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Jamie N. Cotter

Partner

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T 303.839.3826
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jcotter@spencerfane.com

Top Tips for Handling Large Acquisition Projects

In connection with large public works projects, negotiating voluntary acquisitions with each landowner is generally the most efficient and preferable method to secure the property rights necessary to complete the project.  However, although most property interests are acquired voluntarily, initiating condemnation proceedings against select landowners is oftentimes necessary to ensure the timely completion of many public utility projects.  To that end, below are some top tips for handling large acquisition projects so as to minimize the need for condemnation:

United States Supreme Court Holds That Plaintiffs Must Suffer Concrete Harm to Sue in Federal Court

As part of the flurry of its end-of-term opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 594 U.S. ____ (2021) confirming that plaintiffs who have suffered no concrete harm have no standing to sue in federal court under Article III of the U.S. Constitution.  As Justice Kavanaugh succinctly put it in writing for the five justice majority, “No concrete harm, no standing.”

The Eleventh Circuit Calls Into Question the use of Letter Vendors as Violative of the FDCPA

The Eleventh Circuit in Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. issued an opinion yesterday that confronted an issue of first impression, namely, whether a debt collector can use a third party vendor to send collection letters without violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  The facts were simple.  The defendant/debt collector used a third party letter vendor to send an initial “dunning” letter to the plaintiff/consumer.  In doing so, the defendant provided the vendor with the plaintiff’s name, his outstanding balance, the fact that his debt resulted from his son’s medical treatment, and his son’s name.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendant violated the FDCPA by disclosing his personal information to the third-party vendor.

The Third Circuit Explains That the ‘Least Sophisticated Consumer’ is Presumed to Have a Willingness to Read Collection Letters With Care

In the recent Third Circuit opinion rendered in Moyer v. Patenaude & Felix, A.P.C., the plaintiff brought a putative class action alleging that Patenaude & Felix violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by sending her a single collection letter. The letter advised the plaintiff that her debt had been assigned to the firm and stated: “If you wish to eliminate further collection action, please contact us at 800-832-7675 ext. 8500.”  The letter then went on to advise the plaintiff of her validation rights under §1692g.  Resolution of the alleged class action claims required the Third Circuit to decide whether the inclusion of the single sentence inviting a call would confuse the least sophisticated consumer.

Confusion and Anxiety Fail to Satisfy a Plaintiff’s Burden Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) was enacted in 1977 to eliminate abusive debt collection practices.  15 U.S.C. § 1692(e).  To further that goal, section 1692e of the FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from using false, deceptive, and misleading representations; section 1692f prohibits a debt collector from using unfair or unconscionable means; and, section 1692g requires a debt collector to provide certain information (the amount of the debt, name of creditor, and explanation of right to dispute a debt) to a consumer.

In Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Condemning Property When in the Process Of Obtaining Development Approvals

Typically, special districts in Colorado are required by local municipalities to construct various improvements in order to move forward to develop property.  These requirements can be imposed before, during, and after certain development approvals are obtained.  Special districts can find themselves in between a proverbial rock and a hard place when seeking to move forward with condemnation to construct improvements before having formal approval to move forward with the larger development.

7th Circuit Issues 5 Rulings Clarifying Standing Under Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Setting up the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to confirm and strengthen its 2016 opinion in Spokeo v. Robins, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a raft of five rulings this week that clarify Article III standing issues related to claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Through these five opinions, the Seventh Circuit has unequivocally aligned itself with the Eleventh and D.C. Circuits in requiring a plaintiff to plead and provide “competent proof” of a concrete injury in fact to establish Article III standing.  What follows is a brief analysis of each opinion as it relates to a plaintiff’s burden to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of standing.

New Year, New Minimum Wage

As of January 1, 2019, the minimum wage increased in over 20 states. Employers with workers in Arizona, Colorado, and Florida should note the following rates that are effective January 1:

Arizona – $11.00
Colorado – $11.10
Florida – $8.46

Corporate Entity Formation Is Not Dispositive on “Employee” Status Under the FLSA

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently provided an important reminder to employers about the pitfalls that can occur when attempting to determine whether workers are employees or independent contractors. The court held that individual workers who personally perform janitorial cleaning services could be found to be employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), even if those workers have formed corporate entities and entered into franchise agreements with a franchisor See Acosta v. Jani-King of Okla., Inc., Case No. 17-6179, 2018 WL 4762748 (10th Cir. Oct. 3, 2018).  The holding in Jani-King  emphasizes the principle that forms and labels are not the deciding factor in determining whether a worker is considered an “employee” for FLSA purposes. Under current law, administrative agencies and/or the courts will make a determination as to “employee” status under the FLSA by examining the totality of the circumstances in light of the factors stated in the “economic realities test.”

Fair Credit Reporting Act – New Summary of Consumer Rights Forms Now Required

All entities and individuals required to provide “consumers” with a notice of rights pursuant to Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) section 609 are now required to use the updated summary of rights forms authored by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). See Interim Final Rule (83 FR 47027). Companies that use background check reports for employment purposes are subject to this rule.

New Wage and Hour Opinion Letters Provide Guidance to Employers

On August 28, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division issued six new Opinion letters. Four of these opinion letters relate to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and two of the letters involve the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). As we noted in April (WHD Opinion Letters), Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta announced in 2017 that the agency would soon re-start the practice of issuing opinion letters, which the Obama Administration had discontinued. The new opinion letters are summarized below.

New WHD Opinion Letters Provide Guidance to Employers

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued three new opinion letters for the first time since 2010.  The Obama administration had ceased the practice of issuing opinion letters – which answer specific questions from employers or other parties – in favor of general administrative interpretations.  Last June, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta announced that he was reinstating the practice of issuing opinion letters for the Trump administration.  This announcement was praised by businesses and employment lawyers because the opinion letters apply the law to a specific set of facts and represent official statements of agency policy.  In addition to the new letters, WHD republished 17 letters the Obama administration rescinded following their original publication late in the Bush administration.

EEOC Seeks Additional Pay Information from Large Employers

In a nutshell – Last week, the EEOC unveiled its proposal to seek increased amounts of data from large employers in a stated effort to “combat the persistent gender gap in employee compensation.” Practically, the proposal revises the EEO-1 form. The EEOC’s proposed changes to the EEO-1 form will require all employers with 100 or more employees to submit the new EEO-1 form and provide substantial information regarding pay ranges and hours worked as well as salary data by race, gender and ethnicity.

Use-It-Or-Lose-It Vacation Policies in Colorado – The Colorado Department of Labor’s New Stance

Historically in Colorado, employers could safely implement use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies without fear of consequences from the Colorado Department of Labor (“CDOL”). Those days are officially over. Effective January 1, 2015, the CDOL assumed new enforcement authority with respect to claim for nonpayment of wages or compensation. Pursuant to that authority, the CDOL issued limited guidance this week with respect to use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies. That guidance indicates that employers can no longer implement use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies without consequences.

Inflexible Leave Policies can Protect the Rights of the Disabled

Last week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Hwang v. Kansas State University, and directly addressed the legality of so-called “inflexible leave policies,” i.e., policies that set an exact limit on the amount of leave an employee can take.  In that case, Ms. Hwang was hired as a professor at Kansas State and was diagnosed with cancer.  Kansas State had a policy that allowed for no more than six months’ sick leave.  Ms. Hwang argued that this “inflexible” policy was illegal on its face.  The 10th Circuit disagreed.