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  • April 3, 2018

Donor Advised Funds Top Planning Tools Under New Tax Law

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect on January 1, 2018. Economists argue over the winners and the losers, but one obvious loser was charitable donations and the charities that depend on them. The new tax law nearly doubles the standard deduction in 2018 — to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for joint filers younger than age 65 — while capping or eliminating other deductions. This means it will no longer make sense for as many taxpayers to itemize deductions. In 2017, 30% of taxpayers itemized; under the new tax law that is expected to drop to…

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  • March 13, 2018

Church Law Practice Group Reflects on the Life of Rev. Billy Graham

The following article was written by Firm Principal Thomas Schetelich and appeared in the monthly publication CPN-OnPoint. Mr. Schetelich and his practice group are pleased to represent churches, ministries, and faith-based organizations throughout the region.  IN MEMORY OF BILLY GRAHAM I met Billy Graham on July 9, 2006.  He was in Baltimore for the Metro-Maryland Festival, featuring his son Franklin as the primary speaker.  I was the Chair of the Festival’s Executive Committee, and had been leading the team working on this event for the past three years.  The general assumption was that Billy Graham had ended his public speaking career, and…

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  • February 12, 2018

Firm News: Schetelich Receives “Top 100 Attorneys” Award, and More

Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew is pleased to congratulate Firm Principal Thomas Schetelich for being recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Attorneys based on lifetime legal achievement. The award is based on peer nomination and independent research focusing on professional experience, significant case results, client satisfaction, and public service. Mr. Schetelich was honored for his work in business law and business litigation. Earlier in the month, Mr. Schetelich, along with Firm Principal Jocelyn Szymanowski, were invited by the Child Evangelism Fellowship to present at their annual training for staff and volunteers. Mr. Schetelich and Ms. Szymanowski discussed the recent cases…

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  • January 31, 2018

Paid Leave Is Now Maryland Law

Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. As a result, that legislation is poised to take effect on February 11, 2018. The Act’s most notable provision requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide full time employees at least 5 days of paid leave per year. For employers with fewer than 15 employees, the leave can be unpaid.  Employees who regularly work 12 hours or more per week are also to receive 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid leave may be used…

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  • January 12, 2018

Major First Amendment Win: Court Sides with FSB on Free Speech Case

Richmond – The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, only one step below the United States Supreme Court, sided with arguments made by the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns’ attorneys, including those from Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A., in a major victory for the First Amendment. The case, which pitted the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns against the City of Baltimore, touched on one of the core principles of the United States Constitution: the First Amendment protection against compelled speech. The City of Baltimore had passed an ordinance requiring the Center to make postings in…

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  • January 4, 2018

Tolerance is Most Meaningful When it’s Mutual- Supreme Court Arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop

The developing law concerning religious freedom and same sex marriage was argued before the United States Supreme Court on December 5, 2017 in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  The case concerns Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which he opened in 1993.  In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, two gay men intending to get married, came into his bakery and asked him to design a cake for their wedding.  Mr. Phillips declined, based on his Christian faith and his religious conviction that marriage was between a man and…

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  • November 28, 2017

Avoiding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Recent news stories have shed a brighter light on the very real problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Failing to properly address sexual harassment creates an unsafe workplace and exposes the employer to substantial liability. There is nothing new about this issue. Liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has existed for more than thirty years.  These recent headlines simply speak to the unfortunate reality that too many workplaces fail to properly address the problem.  It is imperative that employers acquire the tools needed to protect their employees and themselves.      Sexual harassment encompasses a wide…

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  • October 3, 2017

Can Parties to a Maryland Contract Shorten the Limitations Period? It Depends…

The short answer to the question of whether parties to a contract can legally shorten the statute of limitations is yes.  However, three factors must be met before a shortened statute of limitations can be enforced: 1) no controlling statute exists to the contrary; 2) the provision is not the result of fraud, duress, or misrepresentation; and 3) the provision is reasonable.   In its recent opinion, Richard and Daphne Ceccone v. Carroll Home Service, LLC, filed July 28, 2017, the Court of Appeals upheld the Court of Special Appeals' decision in College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Inc. v.…

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  • August 24, 2017

REVISITING WHEN AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK IS A CONTRACT UNDER MARYLAND LAW

Is your employee handbook a contract? Thirty years ago, Maryland’s courts ruled that a jury had to decide that question, unless the handbook contained a “clear and conspicuous” disclaimer stating that it was not a contract.  Since then, most Maryland employers have wisely introduced disclaimer language to avoid litigation seeking damages because something in the handbook was not followed exactly as written.  A recent Maryland case revisits this question and identifies a new problem created, in part, by our societal move into the digital age. James Tucker was an employee of the Johns Hopkins University (“the University”). He was notified…

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  • July 13, 2017

The Trinity Lutheran Decision: The Supreme Court Expands Free Exercise Rights

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution has two provisions concerning religion: one prohibiting the government from establishing any religion; and the other guaranteeing each individual the free exercise of religion. On June 26, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, the leading case this term on First Amendment religious liberty. The majority described its opinion as the logical and necessary outcome, compelled by the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and by historical precedent. The dissent characterized the case as a dramatic break with precedent, and a dangerous step towards…

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