The Time to Protect Your Computer Systems is Now Before Your System is Breached or Falls Prey to a Phishing Attack

Hackers

In the past months, damaging ransomware attacks have swept across the globe and infected tens of thousands of computers. The hackers transmitted the ransomware via a phishing e-mail, and then, once the user clicked the bait, the hackers used methods thought to have been developed by the United States National Security Agency, and locked businesses out of their systems. The ransomware impacted businesses both large and small, notably including multiple hospitals in Great Britain, forcing them to turn patients away, FedEx, the Russian Interior Ministry and a large Spanish telecommunications company. In the United States, law firms also have been targeted.

In the wake of the attack, affected businesses must focus on damage control and clean-up. Unaffected businesses also need to react and take steps to protect themselves from becoming a victim of not only the next round of large-scale attacks but smaller attacks and phishing efforts that are on-going all the time. Accordingly, here are five things that all businesses can and should do.

  1. Install All Patches and Upgrades to Systems When Issued. In the case of the most recent global ransomware attack, Microsoft had released a patch weeks before the attack hit. Installing the patch would have protected systems by not permitting the ransomware to take hold.
  2. Back-Up All Vital Data on a Continuous Basis. This is of particular importance in ransomware attacks. Ransomware encrypts a victim’s data and will only provide a key for access upon the payment of ransom. The payment of a ransom, however, may be unnecessary when up-to-date backups are available.
  3. Employee Training. Employees should be trained on a regular basis on how to identify phishing e-mails and how to avoid cyber-attacks.
  4. Purchase and/or Examine Cyber Security Insurance Policy for Compliance. If your business currently has a cyber security insurance policy, ensure that the policy adequately covers your needs and ensure that your business meets the security requirements attested to in such policy. Not meeting the insurer’s security requirements may make your insurance worthless. If you do not have insurance, consider whether you should secure insurance.
  5. Perform a Risk Assessment and Develop a Response Plan. Assessing current systems will help to identify vulnerabilities that can be addressed proactively. For health care providers, HIPAA requires that covered entities perform a “risk analysis” to identify risks and security vulnerabilities and implement security measures that are sufficient to reduce such risks and vulnerabilities. Lack of up-to-date risk analysis and security failures have led to fines in the hundreds of thousand dollars. Actual breaches have resulted in multi-million dollar fines and of course, all the costs required to be incurred to correct or address the breach. Further, the assessment or analysis will assist with the development and implementation of a Security Incident Response Plan that is designed to ensure expedient and appropriate responses to cyber-attacks and to mitigate damage whenever possible.

Kevin C. Murphy is a member of the Wladis Law Firm, P.C., located in Syracuse, New York. Should you be confronted with data security or data breach issues, please feel free to contact Attorney Murphy or Attorney Timothy Lambrecht of the Wladis Law Firm to determine if we can be of assistance to you.

Photo: www.cdn.images.express.co.uk

Kevin Murphy

Kevin C. Murphy concentrates his practice in the areas of environmental compliance and litigation; environmental and white-collar criminal defense, and complex litigation matters. Mr. Murphy is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a former senior trial attorney with both the Kings County (NY) District Attorney’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C. He previously taught a seminar on environmental criminal enforcement at the Syracuse University School of Law and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America.

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How to Think Like a Lawyer

Law School

“If you wish to be a lawyer, attach no consequence to the place you are in, or the person you are with; but get books, sit down anywhere, and go to reading for yourself. That will make a lawyer of you quicker than any other way.” ~Abraham Lincoln, Letter to William H. Grigsby, August 3, 1958

As May turns to June law students all over the country are starting their summer jobs. For many, this is their first exposure to a job in the legal field, and the differences between learning the law and practicing the law are rapidly becoming apparent.  So what do law schools teach students, and how is it different from what attorneys do in practice?  More importantly, if the study and the practice of law are so different why do students spend three years in school before entering the workforce, only to begin their education anew?  The answer is simple, law school teaches a student “how to think like a lawyer,” and the ability to grasp this foundational concept is paramount to the practice of law.

Initially, the study of law in America was trade based.  The process involved finding a mentor and working as an apprentice for up to seven years.  There was no formal education involved, but the mentor was expected to provide the apprentice with “assignments,” such as reading relevant legal precedent and writing legal briefs.  As formal education evolved, however, so too did legal education.  Beginning in the mid-1800’s students began attending universities to learn legal theory.  After completing their education students turned to their employers to learn the practical skills necessary to be successful attorneys.  While law schools today offer more practical curriculum (such as clinics, externships, and legal writing classes) than ever before, the focus of legal education remains the same: teaching students how to think like lawyers.

Learning “how to think like a lawyer” is rough work.  To begin, it requires reading piles and piles (and piles and piles and piles) of cases.  Law students, especially first year law students, routinely spend up to 40 hours per week preparing for classes.  When they are not reading, law students attend classes.  Most law school classes are taught using the Socratic Method.  (A process which involves a professor asking a student a series of questions about increasingly complex and ever changing fact patterns in order assist the student in applying the law they have learned.  If you have never heard of the Socratic Method you can learn more from watching classic law school thrillers like The Paper Chase.)  Fortunately, most modern professors use a modified version of the Socratic Method which includes some lecture and some time for questions from students.  Nevertheless, it is understood that at any given time the professor may turn to a student and begin grilling her on what she learned from the reading.  Each class concludes with a final exam.  The classic final exam asks students to respond to hypothetical fact patterns in essay form.  The goal is to read the fact pattern, spot the legal issues, and apply the law learned throughout the semester to the facts.  Thus, at the conclusion of law school a student understands how to “think like a lawyer,” because she has learned: how to read the law; how to discuss the law; and how to apply the law to a set of facts.

Learning to think like a lawyer provides the foundation to practice law in three ways.  First, having spent three years studying the law a new lawyer knows how to dive into a legal text without feeling intimidated and without taking two hours to read a seven page case.  Second, in light of all their time spent discussing the law (in a highly stressful environment), a new attorney knows a great deal about communicating regarding legal issues; attorneys refer to this type of communication as advocacy.  Finally, by learning how the law applies differently depending on the facts a new attorney has developed the logic and reasoning skills imperative to the practice of law.  However, these things are simply the foundation of practicing law.  In practice, (most) attorneys don’t spend hours reading cases and discussing them, and they certainly do not have time to assess hypothetical situations in order to reveal the minute differences in a given area of law.  This is where law firm training comes into play.

After a student has learned how to think like a lawyer in law school she learns how to practice law at a law firm. In practice an attorney’s day to day tasks vary greatly depending on the type of law they practice.  There are so many different types of law that it would be impossible to learn the ins and outs of each particularized area of practice in school.  Accordingly, new attorneys entering private practice learn these skills from the attorneys they work with.  This process is strikingly similar to the mentor process that predates American legal education.  For example, as an intern at The Wladis Law Firm this summer I have read a variety of contracts and observed numerous real estate transactions.  The training is meant to help me learn how to write contracts and participate in real estate transactions, but it is important that I observe seasoned attorneys first because, despite having completed two years of law school, I have not yet learned how to practice the law.

For a number of years there has been a great deal of debate regarding whether law students learn enough practical skills in law school. Part of this debate stems from the fact that new lawyers are not very productive; in fact, it can take a year or more of training at a firm before a lawyer begins to generate a work product that is profitable.  However, learning how to think like a lawyer has to come first.  It is this training that prepares an attorney to enter the legal world with a basic understanding of the logic and reasoning skills required to practice law.  Further, it is only through the rigor of legal education that a student learns the answer to every legal question imaginable, “it depends.”

 

Photo credit: http://www.blogto.com/city/2013/06/the_photos_of_the_week_june_1-7/

 

WHAT’S NEW IN NEW YORK STATUTES – 2017

Law

I love a good list, don’t you?  I particularly enjoy that sense of satisfaction when I am able to cross something off my list – and fully admit that there are some days when I just need to add little things to the list just so I can feel that accomplishment.  Yes, “pack lunches”, that’s done.

We’re about to roll into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, so here is a list just for you, a quick read so you can cross “read the list” off your list.  Following are some key new laws that have taken effect here in New York in 2017

 

 

Picture: www.ldanj.org

Jennifer Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

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IT’S TRUE WHAT THEY SAY.

 

Volunteer

No doubt you have heard someone who did an act of kindness say that they got more out of it than the person they helped. It’s not just a feel-good statement intended to deflect attention away from the helper.  There are concrete benefits to volunteering in your community that go well beyond the assistance to people and pets in need.  When you give of your time and expertise, the rewards are rich.

Being a volunteer is a great way to become engaged in your local community and build a strong network. You will meet others who share similar interests, and have the opportunity to develop relationships with them that will be helpful outside of the volunteer setting.  It’s a resume builder, and it helps you build your business.

Volunteering gives you a chance to learn new things, contributing to your growth and development on both a personal and professional level. You might learn the right way to pound a nail from Habitat for Humanity, or how to care for a rescue dog from Helping Hounds.  You might also learn how to fundraise, how to plan special events and meetings, and how to build support for important projects.  These are all skills that are transferable to other areas of your life.

When you volunteer for an organization, you get a chance to really spread your wings.  You can try out new activities and interests, and in the process, you might discover something that really makes your heart sing.

Last but certainly not least, being a volunteer will bring you joy and happiness.  It really, truly does make you feel good to be part of something that is bigger than you, something that makes life better for others and improves your community.

Now more than ever, we live in a world where acts of kindness are especially needed.  If you are looking for ways to get involved, here are a few suggestions for groups that are near and dear to us, and that can use your helping hands.

Jewish Federation of CNY

Early Childhood Alliance

The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Fund (as an aside, bring us your returnable cans and bottles and we will give them to Laurence Segal, a guy who has found a real purpose by volunteering)

Meals on Wheels of Eastern Onondaga County

Habitat for Humanity

Cuse Pit Crew

Arise, Inc.

 

 

 

Picture By: clipartfest.com

 

Jennifer Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

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Winter with a Purpose

snowman

Sometimes in the depths of the long, long winter, it’s difficult to find the motivation to do anything but camp out under the covers in front of the TV…or, in these modern times, in front of our mobile phones. As Jack Frost nips at our nose, the struggle to call an official hiatus on screen-time is real. As much as technology makes our lives safer, easier, and more connected – it can also create a constant sense of urgency, rob our time, and give us a false sense of meaning.

With the holiday season upon us, it is perhaps more poignant now than ever, to be present. It is vital to build memories and create moments with those that you love. Even in our complex modern world, we see a resurgence of simpler pastimes – a look at the exploding board game market, adult coloring books, or the increase in camping (even glamping!) are proof of this. In fact, this past October, New York announced that its State Park campgrounds set a new record for attendance for the fifth consecutive year. Our beautiful area of the country offers the outdoor enthusiast (and the not-so-enthusiastic) a myriad of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. As winter comes into full play, Mother Nature beckons us on snowy adventures, with ample locations for sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Outfitters throughout the state can satisfy even the most adventurous outdoor extremist with fat tire snow biking and ice climbing ever gaining popularity. We are so fortunate to have all of this as our backyard playground. These are the kind of memories that make up a lifetime.

Even on the coldest winter day when it’s impossible to get outside, there are plenty of things to do in the comfort of your own home. Make hot chocolate, build a pillow fort, bake cookies, or read a book. A quick Google search or Pinterest session rewards you with multiple lists on how to engage and entertain your children on snow days. Keeping it simple remains the key – coloring, crafting, or even sewing can easily become the highlight of a child’s day. It is likely that the very thing needed to make your child happy, is more time with you.

As we grow more winter-weary, we must remind ourselves of how we occupy our days. As we connect more to each other, through meaningful action, we will find that the weather is not so all-important. This season gives us the amazing opportunity to spend more time on our relationships by forcing us out of our comfort zones – the routines we are used to. Most of the year, we are conditioned to having the ability and accessibility to do almost anything, while instead, winter lays a heavy blanket on our go-go-go lifestyles. Make these days as purposeful as others. With a bit of creativity and a sense of adventure, you can find a way to make the coldest time of the year a little warmer.

Photo source: Buzzfeed

 

 

 

Mark Wladis

Mr. Wladis, founder of the firm, holds both a JD and an LLM in taxation from the Syracuse University College of Law. His practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, taxation, economic development, and government relations, and he represents individuals and entities across New York State. He serves as chairman of the board of directors of Success by 6 and has served on the boards of directors of a number of other local organizations.

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‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE…STRATEGIC!

giveAs the year winds to a close (or, let’s be honest, steamrolls toward December 31) and we take time to appreciate and give thanks for our many blessings, our thoughts inevitably turn to those in need.  Of course, part of the reason for that is the barrage of phone calls, email and snail mail solicitations from organizations hoping to be included in our annual charitable giving.  Whoever said that it is better to give than to receive was right.  For so many of us, our needs are met and we are able to focus instead on our wants.  Lucky us.  Seriously.  Wouldn’t it feel better to help make a difference in the life of someone who really needs it instead of getting another trinket you don’t need and will discard when the next big thing comes along?

Altruism is fantastic, we are big fans here.  We like to give with our whole hearts and we love it when you do, too.  We are also big fans of being smart about where we make our charitable donations, and we don’t hate the idea of getting a break on our income taxes in consideration of our largesse.  Or smaller-gesse, as the case may be. As you make your plan for giving, to take advantage of that deduction, you need to itemize on your income tax return and you need to be sure that the group to which you donate is a qualified exempt organization.  The IRS has a great tool that allows you to check whether a group has exempt status.  Just because an organization may be a not for profit corporation doesn’t mean that your donation to it is tax exempt – it must be an exempt organization that has applied for and received 501(c)(3) exempt status.  Note, though, that most (not all) churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship are generally exempt even though they may not always be searchable with the IRS’ tool.  Your donations to non-exempt organizations will also no doubt make an impact in helping those groups achieve their missions, you just won’t be able to deduct the gift on your tax return.

Since we are talking about taxes, your tax benefit can be twofold if you make a donation of appreciated assets to an exempt organization.  Not only will you have a charitable deduction in the amount of the value of the gift, but you can also avoid capital gains tax.  Twice as nice!

Before you make your donation, you may want to do a little homework first.  Are you making your donation to the correct entity?  There are many similar named groups out there, and you should take the time to be sure that when you write your check, it’s really going to who you intend to support.  You should also take a few minutes to background check the group to see how much of every dollar donated actually goes toward funding the charitable mission.  You can look up online to see how a group stacks up, and how well it is rated in the charitable giving world.  If you want to support a particular cause, you can do a little research to see which group will allow your donation to make the maximum impact for the cause and not as much for the administration of the organization itself.

In terms of record keeping, be sure to get a receipt for your donation.  If you have automated the process through payroll deduction or other mechanism, make sure you get documentation to prove the total of your contributions for the year. While you can’t get (tax) credit for your time spent volunteering, you can deduct your expenses associated with volunteering – mileage, tolls, parking, things like that.

While it’s the year-end that has us thinking about charitable giving today, we hope that you will make a promise to support an organization that is near and dear to your heart and that you will show it love all year long. Get out in your community, look around, see a need and address it. Next week, our firm will distribute thousands hats and pairs of gloves to children in the Syracuse City School District, carrying on what is now a twenty-year tradition originally begun by our beloved and missed mentor, George Wladis.  When you make a commitment and stick with it, maybe, just maybe, your heart will grow three sizes.

Photo: enterlinedesign

Jennifer Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

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THE HANDS THAT BUILT AMERICA

blog hands picture

Remember how excited we all were a few months ago when Memorial Day rolled around, signaling the unofficial start of summer?  Then school let out, people took summer vacations, we flipped burgers on backyard grills and oohed and aahed over fireworks displays when we celebrated our nation’s independence on July 4.  September 5th is fast approaching, and while to many of us, it is symbolic of the end of summer and a return to the grind, the day has significance that is absolutely deserving of our honor and respect.

New York was one of the first states to recognize a labor day holiday (Oregon, that trendsetter, beat us to it).  In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed into law legislation declaring the first Monday in September a federal holiday – Labor Day.  Distinguished from what was then called May Day and is now known as International Workers Day, Labor Day is a holiday that is intended to honor the dignity of labor. Labor built this nation. Labor paved the roads, it built the skyscrapers, and it connected the east and west coasts via the infamous golden spike in the Transcontinental Railroad. American labor built cars and machinery, labor sewed your suits and bedsheets, your favorite pair of broken in jeans. Labor built America.  We should all take time to recognize and appreciate the efforts of the Americans before us who helped to create this great nation, and whose labor built one of the strongest economies in the world.

How do we, personally, define “an honest day’s work”? What does hard work mean to you?  If you spend your hours researching and writing, does that have more value than the work of your neighbor who spent her day installing water mains and conduits? Which one is labor?  Is it both?  Part of our pursuit of the American dream is that parents want more for their children than they had themselves. The path to success is to go to college and get an education, because that diploma is the key to opening the door to your future. That is still, for the majority of us, what we expect of and hope for our children. Go to a good school. Get a degree. Maybe go to graduate school. Get a good, high paying job to support yourself and your family and never have to do back-breaking labor to be able to get by.

Maybe it is time to re-think things a bit, though. The price of a college education has risen at an incredible rate.  Just by way of personal example, the all-in cost of my private four year university has more than tripled in the few short (okay, okay, 25) years since I graduated. Students are graduating from college with an enormous debt load, debt they freely and willingly incurred because the expected return was a high-paying job that would be unavailable to them without that degree in hand. While that still may be the case, it isn’t the only route to success, and it certainly isn’t the best route for everyone. Not every kid is going to excel in college, and not every kid is going to graduate and land the dreamed-about job – and for those young people, the student loan debt will be crushing.

This brings me back to where I started. Labor. The value of hard work. Honor and dignity in working with your hands. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are in excess of three million skilled jobs available, which points out very clearly that we have a skills gap because there are not enough people entering the skilled trades to fill the jobs. Maybe, instead of going to college, your daughter might consider entering an apprenticeship where she can work while she learns, get actual on-the-job training, and then when her peers are graduating from college, she can be a qualified electrician/steamfitter/ironworker, with no college loan debt, and earning a starting salary and benefits comparable to if not better than those friends with the bachelors degrees.  There is upward mobility in the skilled trades, as well, and the six figure income standard of success is quite attainable.

We all have our own definitions of success, what it means to have made it. For some, that is a college education and the kind of job that requires a degree. For others, it’s entry into a skilled trade. On this Labor Day and every day, let’s take time to honor them both. One is not more worthy of our respect than the other, and both are essential to the continued growth of the awesome America that labor built.

 

Photo By: Mark Walter, 500px.com

Jennifer Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

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Making Time for What Matters Most

free-family-fun


In less than two weeks, the New York State Fair will open its annual twelve day run and families from all over New York and beyond will flock to see the incredible new improvements to the fair facilities, ride the latest gravity defying roller coaster, see the exhibits and animals, and gorge themselves on a smorgasbord of fried foods and lemonade.  It’s a tradition that we all look forward to, and a great opportunity for parents and their kids to share some time together.

The closing of the State Fair also brings an end to summer vacation, time for the kids to put away their sandy flip flops in favor of new sneakers and get on the bus for a brand new year of school.  This summer’s end ritual is a time when all of us with school aged children fall back into the routines we gleefully abandoned in June.  It’s time to set the alarm a little earlier, time to pack lunches, time to make sure the library books make it into the backpacks and that the homework planners get signed so your child can get a sticker from her teacher.

Our Central New York summers are short, and we cherish the time to be outdoors, to swim at Green Lakes, hike around Clark Reservation, and attend a Syracuse Chiefs game or go pick up fresh sweet corn from a roadside stand. Not bogged down by homework and sports practice, dance lessons and violin practice, we have more time to spend with our families, seeking and finding joy in achieving the perfect toasty marshmallow to go on our s’mores, and seeing all sorts of crazy shapes in the puffy clouds above hammocks strung between backyard trees. Summer is a blissful, magical time that we snowbelt dwellers crave the other nine months of the year.

It is also a reminder that just as summer comes and goes away again before we have even finished saying a proper hello, childhood too slips away despite our protests to stay, please stay little. Please don’t ever stop saying psgetti, please always want to clutch your well worn teddy bear to get to sleep at night. Years ago, I read a card that said something to the effect of “We had a very disappointing experience with our children.  They grew up.”  That resonated with me then, and it does now as my own children continue their march onward.

The time we spend with our children is never wasted time. They challenge us, they help us to grow, they fill our hearts with love we never knew we could feel.  They are watching our every move, absorbing, taking it all in.  Show them that they are your priority – put the phone down, turn off the tv. Read together, play catch together, sit on the sideline beaming with pride and cheering them on. Take them for ice cream even if they barely touched their green beans at dinner tonight. Learn “the new math”, which is really not so different from the old math, while you help them with homework. Help them build the best baking soda and vinegar volcano to ever grace a fourth grade science fair. When you make time for them, you are making time for you, too. We glorify the concept of “busy”, but the reality is all of us can make the time for the things that really matter to us. Budget your time – return the emails after your kids are asleep, instead of meeting a client for a drink after work, how about meeting for breakfast after the kids are on the bus?  The saying goes “the days are long but the years are short” – make the most of this precious, fleeting time with your family and you will reap the rewards in every single aspect of your life.

kathy-miller-quote-we-thought-we-had-more-time

Mark Wladis

Mr. Wladis, founder of the firm, holds both a JD and an LLM in taxation from the Syracuse University College of Law. His practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, taxation, economic development, and government relations, and he represents individuals and entities across New York State. He serves as chairman of the board of directors of Success by 6 and has served on the boards of directors of a number of other local organizations.

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What to Do When an Agency Visits for an Inspection

Inspection 7816

You’re working in your office when suddenly one of your employees is at your door: there are a couple of agents from the NYS Department of Conservation at your facility, here to conduct an inspection because the agency received a complaint about your business.  What should you do?  What can you do?  If you manage the visit correctly, then maybe it’s just a minor disruption.  If you don’t, you can be looking at a major headache.

Here are some big picture items to keep in mind.

Understand who is there and why they’re there.  The example used here is the DEC, but the agency at your door could be OSHA, or EPA or a host of other regulatory or investigative agencies.  Find out who they are and why they’re there.  Certain personnel—security guards, a foreman—will be the first to interact with the inspectors.  They should request credentials and ask about the purpose of the visit and find out if they have a search warrant.  They should contact management with this information.  Most importantly, they should be professional and courteous—this is a serious event with potentially significant consequences—and direct any questions to management.

Determine who you want present.  Depending on the nature of the inspection, you may want counsel present, or at least available by phone if that’s at all possible.  In any event, you want only the right people present with the inspectors.  While you want to cooperate with reasonable requests, there’s no need to have more people than you need present to answer any questions.  Answers can have far reaching consequences, which you may not know at the time.  A speculative answer volunteered by an employee trying to be helpful could end up hurting, not helping, your cause.  Limit your company’s presence to those with knowledge or a need to be present.

Document the event.  Arguably, nothing is more important than documenting the inspectors’ visit.  Know who was present and when they were present.  As soon as it is practicable, document the questions the inspectors asked, the answers they were given, and the parts of the facility they visited.  Keep notes and photograph anything an inspector photographs.  If an inspector requests or takes records, document what was requested or taken.  If the inspector takes samples, see if you can get split samples.  Document as much as you can, even if it seems unimportant at the time.

You may not have to turn it over, but then again maybe you do.  Even with a search warrant, inspectors do not have carte blanche to inspect anything and everything at a facility or to take anything they wish.  Search warrants are powerful investigative tools, but they are typically limited in time and space and must set forth the particular items to be seized.  A search warrant for company records normally doesn’t give investigators the right to seize an employee’s private iPad kept at his desk.  That said, some federal (e.g., Clean Air Act) and state (e.g., Oil Spill Act) environmental laws require facilities to keep records showing their regulatory compliance.  The inspectors don’t need a warrant to review those records.

Read it carefully.  Sometimes an inspector will ask someone to sign a document after the inspection is completed.  Think about this request carefully because it can have serious legal implications.  Whatever the document is, read it closely before signing.  If you feel you cannot sign it, you probably should not.

Have a plan in place.  Finally, if you are a regulated industry or a workplace, you know that an investigative agency can pay you a visit.  Be prepared for it.  Have protocols in place for dealing with an inspection.  Have your employees know what they should do, how they should act and who they should contact if an inspector shows up at your facility.  Make sure management knows what it should do, including who should document the visit and who it might contact about any inspection.  Better to be prepared and not be inspected than to have an inspection and not be prepared.

The long and short of it is that being the subject of an agency investigation can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  It is all about preparation and sticking to protocols.  If you have a question about how your facility should prepare for an agency inspection, or if you’ve already been subject to one, feel free to contact Tim Lambrecht, Esq. or Kevin Murphy, Esq. at the Wladis Law Firm.

Minority and Women Owned Businesses-Everything You Need To Know

Becoming a Minority or Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) in New York State has a number of benefits. Certification improves access to state contracting opportunities, promotes business development among MWBE certified companies, and offers many educational and training opportunities. Unfortunately, one can’t just declare their company a women or minority owned business. There are qualifications and standards that need to be met in order to earn certification.

Qualifications to obtain certification as a Minority or Woman Owned Enterprise:

  • At least fifty-one percent (51%) of the company must be owned, operated and controlled by women
  • At least fifty-one percent (51%) of the company must be owned, operated and controlled by minorities. (Minorities include those who are of black, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific, Asian-Indian Subcontinent or Native American heritage.)
  • Owners must be real, substantial and continuing, and must exercise authority over day-to-day decision making and business matters.
  • MWBEs cannot have a net-worth exceeding $3.5 million.
  • MWBEs may not have more than 300 employees.
  • Companies are required to be operating with at least one year of business.
  • Out of state companies must first obtain MWBE certification in their home state and must have authorization to do work in New York State.

New York State’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise certification was created to ensure and develop equality in regards to economic opportunities, as well as eliminate barriers for women and minority business owners. Becoming a certified MWBE isn’t as easy as one may think. Certification involves a lengthy application and a rigorous screening process in order to help businesses who seek to compete for state government contracting opportunities.  Fortunately, there are online resources and experienced professionals available who will assist in providing tips and tools to complete the application, along with making sure all of the detailed program eligibility requirements are met. Currently, it is taking Empire State Development (ESD) an extended period of time to process certification requests and re-certifications, which must be completed every three years. So, if you plan to gain MWBE certification or renew your certification, make sure to do so as soon as possible.

Is raising the MWBE utilization rate a good thing?

Since Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken office, he has heavily promoted the use of MWBEs and increased the “utilization rate” multiple times. In 2011, during his first State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced that he planned to increase the 10% utilization goal to 20%. In the years leading up to 2014, New York’s MWBE’s were being awarded more than 25% of all state contracts, far exceeding the stated 20% goal. This 25% rate translated to nearly $2 billion in contracts and was one of the highest rates in the nation. As a result, at the 2014 New York State annual MWBE Forum in Albany, the Governor announced that he would again raise the state’s MWBE utilization to a rate of 30%. This percentage currently holds the highest state contracting goal in the United States. These goals play a major role in the success of all women and minority owned companies across the state. Our Governor is committed to the continuation of this profitable drive to advance and ensure that minority and women owned businesses are fully represented in New York. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, our state has and will continue to gain great momentum in growing minority and women owned businesses. So the answer is yes, I’d say the increase in MWBE utilization rate is a good thing.

Please feel free to reach out to the Wladis Law Firm with any questions regarding Minority and Women Owned Businesses or for assistance with your certification/re-certification!

 

 

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