One of Joe Biden’s first acts as President yesterday was extending the residential eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. Read the CDC statement on that here.

We are hearing there will be extensive changes to the moratorium processes and procedures that will tilt the scales decidedly in favor of non-paying tenants. We will keep our blog readers updated on those changes as they occur.

The CDC in its release attributes the moratorium to “a housing affordability crisis” that they now place even more so on the books and backs of landlords to resolve.

Today, Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes joined Finney Law Firm Chris Finney at a webinar hosted by the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors to educate the public on “Ohio Property Tax Valuation Reduction.” Our thanks go to Auditor Rhodes and Christy Beaver, Director of Education the Board, for organizing and hosting this course.

Here is a link to the video. Please feel free to share it.

If our Property Tax Valuation Group can be of assistance to you, please contact Casey Jones (513.943.5673).

After years of lobbying from employers and defense counsel seeking to overhaul Ohio’s workplace discrimination laws, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 352 into law on January 12, 2021. The new law tips the scales in favor of employers in workplace discrimination cases. The changes will impact the way employment law attorneys practice and their clients pursue, or defend, workplace discrimination claims. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant changes to the law:

Limits Liability for Individual Supervisors

The new law excludes persons acting directly or indirectly in an employer’s interest from the definition of an “employer” under the Ohio Civil Rights Law. This change means that individual supervisors cannot be held personally liable for workplace discrimination claims if they were acting in the interest of an employer except in limited circumstances. Individual supervisors can be held personally liable if it is determined they acted outside of the scope of their employment, retaliated against the complainant, or obstructed the complainant from pursuing a claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC).

Establishes a Specific Procedure for Employment Discrimination Claims

Under the current law, plaintiffs can file workplace discrimination claims with the OCRC or in a county court. The new law removes this choice and requires that an individual first file a charge with the OCRC before she may file a civil lawsuit. Once a charge is opened with the OCRC, the agency will begin an investigation. After sixty days, the complainant may request a notice of right to sue from the OCRC. After the complainant receives a notice of right to sue from the OCRC (or more than 45 days have passed without a response to the request) the complainant may file a civil lawsuit. An individual may also file a lawsuit if she obtains a notice of right to sue from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the agency that enforces federal employment discrimination laws).

If the OCRC finds it probable that workplace discrimination has occurred, the complainant will have the choice of allowing the OCRC to prosecute the claim (including attempting to resolve the claim through alternative dispute resolution) or to withdraw from the administrative process and file a civil lawsuit in the county courts.

Statute of Limitations for Workplace Discrimination Claims

For most claims, the current law allows a person to bring a lawsuit alleging violation of the Ohio Civil Rights Law within six years after the alleged discriminatory act occurred. The new law requires a plaintiff to file suit based on workplace discrimination within two years. The statute of limitations is tolled while a charge based on the same allegations is pending with the OCRC.

Affirmative Defenses for Employers in Sexual Harassment Cases

The new law affords employers an affirmative defense to a claim for vicarious liability in which an employee alleges that a supervisor created a hostile work environment through sexually harassing behavior. In the typical sexual harassment case, an employee alleges that a specific boss or supervisor subjected the employee to a hostile work environment, and the employee seeks to hold both the supervisor and the company/employer liable. Under the new law, the employer can raise an affirmative defense to these claims if it can prove: (1) that it had an effective harassment policy; (2) that it properly educated employees about the policy and complaint procedures; (3) that it exercised reasonable care to prevent or promptly correct the harassing behavior; and (4) that the complainant failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities. This is basically a re-statement of current federal law governing sexual harassment claims.

Age Discrimination Claims

Plaintiffs have previously pursued employment-based age discrimination claims through a variety of statutory mechanisms. The new law clarifies that age discrimination claims must be pursued through the same avenues in which all other workplace discrimination claims are pursued – i.e. – the process discussed above.

Takeaways

In order to pursue a workplace discrimination claim at the federal or state level, a plaintiff must have an understanding of the administrative procedures required by the EEOC and the OCRC. An individual subjected to workplace discrimination risks losing her claim if she fails to timely pursue an action or fails to adhere to the administrative procedures required to lodge a claim. The Finney Law Firm has experienced employment attorneys dedicated to protecting the rights of employers and employees in the workplace. We can help you navigate these claims at both the federal and state level.

 

 

For more information on this new statute, contact Brad Gibson (513.643.6661).  Read more about our Employment Law practice here.

The Cincinnati Enquirer covers our firm’s latest petition to the United States Supreme Court for certiorari — discretionary review of a lower Court decision. Read about that here.

Ohio Supreme Court upholds Governor’s last-minute cancellation of election

When the Ohio Supreme Court upheld Governor Mike DeWine’s last-minute cancelation of the Presidential Primary election in May, they did so in a simple one-line decision favoring the Governor’s Order. But the Ohio Constitution clearly says that the State’s highest Court must explain the reasoning behind each and every one of its decisions. State Representative Tom Brinkman reasoned that the Court could not well explain the novel decision to allow a Governor to cancel a duly-called and scheduled election at the last minute, and wanted to see their reasoning in black and white.

But what is the remedy?

Brinkman, represented by Chris Finney of Finney Law Firm and its “Of Counsel” attorney Curt Hartman, sued the Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court to force them to explain their decision — and the suit was filed at the Ohio Supreme Court. Brinkman fully expected that the Court would follow its long-established procedures to have the very Justices that had been sued as defendants in the case to recuse from the case and have others appointed from the Ohio judiciary to sit by designation on the decision.

Justices decide to be the Judge — of themselves

But much to Brinkman’s surprise and that of his attorneys, the five Justices who were defendants in the case, filed a brief in their own defense before themselves and then ruled on their own case. As you might imagine, they ruled in favor of themselves, seeing the wisdom of the brief they themselves filed and dismissed Brinkman’s Complaint. Ohioans got no explanation of the decision to cancel the election.

Is that due process?

Does that represent due process guaranteed by the US Constitution?

That is the question presented in the petition for writ of certiorari at the United States Supreme Court by the Finney Law Firm last week. Less than 1% of all cases presented to the US Supreme Court for review are granted oral argument, so Brinkman’s claim at this juncture is unquestionably an uphill battle, but Brinkman argues that it is fundamentally wrong — and unconstitutional — to allow any judges to sit in judgment of cases in which they themselves have been sued.

Can we do it yet again?

Three times previously, Finney Law Firm has achieved review of lower court decisions at the United States Supreme Court, and once accepted we won 100% of those cases 9-0.  Read about those against-all-odds wins here.

We will keep you advised if the Finney Law Firm again can thread the needle in SCOTUS practice.

Let us make an appellate difference for you

Let our team “Make a Difference” for you with our sophisticated appellate practice. Contact Chris Finney (513.943-6655) or Brad Gibson (513.943.6661) to speak with our experienced appellate litigators.

Ohio law allows individuals to designate a Transfer-On-Death (“TOD”) beneficiary for real estate.  This is accomplished by filing a TOD Designation Affidavit with the applicable County Recorder.

To be effective, the Affidavit must comply with the requirements of Ohio Revised Code Section 2302.22 and be recorded prior to the death of the owner.  If the Affidavit is recorded after the owner’s death, it is not effective.

The interest of a deceased owner is transferred to the TOD beneficiaries who are identified in the TOD Designation Affidavit by name, and who survive the deceased owner.  The owner is also able to designate one or more persons as contingent TOD beneficiaries, who would take the same interest that would have passed to the TOD beneficiary had the TOD beneficiary survived the deceased owner.

If there is a designation of more than one TOD beneficiary, the beneficiaries take title to the interest in equal shares as tenants in common, unless the deceased owner has specifically designated other than equal shares or has designated that the beneficiaries take title with rights of survivorship.  If there are two or more TOD beneficiaries and the deceased owner has designated that title to the interest in the real property be taken by those beneficiaries with rights of survivorship, and one of the beneficiaries predeceases the owner, the surviving TOD beneficiary would take title to the deceased owner’s entire interest in the real estate.

The designation of multiple beneficiaries can present challenges.  One challenge is if there are multiple beneficiaries designated as tenants in common owners and a beneficiary predeceases the owner, the deceased beneficiary’s TOD interest in the real estate passes to the surviving TOD beneficiaries, and not to the deceased beneficiary’s lineal descendants.  Further, all of the tenants in common owners (and their spouses) would have to agree in connection with a mortgage or sale of the property.  To address these types of issues, the client may elect to create a trust, the Trustee of which would be designated as the TOD beneficiary.

If none of the designated TOD beneficiaries survive the deceased owner, and there are no contingent TOD beneficiaries designated, or who have predeceased the owner, the deceased owner’s interest in the real estate would be included in the deceased owner’s probate estate, and would be distributed pursuant to the decedent’s Last Will and Testament or the laws of intestacy.

For assistance with all of your estate planning and probate administration needs, contact Isaac T. Heintz (513.943.6654) or Tammy Wilson (513.943.6663). Read more about our Estate Planning practice here.

Finney Law Firm, LLC has been included in U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” Tier 1 rankings for 2021. The firm was recognized as an Ohio – Metropolitan Best Lawyers® law firm for the fifth consecutive year in the following practice areas:

According to U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, “The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® ‘Best Law Firms’ rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.”

Also noted, “All of the quantitative and qualitative data were combined into an overall ‘Best Law Firms’ score for each firm. This data was then compared to other firms within the same metropolitan area and at the national level. Because firms were often separated by small or insignificant differences in overall score, we use a tiering system rather than ranking law firms sequentially.”

Each firm recognized on the “Best Law Firms” list, “must have at least one attorney who is recognized in the current edition of The Best Lawyers in a ‘Best Law Firms’ ranked practice area/metro area.”

“We are honored that Finney Law Firm has been recognized by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® for the fifth consecutive year.” commented founder Chris Finney. “We thank all our fellow attorneys in the Cincinnati metropolitan area for including us in this prestigious list as well as our attorneys and staff for their hard work and dedication in “Making a Difference’ for our clients.”

This distinction of the talent assembled at Finney Law Firm, LLC follows on other rating services that also have recognized our firm:

  • “Preeminent” by the leading rating service, Martindale-Hubbell.
  • “Cincy Leading Lawyers” by Cincy Magazine.
  • Brad Gibson was rated a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.
  • Chris Finney was named one of eight “Ohio Lawyers of the Year” for 1998 by Ohio Lawyer Weekly.

Let our team deliver for you.

We are proud to announce that experienced real estate attorney Bruce G. Hopkins today joined the transactional group at Finney Law Firm. Bruce and Chris Finney practiced law together in the real estate group at Frost & Jacobs (now Frost, Brown Todd) at the beginning of their careers, so this is a long-delayed reunion of careers.

His practice is focused on retail and mixed-use projects, including development, leasing, resolution and litigation of disputes with tenants, purchases and sales, due diligence, management and operations matters.  He frequently works on investment-grade properties located across the United States.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Bruce worked for almost a decade in the real estate industry doing commercial real estate appraisal work, commercial real estate lending and development for a major life insurance company, and commercial real estate development and management for a private developer.

Read more about Bruce here and let us know how Bruce can help your real estate project.

Tax bills are hitting mailboxes next week in Hamilton County and in them entirely new valuations. This year, every property in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Montgomery Counties will have wholly new valuations. We have written on these new valuation changes here and here, including a free “how-to” webinar.

On January 19th from 10 AM to noon, Finney Law Firm founder, attorney Chris Finney, with teach a free seminar on property tax valuation reduction with Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes for the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.  Auditor Rhodes has been gracious to co-teach these classes providing the public information on valuation reductions with Chris Finney for a decade.  Anyone can log in for the course: business owners, individual property owner, Realtors, etc.

The link for sign ups for the seminar is here.

President Trump signed into law at the very end of 2020 another COVID-19 stimulus bill. Much of the writing about it has focused on the $600 direct payments to to individuals whose income falls below a certain thresholds. but this bill also contains important subsidies and changes for small businesses, including a new and significant second round of direct payments to small businesses payments under the Paycheck Protection Program (loans later forgiven).

Finney Law Firm attorney Rebecca Heimlich will follow up on her blockbuster Spring performances on the initial PPP with information on the new stimulus programs, and be joined by Seth Morgan of the MLA Companies, a financial service and advisory group on Wednesday, January 13th from 6:00 to 7:15 PM via live webinar.

The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors is also co-hosting the webinar.

Webinar topics include:

  • Second round PPP:
    • Amounts (including increased amounts for restaurants)
    • Eligibility (much tighter than round #1).
    • Expanded qualifying expenses for Round #2.
    • Forgiveness.
  • First and second round PPP tax deductibility.

Click here to register.

For assistance with the PPP or more information, contact Rebecca Heimlich (‭513-797-2856). Also contact her if there is anything more we can do to help your small business.