BHL Bogen

BHL Bogen
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Friday, May 19, 2017

NC Court of Appeals' Clarifications on ADA Reasonable Accomodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") requires employers to provide accomodations to employees with disabilities so that they are able to perform the essential functions of the job. However, to what extent can employers experiment with such accommodations?

A few weeks ago, in Rittelmeyer v. Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Court of Appeals decided that employers are not continuously required to provide accommodations that the employee prefers but instead, accommodations based on the reasonable efforts of the employer. In this case, the employee suffering from an extreme sensibility to light sued her employer for failure to provide reasonable accomodations, ensuing her termination due to not returning to work after several weeks of unpaid leave. The employee's main argument was that the implemented accomodations, among which turning off all overhead lights in the office, were not effective in accommodating her disability. However, the court decided that effectiveness was not a requirement to fulfill the standard of providing reasonable accomodations due to the undue hardship it causes on the workplace. In Rittelmeyer, the undue hardship was caused by requiring all of the employee's coworkers to work without overhead lights.

Therefore, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for their ADA employees as long as it does not create an undue hardship within the work environment. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Predictive Justice in France

Predictive Justice is a program developed by the start-up company Predictice that allows lawyers to assess their chances of winning a trial. Simply with a single click, an algorithm calculates the probability of resolving a dispute, the amount of available damages, and identifies the most influential elements in judicial decisions by searching through a database of case law and statutes.

Currently, approximately fifteen French law firms are testing Predictive Justice to determine whether it will actually work in practice. According to some lawyers, the software which is a meeting between mathematics and law, is going to be of considerable help as it will allow to objectively inform the parties of the risks that they incur in the event of a judicial procedure. Moreover, this system will also permit lawyers to know the arguments mostly used by courts ahead of time and thus better prepare for the cases. However, for ethical reasons, it must be noted that the program is not applicable to criminal law.

Initially skeptical lawyers who were afraid of being "replaced" by the machine were quickly convinced by this seemingly exceptional instrument which allows to better assess a case's chances of success, thereby limiting situations where lawyers have to fly by the seat of their pants. Predictive Justice is also facilitated by the recent French law for a "Digital Republic," which imposes the dissemination of all judicial decisions, a process that is common in the U.S.

This raises the question whether Predictive Justice would also work in the U.S. However, unlike in France, the judicial system in the U.S. depends largely on jury decisions, making it nearly impossible to predict a case's outcome.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Telecom Executives Agree to Pay Penalties for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Violation

Sometimes foreign executives forget that U.S. law can reach them and their companies, particularly if they issue securities in the United States. The case of three former executives at Magyar Telekom, a telecommunications provider from Hungary, whom the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged with having violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is just one example that relates to this statement. In April 2017, Elek Straub and Andras Balogh, two of the three former executives, consented to paying financial penalties and accepting officer and director bars to settle the case.
Magyar Telekom had faced criminal and civil charges of bribing officials in Macedonia and Montenegro to gain business advantages in said countries and exclude competitors in the industry. Its' parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG, was also charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
In December 2011, Magyar Telekom paid a $95 million penalty to settle the charges. But the SEC's complaint was also directed towards Magyar's former CEO, and the company's former chief strategy officer for arranging the use of fake contracts to direct millions of dollars towards corrupt payments and leading secret agreements with a prime minister, amongst others, to shut out competitors.
Elek Straub and Andras Balogh have settled with a $250,000 USD and $150,000 USD penalty respectively. Both agreed to being blocked from serving as an officer or director of any SEC-registered public company for the next five years. The reached settlements are subject to court approval. With the company's former director of business development and acquisitions, Tamas Morvai, a $60,000 USD settlement had been reached in February 2017. He had manipulated the company's books and records to conceal the bribery scheme put in place by Straub and Balogh. According to Stephanie Avakin, Acting Director of The SEC's Divison of Enforcement, the SEC had "(...) persevered in order to hold the (...) overseas executives culpable for corrupting a company that traded in the U.S. market."