10 milligrams of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per dose.” As the purpose of the Cannabis Oil under this law is to treat medical conditions, the law is very specific as to the content of cannabis products.

Cannabis oil should not be confused with CBD products available without a prescription and represented as having low amounts of THC. You can go to stores now where you may have CBD oils or cannabis products that are the kind that are not controlled and regulated by a medical cannabis pharmaceutical processor dispensary as part of a medicinal remedy. The use of these cannabis products are not what this law is intended to protect. If you have somebody who goes to a local store and buys some CBD product and then ends up in some circumstance where they test positive for marijuana, that’s not protected. It is the use related to medicinal use and only if the proper procedures are followed.

If an employee’s work is impaired by the use of medicinal cannabis, Employers may still take adverse action.

Employer’s still retain the ability to take adverse employment action against an employee with a medical certification if the employee’s work is impaired caused by the use of cannabis oil.  Employers may also prohibit possession of cannabis oil during work hours.

Please contact Kristina Keech Spitler, kspitler@vfnlaw.com or 703-618-3205 should you have any questions or need assistance

4
Aug
2021

New Associate Joins VF&N

Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. is pleased to announce the addition of our newest associate Monica Munin. She is currently licensed and authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia. Her practice includes employment law as well as litigation.

Prior to joining VF&N, Ms. Munin worked as an associate at Brustein & Manasevit PLLC in Washington, D.C, where she specialized in administrative litigation and compliance consulting for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) as well as State Education Agencies (SEAs). Prior to obtaining her law license, Ms. Munin served as an intern for the Honorable William Jarvis in Prince William General District Court as well as a paralegal for a general practice law firm in New York City.

Monica Munin Associate

Monica Munin
Associate

1
Dec
2020

2020 Virginia Business Legal Elite

Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. is proud to announce that three of its attorneys have been recognized by the Virginia Business Magazine as being among Virginia’s “Legal Elite” within their various practice categories. We are extremely honored to celebrate their continued success and exceptional work!

13
Aug
2020

New Associate Joins VF&N

Laura D’Agostino
Associate

Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. is pleased to announce the addition of our newest associate Laura M. D’Agostino. Her practice includes employment law and litigation.

Laura’s passion for business and employment law stems from her upbringing and involvement in her family’s business. In this role, Laura assumed significant management responsibilities as she interacted with local government officials, ensured compliance with applicable regulatory provisions, and applied creative solutions to resolve personnel management issues. Laura is committed to helping her clients and their teams build and strengthen their legal compliance as well as assisting them in practical aspects of human resource management.

Prior to joining VF&N, Laura worked as a litigation associate for Jackson & Campbell and as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Tracy C. Hudson in the Circuit Court for the Thirty-First Judicial Circuit of Virginia. Ms. D’Agostino simultaneously obtained her J.D. from Antonin Scalia Law School and her Master of Public Policy from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

25
Jun
2020

Employers Who Fail to Pay Wages: Employee Private Right of Action

(Part Three of a Four-Part Series

By Kristina Keech Spitler, Esq. and Brendan F. Cassidy, Esq.

While businesses have been focused on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, working remotely, educating kids, and figuring out how to return to work safely, new laws will go into effect starting on July 1, 2020 that you need to know about.  These laws will significantly impact Virginia employers.

Due to the enactment of these new laws in Virginia, businesses will need to understand what the laws require, update their pay statements, educate and train their supervisors/managers accordingly, and ensure compliance with upcoming state minimum wage and hour increases. If an employer is a general construction contractor, they will also want to review their subcontractor agreements, or face wage and hour liability for subcontractor violations.

Employee Private Right of Action

The General Assembly passed a new law (effective July 1, 2020) which will allow employees to bring a private cause of action against employers who fail to pay them their wages. Under the new law, employees may bring such an action individually, jointly, with other aggrieved employees, or on behalf of similarly situated employees as a collective action. 

General Construction Contractor Liability for Subcontractor Failure to Pay Wages

Under the new law, a general construction contractor is liable for subcontractor wage violations. For any construction contract entered into on or after July 1, 2020, the general contractor and subcontractor are jointly and severally liable to pay the greater of:

  1. The rate and terms in an employment agreement between the subcontractor and its employees, or
  2. The amount of wages the subcontractor is required to pay under applicable law. The general contractor is also subject to all penalties, criminal or civil under existing law.

However, this new law also requires subcontractors to indemnify general contractors (except as stated in a contract) for wages, damages, interest, penalties, or attorney’s fees owed as a result of the subcontractor’s failure to pay, unless the failure to pay subcontractor’s employees was a result of the general contractor’s failure to pay the subcontractor.


For further information or questions about these new laws, or for any questions regarding employment laws applicable to Virginia employers, please contact Ms. Spitler or Mr. Cassidy at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian.  The attorneys in the employment law department of VFN are available to help you revise your employee handbook and policies as well as provide training so that your organization complies with these new and other applicable law.  Alternatively, if your organization does not have an employee handbook, our firm can draft a handbook tailored to meet your business’s needs.

For further information or questions, please visit our site
Employment Law or Call Us (703) 369-4738

16
Jun
2020

You signed a contract for your business – Can the other side come after you personally?

Let’s assume that you are the owner of a small business (a corporation or limited liability company) working to obtain a contract for services for the business. You’ve done your research, found a solid services company to work with, negotiated the services and payment details, and are at the conference room table about to sign the contract. 

Two things could happen here – (1) concerned about the success rate of small businesses, the services company requires that you, as owner of the business, sign a personal guaranty; or (2) the services company does not require any cosigner, guarantor, or personal guarantee.

The services company requires that you, as owner of the business, sign a personal guaranty.

As confident as you may feel about the success of your small business, it is actually common for owners of small corporations and/or LLCs to be required to sign personal guarantees when entering a contract for their business. In this scenario, similar to the one above where the good friend cosigned a lending agreement, you must understand that by guaranteeing or personally cosigning your business’ contract, you are signing away the limited liability rights and status that you may otherwise have had. And, in the worst case scenario where your small business defaults on the contract payment terms, the services company will be able to, within the terms of the guarantee, seek payment directly from you personally!

The services company does not require any cosigner, guarantor, or personal guarantee.

In the second scenario, where the services company does not require that anyone cosign or personally guaranty the services contract, it is imperative that you, the small business owner, take care in signing the document. While it may be second nature to just quickly and casually scribble your name on the signature line, failing to include your title and position in the business or, even better, words similar to “president, signing on behalf of small business” may be a fool’s move! 

Without ensuring that it is perfectly clear that you have signed solely on behalf of the business, you open yourself up to possibly being held personally liable for the contract terms and obligations! Even if you do sign the document as described above, you should also be sure that your signature isn’t doing “double duty.” Specifically, fine print, buried deep in the contract may state that the business signer is also personally liable, even if there is only one signature block! This is a very dubious, but increasingly common, provision; why take the tisk? As such, reviewing not only all of the terms and provisions, but also the signature block, of your small business contract, and then taking care in how you sign such contract, is crucial!

Now, what happens if you do not own the business, but rather are an employee who was tasked with obtaining a contract for the business as part of your job?

In this scenario, it is unlikely that you would have signatory power for the company. In other words, you are not able to sign a contract with any meaningful business title using the words suggested in the above paragraph. As a result, you might be signing the contract personally, which, as above, opens you up to potential personal liability for all of the terms and conditions of the contract.

So, if you are this small business employee tasked with obtaining some sort of goods or services contract for your company, while you should feel comfortable researching providers of said goods and services, when it comes time to sign a contract, it is absolutely in your best interest to hand it over to the boss.

By: Attorney Jonathan Gelber


4
Jun
2020

Are electronic signatures (e-signatures) really binding?

As more and more transactions take place via the internet, it is important for individuals to understand, and be aware of, the liability that may be associated with electronically signing a document.

Virginia, like many other states, has adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”); see Virginia Code § 59.1-479, et seq. The UETA makes it clear that, with few exceptions, one cannot contest the validity of a contract based solely upon one’s electronic signature. Rather, “if a law requires a signature, or provides for certain consequences in the absence of a signature, an electronic signature satisfies the law.” Virginia Code § 59.1-485(d).

Therefore, unless an exception applies to the document in question, it is important to understand that an electronic signature has the same strength and validity as a hard copy signature.

Additionally, not only does an electronic signature bind the signor, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that by clicking “I Agree” at the end of online terms and conditions agreement, one has electronically signed that document and is bound by its provisions.

By: Attorney Jonathan Gelber

11
May
2020

Can a rescue squad protect itself from local government accountability by becoming a non-stock corporation?

The Local Government Attorneys of Virginia hired Martin Crim of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian P.C. to draft an amicus curiae brief in the Virginia Supreme Court case of Dumfries-Triangle Rescue Squad v. Board of County Supervisors of Prince William County. 

The case started when members of the rescue squad falsified operational records and the County’s Operational Medical Director refused to renew the operating license for the rescue squad. In response, the Board of Supervisors dissolved the Rescue Squad pursuant to statute and the agreement between the County and the Rescue Squad.

The Rescue Squad refused to wind up its affairs, however, claiming that its incorporation as a nonstock entity in 1959 made it immune to dissolution by the County. The Virginia Supreme Court allowed the appeal on the questions of whether the County had the authority to dissolve the Rescue Squad and whether the trial court was right to order the Rescue Squad to distribute its assets to the County.

The appeal presented the novel question of whether a rescue squad can unilaterally protect itself from local government accountability by becoming a non-stock corporation.

The amicus brief pointed out the state law has, since 1970, authorized local governments to regulate and even dissolve volunteer rescue squads, and similar laws apply to volunteer fire companies. Rescue squads are funded in large part with donations from private individuals and local governments, so the amicus brief argued that local governments need to have the ability to supervise, regulate, and, when necessary, dissolve rescue squads. State law has granted local governments those powers since 1970, and such laws affect rescue squads that existed before 1970 because the General Assembly has the power to affect existing corporations with new legislation designed to protect public health and safety.


* NO GUARANTEE OF RESULTS: Our prior results, including successful judgments and settlements, do not guarantee a similar outcome. Each case we handle is different and therefore we cannot guarantee any specific result in your case.

7
May
2020

Failure to Protect Employees From Covid-19 can Result in Fines or Worse

With a steady increase of reported COVID-19 infections, employers face increased risks regarding their employees’ safety. Risks include potential fines and other penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for violation of the OSHA Act.

Employers Have an Obligation

Under the OSHA Act, employers have an obligation to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/section5-duties

Preparing WorkPlaces

Since many employees working outside of their homes often physically interact with other people, employers should take steps to limit their employees’ risk of infection. To help employers reduce the risk of worker exposure to COVID-19, OSHA recently issued Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

In addition to this OSHA guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Resources for Businesses and Employers, which also provides guidance on how employers can prepare for and respond to COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html

Employers should review both OSHA and CDC guidance and follow recommended procedures, especially if their employees are in jobs classified as high or very high exposure risk. OSHA and CDC guidance discusses different steps employers may take to protect employees, including providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The type of PPE that an employer will need to provide can vary based on the employee’s risk classification or occupation. For example, OSHA does not recommend PPE for workers in the lower exposure group, but workers in a very high risk group would likely need to wear gloves, a gown, face shield, and in some cases a respirator.

OSHA has Received Thousands of Complaints

If an employee feels that their working environment threatens physical harm or an imminent danger, the employee can make a complaint to OSHA. https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/handling.html. Since the onset of the pandemic, OSHA has received thousands of complaints against employers related to COVID-19, and OSHA recently provided data showing an increase in the number of OSHA complaints and inspections. https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/covid-19-data#complaints_selected. If an employer does not furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards, that employer can be subject to civil penalties for each violation (and/or imprisonment of up to six months if willful). https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/section_17.

Employers Face Risks Beyond OSHA Violations

Employers face risks from COVID-19 beyond OSHA violations, as employees can bring lawsuits against their employers for claims including negligence and wrongful death. Since the start of the pandemic, employees have already begun filing claims against employers stemming from COVID-19, including lawsuits against retailer Walmart.

Employers should take actions recommended under OSHA and CDC guidance to minimize employee risks related to COVID-19. An employer’s failure to protect its employees can result in potential fines, lawsuits, or even imprisonment.


Please note that this summary is designed to provide general information, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and should not be utilized as a substitute for professional services in specific situations.  If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, please consult with an attorney.

VF&N’s Employment Law Team

17
Apr
2020

What should you do to best protect your business from litigation arising out of the Covid-19 crisis?

What should you do to best protect your business from litigation arising out of the Covid-19 crisis?

  • Stay up to date.  The federal government is passing a significant number of new laws in response to the crisis, especially related to employment.  Additionally, governors, administrative agencies, and courts are issuing orders changing how a business or individual can act, in light of public health concerns related to Covid-19. Some of these changes are intended to create new opportunities for businesses to keep operating without risking public health, but others create potential liability for businesses and individuals that don’t comply with the new laws and orders.
  • Document as much as possible.  You may not remember in a year why you did something, even though it seemed very important at the time.  Also keeping contemporaneous records helps protect your business against losing knowledge about an event because an employee leaves and helps protect against claims that someone in your organization is misremembering or lying about what happened.  Most litigation does not take place until months or years after the event at issue and people rarely realize that something could turn into litigation at the time it is happening. Keeping clear, consistent, and detailed records can often either prevent litigation or allow it to be resolved more quickly and for less cost than if records are minimal.
  • Don’t overpromise.  Whether dealing with customers, vendors, contractual partners, or employees the natural tendency is to try to make the other party happy or to emphasize the strengths and benefits of your product, service, or business.  But when this natural salesmanship goes too far it often leads to litigation. When a party feels like they have been “lied” to, even if that was not your intention, they are less likely to be reasonable in finding a solution.  Set reasonable expectations for both your business and those you deal with, especially in light of the known and likely future impacts of Covid-19.
  • Communicate clearly and document those communications.  Businesses are often asked by their customers, vendors, contractual partners, or employees for things they have no obligation to provide, either because it is not called for under the contract or the law does not require it.  This is especially true during an unusual or significant event like the Covid-19 crisis. In the interest of maintaining good relationships, many businesses will try to accommodate the request. Likewise, when ending or changing a relationship with vendors, contractual partners, or employee the instinct often is to soften the blow by being vague.  While it is not necessary to be rude, communications should be clear and not leave room for the other side to come up with their own interpretation of what you meant. If you are going to try to do something, but may not be able to, you should be clear about that. Likewise, if you have a contract, make sure you are clear about if what is being discussed is or is not intended to modify the contract.  If you do intend to modify the contract, make sure you review the contract and any amendment is done in accordance with its terms.  

By: Brett Callahan, Esq.

Do you have more Coronavirus related legal questions? Visit our Covid-19 business resource page HERE or call us at (703) 369- 4738. We are open and ready to assist new and existing clients.