Understanding the Science of Climate Change with Richard Alley, Ph.D., in Philadelphia on November 6, 2014

I am very pleased to report that Bill Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, will be hosting a Chancellor’s Forum onNovember 6, 2014, on the subject of climate change. Bill has asked me to introduce the speakers.

The principal speaker will be Noted Climate Scientist Richard B. Alley, Ph.D. of Penn State. Dr. Alley will discuss the science of climate change, how it occurs, what causes it, and what can be done to stop it.

Dr. Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, and has ranged from Antarctica to Greenland to help learn the history of Earth’s climate and whether the great ice sheets will fall in the ocean, flooding our coasts. With more than 240 scientific publications, Dr. Alley has served on many advisory panels. He participated in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He has been asked to provide advice to the highest levels of government, and been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society. He hosted the recent PBS miniseries Earth: The Operators’ Manual, and has been compared to a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan for his enthusiastic efforts to communicate the excitement and importance of the science to everyone.

After Dr. Alley’s presentation, Robert B. McKinstry, Jr. will provide some brief comments on what is being done from a technical and legal perspective to combat climate change.

McKinstry is a partner in the Philadelphia office of Ballard Spahr, LLP, where he heads the firm’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative. He was counsel of record for the group of amici climate scientists supporting the petitioners in Massachusetts v. EPA, the 2007 Supreme Court decision that held that the EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

This program is free and open to the public. It will be held at the offices of the Philadelphia Bar Association at 1100 Market Street in Philadelphia (10th floor). Registration is required.

Payroll Cards Must Comply With Federal and State Law

In an era where technology equates with convenience, it’s not surprising that employers incorporate the latest technology in all facets of the workplace, including the way employees get paid. One way in which this is done is by issuing payroll cards instead of cash, check, or direct deposit. However, as is often the case with new technology and convenience, there is a downside. In this case the downside is that employees may get stuck paying fees to access their wages and employers risk legal liability if they fail to comply with federal and state law.

According to a September 2013 bulletin from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Regulation E prohibits employers from mandating that employees receive wages only on a payroll card of the employer’s choosing. Regulation E permits an employer to require direct deposit of wages by electronic means if the employee is allowed to choose the institution that will receive the direct deposit. Alternatively, an employer may give employees the choice of having their wages deposited at a particular institution (designated by the employer) or receiving their wages by another means, such as by check or cash

That’s pretty clear guidance. But employers who seek to use payroll cards must comply with state law. I am currently serving as an expert witness on payroll cards in a class action lawsuit entitled Gunshannon et al., v. Mueller, et al. (Civil Class Action 7010 of 2013), pending in the Court of Common Pleas for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Here is a link to a PDF copy of my expert report. The named plaintiffs all worked at a chain of McDonalds in Pennsylvania and were forced to accept their wages via JP Morgan Payroll Debit Card. When the plaintiffs used the cards, they incurred numerous fees that diminished their wages. Supervisory level employees were given the choice of a check or payroll card, which demonstrates that the hourly employees were being treated differently and unfairly. More to the point, the employer’s conduct violated Pennsylvania law, which does not authorize payroll cards.

In Pennsylvania, the Wage Payment and Collection Act permits payment by “lawful money of the United States or check.” 43 P.S. § 260.3(a) (amended 1977). The Pennsylvania Banking Code extends that to include direct deposit when requested by the employee. 7 P.S. § 6121 (1975). Payroll cards are not lawful money (i.e., greenbacks) nor are they a check nor are they direct deposit when not requested by the employee. Other states have authorized payroll cards only after the legislature provided specific approval and some limitations, as in Florida in 2009. In states like Pennsylvania where the legislature has not authorized payroll cards, employers should think very carefully before mandating their use. Here is a link to a story in Forbes about the New York Attorney General’s investigation into the use of payroll cards. In all states, employers should comply with the CFPB’s guidance on the use of payroll cards.