Happy Anniversary!  Four years ago this month, we embarked upon Tilting The Scales. Even more amazing, this month we reach our 100th posting milestone!

Passion. We discovered our passion to deliver thought provoking, humorous and, hopefully, useful articles designed to assist you in your business as well as answer those nagging legal questions which you have always pondered.  After publishing 100 articles, we have learned a few things …

  1. Sex sells – Using the word “sex” in the title always gets more attention
  2. Social networking stories are always a hit
  3. Many times the truth is stranger than fiction
  4. Texas and Federal laws and regulations often lend themselves to humorous subject matter
  5. Again, “sex” really does sell! 

Now What? Mid-month posting of short, current event articles is new. The customary monthly email summary of articles will continue. Subscribe to the blog via email or RSS to see them all! 

Facebook! For those Social Media and Facebook fans, please “LIKE” our Tilting The Scales Facebook page and consider following us on Twitter (@cleveclinton).

THANK YOU! Thank you for four great years! Let’s continue this journey together as we Tilt the Scales in Your Favor.

“Biscuits” and “Gravy” are two regular, ole “toms” who represent the 45 million turkeys “condemned” to be Thanksgiving dinner this week. Specially selected for their beauty, Biscuits and Gravy were coddled, cared for, flattered and fed by the Tomfool Wattle Eco-Foods Farms for their “judgment” day. Unlike their fellow toms, Biscuits, as the representative of the condemned, and Gravy, his first alternate, will be presented to the President of the United States to be “pardoned” from their Thanksgiving dinner judgment. Then he will be swept off to spend the balance of his days at Frying Pan Park. Should the excitement of being pardoned be too great for Biscuits, then Gravy will be his stand in for the Presidential pardon.

Background. Since 1947 the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National board give a turkey to the President of the United States at a White House ceremony. Except in 1963 when President Kennedy said about his turkey, “Let’s just keep him,” Presidents were more likely to eat the turkey than grant it a reprieve. It was not until Thanksgiving 1989 that a turkey was officially pardoned by a United States President (George H.W. Bush).

Authority. Article 2, section 2 of the United States Constitution provides “[T]he President …shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” To fully understand what a pardon does, first consider that when a person is convicted of a felony, in addition to facing incarceration, he loses his civil liberties – the right to vote, to serve on a jury, to own a firearm. In Texas, conviction of a felony may also prevent that person from: holding public office or any office of profit or trust, serving as the executor or administrator of an estate, holding an occupational license, receiving a Texas tuition assistance grant, or operating a currency exchange business. Living without certain rights is referred to as civil disability. A full pardon places the legal and civil status of the convicted back to where it was before the crime was committed – it’s as if the crime never took place, as far as the law is concerned.

Pardon me, too. Notable Presidential pardons include: Andrew Johnson pardoned soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, subject to some conditions; Patty Hearst was pardoned by Jimmy Carter for bank robberies committed while being kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army; Iva Ikoku Toguri better known as “Tokyo Rose”, an American citizen convicted of treason after World War II, served 10 years in prison before a reporter exposed trumped up charges and she was pardoned by Gerald Ford; tax evader Marc Rich best known for leaving his 1040 blank to the tune of $50 million was pardoned by Bill Clinton; and Caspar Weinberger convicted of illegally conducting arms sales with Iran to fund the Contra rebel guerilla army in Nicaragua, was pardoned by George H.W. Bush.

Sources:

Gurglin’ Guideon Cavatelli is upset with his boss Shank Brisket. Cavatelli and his fellow believers at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster celebrate the third Wednesday in December by taking a pilgrimage to the Great Pasta Patch to try to catch the Flying Spaghetti Monster rising up to spread carbohydrate girth and mirth to all worthy adults. Cavatelli doesn’t have the dough to go. Worse, Shank won’t let him take time off because Black Friday was not black enough. Mr. Brisket tells Cavatellihe can take off the day before Christmas just like everyone else. Cavatelli demands double pay from Shank if he has to work his Church holiday. Otherwise, Cavatelli tells Shank, he will throw Shank into the sous sauce.

No Federal law requires Shank to provide time off, paid or otherwise (much less premium pay) to Cavatelli even if the Flying Spaghetti Monster Pilgrimage is a nationally recognized holiday. Nor is Mr. Brisket required to pay holiday time off to Cavatelli who is an hourly employee – only time actually worked. If Mr. Brisket does provide a paid holiday, the paid hours do not count as hours worked for purposes of determining whether Cavatelli is entitled to overtime pay. To be eligible for overtime, Cavatelli must actually work 40 hours in a week.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

One of the easiest and non-political ways to eliminate this type of conflict is to offer a “floating holiday” in addition to regularly scheduled holidays. This allows employees to take time off for religious observances not covered by the employer’s holiday schedule. Courts addressing the issue of religious accommodation generally agree that unpaid time off can be a reasonable accommodation, as can allowing an employee to use a vacation day to observe a religious holiday.
Amazingly, you can learn more about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster (and you thought we made this up).

Kris Kringle wanted to celebrate the Christmas season in style with a knock-out-the-lights “Christmas Party” complete with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings.  However, human resources manager Holly Dais insisted that the bash must be called a “Holiday Party” due to the diverse nature of the workforce. Holly implied that to call the company bash a “Christmas Party” was against the law, or at the very least, evidence of employment discrimination.  Who’s right?

Both.  Kris Kringle can call the company bash a “Christmas Party.” That alone does not provide the basis for a claim of employment discrimination against RevvedUp Retailers. On the other hand, the concern expressed by Holly Dais has merit. While calling the bash a “Christmas Party” may not, by itself, be discriminatory, Holly’s belief that it might run the risk of alienating the diverse workforce at RevvedUp is legitimate. Should a lawsuit ever be filed against RevvedUp Retailers alleging religious discrimination, the party name could be a very small piece of a number of other instances supporting a claim for employment discrimination.

Tilting the Scales Your Way Although the probability of it serving as the basis for an employment claim is remote, business owners should “pick and choose their battles carefully.”  Given the ethnic and religious composition of your workforce, does calling the annual company party a “Christmas Party,” risk alienating your employees? If so, you may want to go with the recommendation of your HR manager, and simply call the annual bash a “Holiday Party.”

For more about Christmas in schools and the workplace, please see the U.S. Supreme Court case of Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984). “The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”

Sure, fireworks are fun, but be cautious and careful.

Below are Texas’ Top 10 fireworks laws (but remember, laws may vary county to county).

Happy Independence Day to America, this July 4, 2008!

THE TOP TEN TEXAS FIREWORKS LAWS, HOW TO AVOID GETTING POPPED

  1. Ever notice how we don’t shoot fireworks off for Easter? Fireworks can only be sold from June 24th through July 4th and December 20th through January 1st.
  2. It is illegal to sell or shoot fireworks within 100 feet of a place where flammable liquids, flammable compressed gasses or fireworks are sold or stored. Makes sense to me!
  3. Despite what you may have seen in the movies, it is illegal to shoot fireworks from or towards a motor vehicle, including boats.
  4. It is illegal to shoot fireworks from a public roadway, public property, park, lake or U.S. Corps of Engineer Property. Would hate to set a lake on fire.
  5. The minimum age to buy or sell fireworks was recently changed from 12 to 16. Should probably be 26.
  6. It is illegal to shoot fireworks within 600 feet of a church, hospital, day-care center or school. I most certainly wouldn’t want to go into surgery with a constant barrage of fireworks outside the building.
  7. It is illegal to shoot fireworks within city limits and, in many cities, it’s also illegal just to possess them. Selling, igniting or possessing fireworks within city limits can carry hefty fines approaching $2,000. Yet, country clubs just keep getting away with this.
  8. In unincorporated areas where fireworks are legal, you may only shoot off fireworks if you own property there, or if you receive written permission from a property owner. A county “burn ban” outside incorporated areas often translates into a prohibition against shooting fireworks. So no blowing up the neighbor’s mailbox without their permission!
  9. If you start a fire by shooting fireworks and the fire was found to be started intentionally, you may be subject to the charge of arson. If the fire is found to be accidental, you may be subject to a fine. In either case, you may be held civilly liable for damages.
  10. Beginning January 2, 2008, bottle rockets (a.k.a. pop rockets) were banned. You know you’re addicted to fireworks if you built up a reserve supply of bottle rockets prior to the ban.

In all seriousness, play it safe and keep in mind that fireworks are somewhat unpredictable.

That said, have a wonderful 4th of July!

*Looking for more up to date information on Texas firework laws? Check out our latest post.
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