Startups Facing Labor and Employment Issues

When we think of startups we most often picture determined individuals willing to put in long hours to establish their emerging businesses. However, most startups fail to consider the downfalls associated with not consulting with an attorney concerning employment contracts (e.g. non-compete clauses) and issues arising out of employment law such as harassment or discrimination. It is highly recommended that startups consult with an attorney at all levels of their emerging business to avoid some of common mistakes. This can be instrumental in their success and future profits and/or losses.

Veteran Homelessness

Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s pledge to end homelessness by 2014 is quite a daunting task.  Measures such as the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009, shows that there is a prevailing desire to actually “end” homelessness among our nations Veterans.   Although this bill was introduced on August 5, 2009 to Congress, it was not enacted it into law.[1]

Shinseki hopes that Veterans Administration (VA) Regional Offices can work strategically to decrease pending homeless veteran claims.  However, the VA has constantly struggled to effectively handle multiple nationally recognized and priority projects with stringent deadlines and production goals from our nation’s diplomatic leaders.  For instance, VA’s Disability Evaluation System (DES) Pilot Program has seen the number of discharged veterans within the program drastically increase due to the military’s efforts to downsize.  As such, many VA Regional Offices have utilized their rating veterans service representatives (RVSRs) staff to work solely and exclusively on the DES project alone, leaving minimal manpower to work on homeless veteran claims or projects.

To subsidize over worked RVSRs, VA Regional Offices have Local Homeless Coordinators to ambitiously collaborate with local nonprofit and community organizations to educate individuals on resources for homeless veterans.  However, they may not be equipped to process the claims and many have questioned whether this is enough.

It must be noted that the VA efforts must not be fully downplayed or discarded.  The VA and the Housing Urban Development have collaborated on programs to assist in its efforts to elevate homelessness amongst our nations’ veterans.[2]  However, there is still more that can be done within the legal community itself.

Although nonprofits such as the Northwest Justice Project and Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program have a longstanding history of providing such legal assistance to veterans, there is still a major need for the legal community to assist in the efforts to assist homeless veterans either by volunteering to take appeals cases or educating their local community.

[1] S.1547 (111th): Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009, Bill Text at [hereinafter Zero Tolerance].

[2] U.S. Government Accountability Office, VA and HUD Are Working to Improve Data on Supportive Housing Program, June 26, 2012, [hereinafter GOA].

H-1B Employment-Based Visa Petitions Reached Its Cap for the 2013 Fiscal Year

Approximately 140,000 employment based visas are distributed each fiscal year.  The fiscal year for USCIS (and other government agencies) begins October 1st and ends on September 30th.  As such, many employers seeking H-1B visas often face dilemmas such as caps on applications for its employees when the maximum number of employment based visas have been reached for a particular fiscal year.  On June 11, 2012, USCIS reached its statutory cap for H-1B visas for the 2013 fiscal year.  However, employers should seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to determine if their working visa(s) are exempt from such caps, including DOD cooperative research worker H-1B petitions.  See USCIS H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Cap Season Announcement dated June 12, 2012 for additional information.

Finding a VA Accredited Attorney or Claims Assistant

If you are seeking assistance from an attorney or claims assistant in obtaining VA benefits, then you must ensure that they are VA accredited.  Currently the VA accreditation process takes approximately 90 to 120 days.  However, individuals who seek to represent you in appealing a denial or a request for reopening of a claim must be VA accredited.  The VA does not make any exceptions to this rule.  There are several reasons why obtaining an attorney or claims assistant may be beneficial rather than going through a veteran service organization (VSO).  First, attorneys and claims assistants may be selective of which cases he or she takes.  This means that they may provide you with more individualized attention.  Second, many attorneys and claims assistants are either former VA employees or have specialized knowledge of the VA Rating Schedule.  This can be quite beneficial to clients who seek quick assessments of their claims as well as assistance in preparing time sensitive case files for appeal or request for reopening.  See for additional information pertaining to VA accreditation.

U.S. Supreme Court’s Split Decision on Arizona’s Immigration Law

The Supreme Court’s much anticipated decision on Arizona’s Immigration Law was finally issued today.  Although the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s strict law pertaining to immigrants within its borders, it did allow Arizona police to stop, detain and question immigrants they believe are in the country illegally.  However, it is ultimately the federal government’s authority to decide whether or not Arizona’s immigrants will face deportation.  The implementation and interpretation of this Supreme Court decision will be what most of us will watch overtime.