Can you imagine being unable to access your doctor’s office or grocery store? Or being told that even though it has been illegal for 28 years for that business to deny you access, you need to formally complain and then wait six months or for that business to begin allowing you access? Participation in society should not depend on businesses getting around to complying with the law after the affected person complains. And the person being denied access should not have to bear the costs of forcing the business to comply.
On February 15, the United States House of Representatives voted 225-192 to dismantle protections afforded by the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The did this by approving “The ADA Education and Reform Act,” also called H.R. 620. This bill will not become law, however, unless approved by the Senate. There is still time to contact your Senator and urge him or her to vote against the ADA Education and Reform Act.
H.R. 620 removes incentives for businesses to comply with the law, and places the burden for ensuring business compliance on the person being denied access. The ADA has been the law for almost 28 years, and already takes the needs of businesses into account. H.R. 620 is being advertised as an attempt to give businesses more education on how to comply with the ADA, but it does not provide any specific guidance about what that education should be. It is worth noting that free (and extensive) educational resources are already available to businesses.
The scary part of this bill is that is attempts to take the burden for ADA compliance off businesses and place it onto individuals with disabilities. The bill’s sponsors are saying this is to prevent frivolous lawsuits, but in reality, the ADA does not allow monetary damages for suits filed under Title II of the ADA. Some states allow monetary damages, but changing federal law with this bill would not eliminate those state allowances.
Importantly, the ADA has been law for 28 years. Businesses, schools, and the likes have had ample time and notice to comply with the law. But now, supporters of this bill are suggesting that business be given even more time – they only have to comply with the ADA if someone formally complains. And even after a complaint, the business would have six months to begin making progress towards accessibility. And if – after a formal complaint and the lengthy waiting period – the business does finally comply with the ADA, no lawyers’ fees would be available. So the individual(s) being denied access would have to fund their fight for accessibility out of their own pockets.
What this means for you: Do you or a loved one rely on the protections of the ADA to gain reasonable accommodations, access, and entry in places like doctors’ offices, grocery stores, and while going about your daily life? Do you worry about the burden of ADA compliance being placed on individuals with disabilities, rather than on the businesses and schools that should be creating accessible environments? If so, contact your state Senator and urge him or her to vote against the ADA Education and Reform Act. You can look up your Senator and his/her contact information here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.
For more information and resources regarding H.R. 620, visit the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund: https://dredf.org/hr620/.
~Lauren E. Martin, Esquire
Did you know that Pennsylvania has an online docket system accessible to the public? The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (UJS) is an online website https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/ which allows the public to search and view individual court case information in any of the sixty- seven Pennsylvania counties. There is no charge to search the UJS website. Information that can be obtained includes:
Criminal cases – including summary offenses
All public information is available by searching a person’s criminal docket, such as: criminal charges, court dates, plea and sentence information. Don’t know the person’s docket number? You can search by name and a combination of county or docket type: meaning civil, criminal etc. This website proves useful whether you need information about your own case, or simply want to find out more about that neighbor down the street.
Have a traffic ticket or costs of court to pay?
You can also use UJS to pay fines, costs and restitution to the Magisterial District courts and the Court of Common Pleas. Use this link https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/bail/Default.aspx to pay the aforementioned costs by Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express or ATM card. A $2.75 service charge is added per transaction. You can search by citation number, payment plan number, docket number, name of person or organization.
What this means for you: If you have questions about your record or a pending criminal matter, we can help you. Make Pyfer Reese your choice – visit www.pyferreese.com or call 717.299.7342 to schedule a consultation with Attorney Heather Adams.
~Heather L. Adams, Esquire
EVER BEEN INJURED ON THE JOB?
EVER HAD A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM?
IS IT LIKELY YOU WILL HAVE AN INJURY ON THE JOB?
IS IT LIKELY YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM?
IF YOUR ANSWER IS YES TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, THEN OPPOSE SENATE BILL 936.
STATE LAWMAKERS COULD LIMIT YOUR MEDICAL TREATMENTS.
• Under current law, injured workers have given up their right to sue in exchange for a system that provides timely and proper medical care. BILL 936 WOULD CHANGE THAT.
· Senate Bill 936 would create a pre-approved list of drugs for workers’ compensation claims. This means that the insurance company – NOT your doctor – would be controlling your healthcare decisions. In other words, by creating a drug formulary, insurance companies can overrule your doctor and deny you the medicine that your doctor prescribed.
We need to stop this harmful bill. Please call these instrumental State Representatives and voice your objection about this Bill – it will only take a few minutes of your time.
CONTACT ANY OF THESE LAWMAKERS TODAY:
REP. ROSEMARY BROWN – MONROE & PIKE COUNTIES (570) 420-8301
REP. JONATHAN FRITZ – SUSQUEHANNA & WAYNE COUNTIES (570) 253-5533
REP. JIM MARSHALL – BEAVER & BUTLER COUNTIES (724) 847-1352
REP. DAVE MILLARD – COLUMBIA COUNTY (570) 759-8734
REP. TEDD NESBIT – BUTLER & MERCER COUNTIES (724) 458-4911
REP. CHRIS QUINN – DELAWARE COUNTY (610) 325-1541
REP. TODD STEPHENS – MONTGOMERY COUNTY (215) 368-5165
REP. JEFF WHEELAND – LYCOMING COUNTY (570) 321-1270
Or you can go to https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/ to find a different/your legislator.
Thank you for your help!
To learn more, visit:
The most recent earned media piece our team created can be found here: http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2018/01/this_workers_compensation_refo_1.html#incart_river_index
** portions reprinted, taken from Pennsylvania Association for Justice
212 N. 3rd St., Ste. 101
Harrisburg, PA 17101
If you have any questions about this Bill or about your workers’ compensation rights, get a free consult, contact Attorney Gabriella H. Farhat who handles workers’ compensation matters and has handled them for over 30 years. 717.299.7342.
Two of our Attorneys are in the running for an impending vacant County Judge Seat in Lancaster County. Read on:
John F. Pyfer, Jr., Esquire
Occupation: Of counsel and founder at Pyfer, Straub, Gray & Farhat, P.C.
Education: Vanderbilt University School of Law (J.D.); Haverford College (B.A.)
Residence: Manor Township
Other: Pyfer is the only candidate who told the senators he is interested in serving just for the interim period before the 2019 election.
Christopher M. Patterson, Esquire
Occupation: Of counsel at Pfyer, Reese, Straub, Gray & Farhat, P.C., 2016 to present
Education: University of Baltimore (J.D.); University of Notre Dame (B.B.A.)
Residence: Manheim Township
Other: Patterson submitted his name to the Republican committee for the vacancies in 2017 and in 2010. In both cases, he was “recommended” by the bar association but withdrew his name from the committee before the endorsement. He has also served as chairman of the Manheim Township Republican committee for four years.
If you are involved in custody litigation, or if you are considering custody litigation, you should know that the Pennsylvania child custody statute lists 16 factors the Court must consider when awarding custody. The factors will be addressed, to the extent they apply to your personal circumstances, during the course of a custody hearing, with factors affecting child safety given “weighted consideration” by the court. In most cases, the parties present evidence to the court in the form of testimony—from the parties, relatives, close personal relationships, etc.—and documentary evidence, which, in today’s litigations, frequently involves Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media posts.
How are social media posts relevant, you ask, when the court is deciding the best interests of your child? Many times the best evidence of a parent’s judgment, lifestyle choices, and ability to co-parent come in the form of photographs, comments, or links shared by that parent on various social medial websites. And, when all other factors are considered equal, a quasi-disparaging remark about the other parent on Twitter or a photo of a compromising situation on Facebook may be enough to impact the custody schedule awarded by the court. Yes, social media posts alluding to excessive alcohol use, illicit drugs, financial or other forms of instability, and disparaging comments about the other parent or his/her family may impact the custodial time you are awarded by the court. Be cognizant of your online presence and how it may be viewed by a court considering the best interests of your child.
If you are contemplating a custody action, or if you are already involved in an action, contact our office and our experienced Family Law attorneys to discuss your custody action and how to best prepare and present your case.
~Jeffrey C. Murse, Esquire
 Factors to consider when awarding custody, at Title 23 Pa.C.S.§5328
As we are in the midst of the stress and business of the holiday season, the good times can seem exceptional and the bad times can seem devastating. For families with parents who are separated or divorced, the stress of the holidays can bring any lingering custody disputes into the spotlight. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (“AAML”) has created “Child Centered Residential Guidelines,” which can be especially helpful reminders at this time of year.
If you and your co-parent are operating without court involvement, or if you are able to communicate well about holiday plans, the AAML recommends that parents “consider honoring family traditions in order to maintain consistency for the children.” If you and your co-parent have a custody order or agreement in place, remember that holidays often involve a change from the normal schedule. It may be a good idea to check the language of the order, and if any changes need to be made the parents should communicate directly with each other. Children should not be used to communicate messages to a parent.
Family Courts are – and should be – focused on the “best interests” of a child. It is important to remember that children should be excluded from any disputes or conflict arising between parents. Many custody Orders include language about encouraging the children to love and respect the other parent (regardless of your personal feelings towards him or her). When in the presence of the children, parents should be “cordial and courteous to each other” and should “not interfere with the other parent’s parenting time.” Things can (and tend to) go wrong over the holidays, with traffic and unforeseen circumstances to account for, so parents should remain in communication with each other regarding schedule changes.
If your family is celebrating or has celebrated a holiday that exchanges gifts, the AAML has a helpful guideline to keep in mind: “Let the children bring important items between homes, such as a special toy, blanket, or other security item.” Remember that a child enjoying a gift from or time with the other parent does not mean that they appreciate your gifts or your presence any less.
What this means for you: Regardless of whether you have a formal court order in place or are co-parenting without court involvement, these are helpful guidelines for keeping the best interest of your child in focus amidst the holiday stress. If you have concerns about your custody arrangement or want to know more about your legal rights as a parent or guardian, our team of experienced family law attorneys can help.
Make Pyfer Reese your choice. Call 717.299.7342 to schedule a consultation. Pyfer Reese offices will be closed on January 1st. From our family to yours, we wish you a very happy holiday season.
~Lauren E. Martin, Esquire
On August 25, 2017, a new law went into effect that makes an Ignition Interlock requirement mandatory for first time DUI offenders whose BAC is .1% or higher and for drivers who refuse chemical testing. The Ignition Interlock system is a device that is installed in a car and requires the driver to blow into the device in order to start the car. The car will not start if the device detects alcohol. Additionally, the device requires a driver to randomly blow into the device while driving to ensure that the driver remains alcohol free.
While the new law was marketed as a “tougher DUI law,” it also created a new Ignition Interlock License which allows an individual to drive during the term, or part of the term, of their DUI suspension. For first time DUI offenders, a driver may avoid the mandatory year suspension previously imposed by PennDOT. For second or subsequent DUI suspenders, the new law allows drivers to apply for this license after serving a portion of the mandatory suspension. It is important to note that this license allows travel anywhere and is not limited to travel to and from work.
In order to obtain this license, a driver must complete an application with Penn DOT and have the Ignition Interlock system installed in their vehicle. The application fee is $65.00 and is non-refundable. The estimated cost of having an ignition interlock system per year is between $900 and $1,300 per year.
What this means for you: If you have questions about the Ignition Interlock License or a DUI in general, we can help you. If you have been charged with a DUI or are under a DUI suspended license, we may also able to help you through the process of obtaining the Ignition Interlock License.
Make Pyfer Reese your choice – visit www.pyferreese.com or call 717.299.7342 to schedule a consultation with me.
~Heather L. Adams, Esquire
 The Ignition Interlock requirement does not apply to first time offenders who are eligible for the ARD program. Those who are eligible for ARD and face a reduced license suspension are currently not eligible for the Ignition Interlock License.
When contemplating a separation from a spouse or loved-one, there is often a concern about the ongoing ability to meet financial obligations—in other words, will you be able to meet your living expenses and your children’s expenses after separation? The good news is that the Pennsylvania support statute (23 Pa.C.S.A., Chapter 43) establishes that “[m]arried persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support,” and parents are liable for support of unemancipated children who are 18 years old or younger. The Court will calculate those support obligations by applying the parties’ incomes and relevant expenses to the Pennsylvania support guidelines.
But what happens if your ex-spouse or partner is unemployed or under-employed? Will the Court accept your ex-spouse’s lower wages, resulting in a lower support payment for you?
If the Court determines that your ex-spouse has willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment, the Court may impute an income equal to your ex-spouse’s earning capacity. Factors such as age, education, training, health, work experience, earnings history, and child care responsibilities will be considered by the Court when determining an earning capacity and the amount of imputed income. For an unemployed ex-spouse or partner, the Court will also consider whether that person has exerted substantial good faith efforts to find employment. An imputed income for an unemployed or under-employed party is applied to the Pennsylvania support guidelines in place of actual earnings, which (in most cases) will result in a higher support obligation and, therefore, greater financial support to help meet your living expenses.
It is important to remember that child and spousal support determinations can be nuanced, and many other variables (e.g., custody arrangements, health insurance premiums, child care costs) may impact the determination by the Court. If you have questions regarding child or spousal support matters, please contact us at 717.299.7342 to speak with one of our Family Law attorneys.
~Jeffrey C. Murse, Esquire
The process of applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) can be arduous. Lawyers who are authorized representatives with Social Security can help collect your records necessary to present a strong argument on appeal. And you should not be surprised if you are denied and want to appeal. Many – if not most – applicants are denied after their initial application, and it can take approximately a year and a half to receive a hearing date after an appeal. Backlog is an unfortunate reality of the current social security process.
However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does recognize this problematic backlog, and has taken steps to significantly reduce the waiting time for individuals diagnosed with conditions or illnesses that clearly meet the SSA’s definition of “disability.” The SSA has a list of “Compassionate Allowances.” Individuals suffering from conditions or illnesses on this list experience a reduced waiting time. According to the SSA website, the Compassionate Allowances program identifies claims that will clearly be granted, and “[b]y incorporating cutting-edge technology, the agency can easily identify potential Compassionate Allowances to quickly make decisions.” Conditions on this list include certain cancers, Huntington’s Disease, ALS, some types of muscular dystrophy, and more. (For a complete list, visit: https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm.)
On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the Social Security Administration announced that it is expanding its list of “Compassionate Allowances.” CACH (Vanishing White Matter Disease, Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms), Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy, and Kleefstra Syndrome have been added to the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions. (For more information, or to view the press release, visit: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/#/post/9-2017-1.)
What this means for you: If you have been diagnosed with a condition on the Compassionate Allowances list, you can qualify for an expedited review of your SSI and/or SSD application. The conditions and diseases on this list are ones that clearly meet the agency’s definition of disability, so you will be able to receive your benefits quickly and avoid the lengthy application and appeal process.
At Pyfer Reese, Attorneys Gabriella H. Farhat and Lauren Martin are authorized representatives with the Social Security Administration. If you have questions about your social security disability benefits, we can help you. Make Pyfer Reese your choice – visit www.pyferreese.com or call 717.299.7342 to set up a free consultation.
We are Lawyers Who Lead.
Pyer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat, PC, is a sponsor of Relay for Life.