Employers Combat FMLA Abuse

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to up to 12 weeks of leave per year, which may be taken intermittently for certain specified reasons, including the care of designated family members with serious health conditions. The FMLA also prohibits an employer from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of or the attempt to exercise any right given under the FMLA. One of the bases upon which an-employer-can-defeat-an FMLA "interference" claim is a showing by the employer that an employee did not, in fact, take leave for a purpose authorized under the FMLA. Naturally, the availability … [Read more...]

Financial Fraud Against the Elderly

It is a sad and sobering reality that scam artists intent on committing financial fraud or the outright stealing of money, property, or valuable information prey upon vulnerable senior citizens. The threats can take many forms, but the elderly and those watching out for them can have some measure of protection by taking a few basic precautions. •           Do your homework when selecting a professional advisor, even if the advisor comes highly recommended by a friend or family member. This means confirming that the person is registered or licensed and has not left a trail of mistreatment of other … [Read more...]

Facebook Posting Leads to an “F”

We all know that the right of free speech has its limits. There is no right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Those limits apply even in settings most closely associated with the free exchange of ideas, such as colleges and universities. In that academic setting, limits also exist even for speech that takes place off campus, such as on a social networking website, but that is connected to a student's academic program. A student in a state university's mortuary science program learned these constitutional law lessons the hard way when the university gave her a failing grade in an anatomy class and imposed other sanctions against her … [Read more...]

Arbitration Agreements Can Go Too Far

Strong public policies support the appropriate use of arbitration over litigation in settling legal disputes and in fact, such policies underlie the federal Arbitration Act that said, an agreement to arbitrate disputes is subject to well-established principles rooted in the law of contracts. This means, among other things, that courts will step in and declare void an ostensible agreement to arbitrate if its effects are too heavily weighted in one party's favor. Two recent examples of this overreaching by the more powerful party illustrate the point. In the first case, a former employee sued his former employer under the Fair Labor … [Read more...]

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

At the eleventh hour Congress averted the tax side of the ominous "Fiscal Cliff" that it faced as 2012 drew lo a close, late end result of the intense negotiations was the American Taxpayer Relief Act ol"20l2 (ATRA). The most publicized part of ATRA prevented scheduled federal lax rate hikes from going into effect for most taxpayers in 2013, while raising taxes on America's highest earners. ATRA also keeps in place many expiring in-come tax breaks and revives some tax increases that had expired over the past several years. Individual Tax Rates Low tax years beginning after 2112. ATRA makes permanent almost all of' the federal income … [Read more...]

401(k) Loans and Hardship Withdrawals

You won't find many financial advisors who vigorously advocate dipping into the money in your 401(k) retirement account while you're still working. It is for retirement, after all. Still, using some of what could be a sizeable amount of money sitting in the account for current financial needs may sometimes be too great a temptation to resist. Taking that step is not always ill-advised, but you should know all the ramifications before doing so. Borrowing The first way to access funds in a 401(k) before retirement is by borrowing from the account. Generally you can borrow up to 50% of the vested amount in the account, up to a maximum of … [Read more...]

Pitfalls of Being an Executor

As a general rule, the executor of an estate does not have personal liability for the debts and obligations of a decedent. Lest executors become complacent, however, they should be aware of an important exception to that rule, which was illustrated by a recent federal court case between executors and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). At the time of her death, the decedent had a substantial unpaid income tax liability, in the range of a half-million dollars. There was no question that the two executors of her estate, one of whom was her son, had been aware of that liability, since they had received letters from the IRS advising them of a … [Read more...]

How Long Has This Been Going On?

Even if you're a taxpayer with simple returns and few supporting documents, you can become a little snowed under by tax records as they accumulate over the years, raising the question of how long you should hold on to such records. The answer depends on the types of documents and transactions involved, but if you have been a tax records pack rat for many years, chances are you can safely dispose of the oldest such records without inviting trouble. As a starting point, you must keep tax records that support the income, deductions, and credits on your tax return, and you should also keep copies of the returns themselves. As for how long to … [Read more...]

Underwater Homeowners Get a Life Raft

The travails of the housing market in recent years are well documented. The prevalent symbols of this down-turn are the "underwater" homeowners, who owe more on their mortgages than their homes and- Worth. Millions of such homeowners have mort-gages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and fully 80% of those owners haven't missed any mortgage payments. One way out of the predicament of the underwater owner is the short sale. In which the owner sells the home unless than the balance remaining on the mortgage. It is not a perfect solution that will wipe away all financial problems, but if die mortgage company agrees to a short sale, the … [Read more...]

Classifying Employees for Wages

As a general proposition, employees are required by federal law to pay their employees overtime, usually one and one-halt times die hourly pay, for lime in excess of -10 hours in a work week. They are also required to pay the minimum wage, which is currently S7.25 an hour. The first four groups of employees that are "exempt" from having these rights are executive, administrative. And professional personnel and outside salespersons, for any of the first three exemptions, collectively called the "white collar exemptions," to apply. The employee must receive; on a salaried basis, at least S-155 per week or its equivalent. Another commonly … [Read more...]