Yesterday, the Washington Supreme Court held that an employer who refuses to hire a job applicant because of her pregnancy is liable for sex discrimination under Chapter 49.60 RCW (Washington's Law Against Discrimination), unless a bona fide occupational qualification justifies the hiring decision.
Significantly, the Court rejected the trial court's analysis of the plaintiff's claim under a "disability" discrimination framework, where an "accommodation" test is used to determine whether an applicant's disability prevents her from performing an essential function of the job. Read the full opinion in Hegwine v. Longview Fibre Co.
Last Friday, Ater Wynne trial lawyer Steve Blackhurst obtained a jury verdict in favor of telecommunications provider Verizon, following a two-week trial in Grants Pass. At issue was the interpretation of a lease associated with Verizon's West Coast fiber optic system. By a vote of 12-0, the jury denied the landlord's effort to terminate the lease.
Last week the Oregon Court of Appeals declined to expand the limits on claims against dissolved corporations and successor corporations. In Dahlke v. Cascase Acoustics, Inc. plaintiff asserted asbestos products liability claims against several defendants, including a dissolved corporation and a corporation that had purchased some of the assets of that dissolved corporation.
Plaintiff filed suit after the time had expired for making claims against a dissolved corporation under Oregon's statutes. Plaintiff argued that he should nonetheless be entitled to pursue his claim under the common law "trust fund" doctrine, contending that a judgment against a dissolved corporation can be satisfied through assets distributed to stockholders upon dissolution. The court held that the trust fund doctrine will not revive a claim that has been extinguished by the corporations statute, currently found at ORS Chapter 60. On that basis the trial court had properly entered summary judgment against plaintiff as to the dissolved corporation.
As to the claim against the corporation that had acquired some of the assets of the dissolved corporation, the court held that defendant could not be held liable as a "successor" to the dissolved corporation because it had not acquired all of the latter's assets. The court declined plaintiff's invitation to expand Oregon's law on successor liability "to accomodate the special issues raised by liability for defective products."
The IRS recently extended the deadline for deferred compensation arrangements to comply with section 409A of the Tax Code. Although employers now have until the end of 2008 to have all deferred compensation arrangements documented in a plan or agreement that complies with the statute, the arrangements must comply in operation now. For example, distributions from such an arrangement can occur only upon the occurrence of an event described in section 409A, even if the written arrangement provides otherwise.
We recently issued a Client Alert describing section 409A and the new extension.
The Oregon Court of Appeals held this week that the retail value of full-season ski passes given to volunteers who worked at least 22 days at a ski racing event constituted “wages” subject to unemployment tax under ORS Chapter 657. Under ORS 657.015, volunteers are not deemed “employees” subject to Chapter 657 when they donate services to a religious, non-profit, or governmental entity without expectation of remuneration. However, in this case, the court held that individuals volunteering with the Mt. Bachelor Ski Education Foundation were employees because they were promised a season pass if they worked the requisite number of days and, therefore, expected remuneration for their services. You can read the full opinion here.
U.S. District Court Judge James Cacheris in the Eastern District of Virginia yesterday enjoined the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) from putting into effect rules changes that would have mightily burdened inventors seeking to obtain U.S. patents. While the preliminary injunction is not a final order, the District Court effectively held the proposed rule making to violate the Constitution, to exceed the USPTO's administrative authority, and to offend the Administrative Procedures Act. You can view the opinion here.
The new rules were challenged by pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham Corporation, and yesterday's decision came just one day before their effective date. The changes would have severely limited the number of claims presented in any patent application and also would have severely limited the number of related continuation applications an applicant could file, with retroactive effect. Other onerous prior art search and reporting requirements, potentially harmful admissions, and attendant costs would have befallen patent applicants.
The preliminary injunction was received with a collective sigh of relief from individuals, companies and patent practitioners poised in some cases to file last-minute continuations or requests for continuing examination.
Stay tuned, however, as this over-reaching attempt by the USPTO may be seen as a side-show to the real thing: pending legislative patent reform that could have even broader implications for applicants for US patents as US patent law is dragged kicking and screaming into harmony with patent laws elsewhere in the world.