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Catherine Nguyen is an Associate in the Construction and Labor & Employment Groups of Cohen Seglias. She concentrates her practice in the areas of litigation and labor & employment primarily for the Firm’s construction clients.

In a recent U.S. Supreme Court case about pregnancy discrimination, Justice Breyer asked: “Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?”  As an employer, that is a question you should now be asking when preparing, reviewing, or updating your company’s accommodation policies.

Many employers have policies and practices to ensure accommodation of disabled workers or those with temporary injuries or disabilities. However, employers may be overlooking their legal obligations to accommodate another group of workers: pregnant women who have pregnancy-related work limitations. Continue Reading Does your Employee Handbook stand up to the Supreme Court’s latest decision about accommodations for pregnant workers?

As we reflect upon the past year, few in the Delaware Valley will forget the fateful day in June when a building located at 22nd and Market Streets collapsed in the midst of demolition work performed by contractor Griffin Campbell, which claimed six lives. In an effort to improve safety and prevent such tragedies from recurring, the City of Philadelphia took swift action in an effort to improve the process through which contractors obtain demolition permitting.

building permit.jpgIn the City’s latest effort to improve upon safety, Philadelphia’s Licenses and Inspections Department (L&I) has issued new permitting and licensure requirements that took effect last week. The new requirements apply to all contractors conducting business in the City of Philadelphia. Permit applicants will be required to provide a Tax Clearance form and a Certificate of Insurance, and license holders will be required to clearly display license information on the job site and on business materials.

Applications for Construction and Demolition Permits

In the past, Philadelphia has required Tax Clearance certifications for limited situations such as zoning appeals. Now, the rules require all permit applicants to provide a Tax Clearance form certifying that the applicant is in compliance with, or intends to work with the City to cure any violations of, the tax and regulatory provisions of The Philadelphia Code. Contractors can obtain the Tax Clearance forms at the Department of Revenue’s website.

Permit applicants also must provide Certificates of Insurance to demonstrate appropriate insurance coverage for the work to be performed. These certificates are available from a contractor’s insurer, and must contain the following basic information:

  • indicate current general liability, workers’ compensation and automobile liability coverage;
  • reflect minimum general liability coverage of $500,000;
  • describe the type of operations/work covered by the insurance;
  • name the City of Philadelphia as Certificate Holder and an Additional Insured; and,
  • include contact name and phone number of the contractor’s insurance broker or agent.

Display of License Information

In addition to the new tax clearance and insurance certificate requirements, contractors should also be aware that recent changes to Title 9 of the Philadelphia Code have made display requirements significantly more stringent. Philadelphia Code Section 9-1004 lays out the requirements for trade license holders, including for all contractors, registered master plumbers, electrical contractors, warm air installers and fire suppression system contractors. The Code now requires all licensees to display their license number in the following places:

  • each job site;
  • business signage;
  • advertisements;
  • stationery / correspondence;
  • proposals and contracts; and,
  • all company vehicles when used during the course of business.

The Code requires the displays to be at least two (2) inches high and clearly visible. Unauthorized transfer or sharing of license numbers or failure to display required license information may result in license suspension, fines, or license revocation.

In addition to public health and safety, another reason for these additional requirements is the generation of revenue to offset compliance and enforcement activities. Though the City, through a spokeswoman for L&I, has acknowledged that the new requirements would not have prevented contractor Griffin Campbell from obtaining a permit to demolish the property at 22nd and Market Streets, these latest requirements represent a continued effort to shore up construction safety in the City. They also present new hoops through which City contractors must jump in order to obtain permitting for City construction and maintain and valid license to perform work in the City. For more information about how these requirements affect you and your business, feel free to contact us.

Daniel E. Fierstein is an Associate in the Construction Group of Cohen Seglias and focuses his practice on construction law. Dan counsels clients at all tiers of the construction industry, including general contractors, subcontractors, owners, developers, and design professionals.

Catherine Nguyen is an Associate in the Construction Group and concentrates her practice in the area of construction litigation. She has represented clients in construction litigation, contract disputes, landlord-tenant matters and consumer protection cases.

As most contractors recall, the Pennsylvania Lien Law was modified in 2007 to reinstate lien rights.  We have previously reported on proposed changes to the lien law and lien rights preservation.  Additional proposed changes to the lien law, if passed, would have widespread impact across the industry.  Pending Pennsylvania House Bill 473 seeks to amend the current lien law to create a State Construction Notices Directory.  The Directory would be an online database providing extensive details of each registered project.

Owners and General Contractors would have access to a centralized, detailed list of subcontractors and sub-subcontractors.

HB 473 would only affect projects which are registered in the Directory.  Owners would have the option to register a project by filing a notice of commencement.  This notice would be available online and displayed at the project site.  For all such registered projects, subcontractors and suppliers would be required to file notices of furnishing within 20 days of first providing work, services or materials in order to preserve lien rights.

Many owners are likely to take advantage of the new law to create an additional step for claim preservation and limit the pool of potential lien claimants.  General contractors would not have additional requirements under HB 473.  The law would give owners and general contractors access to a database listing all potential lien claimants on a job.

Subcontractors will be required to monitor notices of commencement and file notices of furnishing to preserve lien rights.

HB 473 requires subcontractors to locate notices of commencement and to file notices of furnishing within 20 days of first providing work or materials.  Late notices of furnishing would result in forfeiture of lien claim rights for work performed more than 20 days before the filing of the notice.

One stated benefit of the law is that owners and contractors would be able to reconcile their payments with the list of subcontractors and suppliers registered on the Directory.  This would help ensure that all such subcontractors, second tier subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.  If adopted, the law would place an additional burden on subcontractors, who would need to vigilantly monitor notices of commencement and file timely notices of furnishing before starting work to avoid forfeiting lien claim rights.

HB 473 has potential to significantly impact mechanic’s lien claim rights in Pennsylvania because of the new notice requirements.  However, it is still in the legislative process and further developments are expected.

Jason A. Copley is the Managing Partner at Cohen Seglias and a Partner in the Construction Group. His practice is focused on representing contractors, subcontractors and owners in the areas of construction and commercial litigation.

Catherine Nguyen, an Associate in the Construction Group, contributed to this post.

Employers doing business in the City of Philadelphia must pay taxes on wages (including salaries, commissions, and other forms of compensation) and net profits. A new ordinance shores up current enforcement mechanisms, arming the City with aggressive penalties on overdue taxes and giving private citizens an enforcement role.

About Ordinance 19-1509

Under Ordinance 19-1509, an employer with an overdue tax bill could face a law suit from the City Solicitor and could be liable for attorneys’ fees, interest, and penalties to the tune of two to three times the amount of taxes overdue.

To prevail, the City must show that the employer knowingly committed a Wage Tax or Net Profit Tax Law violation, conspired to violate the laws, or was involved in falsified tax records related to compliance with the laws. The bar for “knowledge” is fairly low, allowing an employer to be on the hook for damages if it (i) actually knows the taxes are unpaid, (ii) turns a blind eye to the unpaid taxes, or (iii) recklessly disregards the fact that wage and net profit taxes are not paid. The same rules apply to falsification of tax records.

Private Citizen Referrals

The Ordinance not only empowers the City Solicitor, but it also creates enforcement rights for private citizens. A private citizen may refer a case to the City Solicitor for investigation, and may even litigate the claim with or on behalf of the City Solicitor. In fact, the law incentivizes private citizen referrals by awarding, in some instances, a 15 to 25 percent award from proceeds of a successful recovery. The Ordinance also contains a clause prohibiting retaliation by an employer against whistleblowing employees.

The Moral of the Story

With such potentially devastating penalties at stake, employers must ensure that they pay wage and net profit taxes on time, and vigilantly maintain current and accurate tax records. Employers should also consult regularly with a responsible tax professional. If faced with a claim by the City Solicitor and/or private citizen, an employer should cooperate, refrain from taking any adverse action against any employees involved, and immediately contact legal counsel.

Daniel E. Fierstein is an Associate in the Construction Group of Cohen Seglias and focuses his practice on construction law. Dan counsels clients at all tiers of the construction industry, including general contractors, subcontractors, owners, developers, and design professionals.

Catherine Nguyen is an Associate in the Construction Group and concentrates her practice in the area of construction litigation. She has represented clients in construction litigation, contract disputes, landlord-tenant matters and consumer protection cases.