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Can Businesses Ban Racist Customers?

Last month, Khalil Cavil, a 20-year-old server for Saltgrass Steak House in Odessa, Texas, posted a photo of a receipt on Facebook that read "We don't Tip Terrorist" with no tip included and his name circled at the top. Cavil opined, "All day I've had to remind myself that Jesus died for these people too. I have decided to let this encourage me, and fuel me to change the world the only way I know how." And Saltgrass Steak House banned the customer involved.

Only it turns out that Cavil fabricated the racist message, and the customer has since been welcomed back. "Racism of any form is intolerable, and we will always act swiftly should it occur in any of our establishments," Saltgrass COO Terry Turney said in a statement. "Falsely accusing someone of racism is equaling disturbing." Still, the question remains: Can businesses legally ban racist customers?

Reserving the Right to Refuse Racists

If you don't already have one posted in your small business, you've probably seen the signs in someone else's shop: "We reserve the right to refuse service." But is that even legal? The answer depends on why you're refusing service. Generally, dress codes and shirt and shoe requirements are enforceable, even if there are no federal or state laws requiring patrons wear footwear. And, of course, non-paying, employee-harassing, or disturbance-causing customers can be banned for bad behavior.

But prohibiting paying customers from your business based on their beliefs can put you on trickier ground. Federal law makes it illegal to refuse service based on race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, or national origin, and many states have extended those protections to homosexual and transgender customers. So public accommodations have a hard time banning customers for who they are -- can they ban them for what they think?

Banning Behavior, Not Beliefs

Banning customers, even racists, Nazis, or the KKK, for their beliefs can put you on shaky ground, legally speaking. The First Amendment provides protections for speech, association, and assembly in places that are open to the public.

So instead of banning large groups based on political beliefs, creating facially neutral policies regarding customer clothing, speech, or behavior can provide the basis for legally asking a disruptive customer to leave. Businesses can impose restrictions on customer conduct so long as those restrictions do not directly target protected classes, and dress code restrictions prohibiting customers from wearing swastikas or other clothing emblazoned with hate speech or obscenity could do the trick.

Still, writing and enforcing such policies can get tricky. Consult an experienced commercial attorney for assistance.

Christopher Coble, Esq.

Apple Sued Over Siri's Commands -- Again

 

Apple gets sued all the time -- at least twice last month over Siri's voice commands.

In the latest lawsuit, a company is suing Apple over its patent for a "hands-free, voice-operated remote control transmitter" that is used to control appliances. In plain language, that would be Siri.

Apple fans are calling the plaintiff a "patent troll," although that name is reserved for those who buy patents just to sue over them. As for SpeakWare, it's a case of if it walks and talks like a duck it's a troll.

Patent Trolls

The company is fairly new, and appears to be in the litigation business. It registered as a corporation in California a year ago, and it has already sued Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft.

Its patent was issued in 2002, so yeah, SpeakWare didn't invent anything but the lawsuits. In the case against Apple, it claims infringement by iPhone 6, HomePod, and sixth generation iPad.

Those devices implement HomeKit programs that can talk to household appliances. So when you tell Siri to turn on the lights, it's apparently a patent violation, too.

Siri has been in trouble before -- and not for her sassy comebacks. Last month, a different patent troll sued Apple for violating a patent for "Speech Recognition and Transcript Among Users Having Heterogeneous Protocols."

Dense Language

9to5Mac called Advanced Voice Recognition Systems another patent troll suing over Apple's iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, HomePod operating systems.

"The patent itself is written in the usual dense language you expect with such applications, but doesn't appear to have much bearing on Siri," Ben Lovejoy wrote.

It's more of the same, according to the critics. Patent trolls make broad claims, hoping a piece of the patent will stick.

When it comes to tech giants like Apple, that piece could turn out to be pretty big.

By William Vogeler, Esq.

Can Bankruptcy Actually SAVE Your Home?

Millions of underwater debtors including individuals and businesses have turned to bankruptcy for relief. While bankruptcy is a powerful way to shield debtors from further debt collection efforts, it does not solve all financial problems. Additionally, there are different things that bankruptcy can accomplish based on the type of bankruptcy that is filed.


Can Do

Bankruptcy can do a lot for debtors, including: 

Eliminate Unsecured Debt

Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy fillings can help wipe out unsecured debt, such as credit card debt. Other debts may include personal loans, medical debt and unsecured business debt. These debts are those that the creditor does not have a lien against the property and does not have the right to repossess the item purchased if the debtor does not pay off the debt. 

Although Chapter 13 bankruptcy can also eliminate unsecured debt, it does not have as great a capacity to eliminate it as Chapter 7. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires the debtor to agree on a debt repayment plan and make continued payments for the number of years detailed in the plan. While secured debts usually have priority, most debtors have to pay back some portion of their unsecured debts. Any debts remaining after the repayment plan expires is generally discharged. 

Place an Automatic Stay

Bankruptcy provides debt relief through an automatic stay. Once bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay prevents further collection efforts from creditors, including phone calls, letters, repossession attempts or foreclosure actions. 

Keep Certain Assets

Debtors can keep certain assets during a Chapter 7 filing, which are their exempt property. Federal and state-specific laws determine which property is considered exempt and free from liquidation during the bankruptcy process. Bankruptcy does not eliminate liens, so property can still be taken by debtors that do have a lien against certain property. 

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing can help prevent a foreclosure action and require the lender to accept a plan that allows the debtor to reimburse the lender for missed payments. A bankruptcy lawyer is often needed during this process who can help show that the debtor will have sufficient income to provide for such payments while staying current on the existing debt. 

Additionally, Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not require the sale of the debtor’s assets, so he or she can also keep non-exempt property. 

Reduce Secured Debt

In many cases, debtors find themselves underwater on their secured debts by owing more money to pay off the property than the property is actually worth. Chapter 13 bankruptcy may allow the debtor to reduce the debt of secured property and then pay off this reduced amount of debt. There are special rules that prohibit reducing secured debt of debts that were acquired within a certain time period near the bankruptcy filing. 

Cannot Do

Although bankruptcy can accomplish many things, some things that it cannot accomplish includes: 

Eliminate Tax Debt

Usually a Chapter 7 filing does not permit a debtor to discharge state or federal income tax debts. A debtor may be able to wipe out some of this debt in a Chapter 13 filing, depending on the type, amount and timing of the debt.

Eliminate Support Obligations

Generally, obligations to pay child support or spousal support survive bankruptcy. With a Chapter 13 filing, the debtor is usually required to show how back payments will be paid in full within the repayment plan period. 

Eliminate Student Loan Debt

Most student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. There are some exceptions, such as if the person is permanently disabled and can demonstrate that repaying the loan would cause undue hardship.

Eliminate All Debt

In Chapter 13, the debtor has to repay much of the debt. Under both types of bankruptcies, the debtor may not be able to eliminate all types of debt, including the debts that the debtor forgot to list in the bankruptcy filing, fines and penalties for criminal action, criminal restitution and certain other debts prohibited by law. Additionally, a creditor may be able to convince a judge not to discharge a certain debt in the interest of fairness, such as not discharging a debt off a recent purchase or one that was made due to fraud. 

Legal Assistance

Bankruptcy is a complex area of law and usually requires the assistance of a lawyer who is knowledgeable in this area of the law. A bankruptcy lawyer can explain the process of bankruptcy and provide information specific to the debtor regarding how bankruptcy can and cannot accomplish certain goals.

Will Trump Travel Ban Affect L1 Visa Applicants?

The L visa for nonimmigrant intracompany transferees allows U.S.-based employers to petition to transfer certain alien employees from related foreign entities to work in the United States.


In general, a petition for an L nonimmigrant is filed for a single beneficiary. However, certain petitioning entities may be eligible to petition for multiple foreign employees under what is called an “L blanket petition.” If a petitioner gains L blanket approval, it will become far easier to transfer large numbers of L nonimmigrants to work in the United States.

What are the Petitioner Requirements for L Blanket Approval?

The petitioner requirements for being granted L blanket approval are found in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(l)(4)(i). First, the petitioner must meet the basic requirements for being an L visa petitioner. This means l that all requirements pertaining to the U.S.-based petitioner’s relationship with the foreign entity or entities employing the L visa petition beneficiary as well as the requirement that the petitioner be “doing business” in the United States apply equally to applications for L blanket approval. The L blanket regulations then add additional requirements for a petitioner seeking blanket approval.

The L blanket approval-specific requirements are: The petitioner and each of its qualifying entities are engaged in commercial trade or services; the petitioner has had an office in the United States that has been doing business for at least one year; the petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates; and the petitioner (or other qualifying organization) has either obtained approval for at least ten L1A or L1B managers, executives, or specialized knowledge professionals over the previous twelve months, or the petitioner has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million or a combined U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

The requirements for L blanket approval exclude “new office” L visa petitioners and non-profit petitioners. Furthermore, approved L1B petitions for non-specialized knowledge professional intracompany transferees are not counted toward meeting the requirement for L blanket approval. As we will see, the only type of L1B beneficiary who may be petitioned for under an L blanket petition is an L1B specialized knowledge professional.

Seeking L Blanket Approval and Adjudication Process

An application for L blanket approval is filed on the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The petitioner must establish that it meets the regulatory requirements for L blanket approval. 

If the L blanket petition is approved, the petitioner will have L blanket approval for an initial period of 3 years. L blanket approval may be extended indefinitely provided that the petitioner continues to meet the applicable requirements. An L blanket petition may be approved in part and denied in part where certain organizations under the petitioner’s umbrella are found to meet the requirements while others are not. 

If there is a change in the relationships of any of the qualifying organizations with L blanket approval, the petitioner must file an amended Form I-129 explaining the changes.

Transferring Employee from Abroad Under L Blanket Petition

In order to transfer an individual L1A or L1B employee under an L blanket petition, the petitioner must file the Form I-129S, Certification of Eligibility for Intracompany Transferee under a Blanket Petition. The petition beneficiary must be provided by the petitioner with a Form I-797 reflecting the petitioner’s blanket approval. The beneficiary may then apply for a visa through consular processing within six months of the date on the Form I-129S. A Canadian beneficiary of a Form I-129S may apply for a visa with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a qualifying port of entry in order to seek admission under the L blanket petition.

The consular office will only approve an L1A or L1B visa for a beneficiary under a blanket petition for “clearly approvable applications.” The requirements for a beneficiary are the same as for a non-blanket L1A or L1B petition except for the limitation on the L1B category to specialized knowledge professionals only. A petitioner may not seek to afford L1A or L1B status to a beneficiary through a non-blanket and blanket petition simultaneously. However, a petitioner with blanket approval may opt to file a non-blanket petition on behalf of a beneficiary in lieu of seeking approval under the blanket petition. A petitioner may file an individual L1 petition on behalf of a beneficiary who was denied a visa under the L blanket procedure.

Limitations on L Blanket Validity and Extensions of Stay

An individual may be approved for an L1 visa under an L blanket petition so long as the L blanket approval of the petitioner remains valid. The beneficiary may be approved for an initial period of stay of three years even when the validity of the L blanket petition may expire before that date. However, if the validity of the L blanket approval is slated to expire while the employee is on L1 status in the United States, the petitioner will be required to either seek an extension of the validity of the L blanket petition or to file an individual petition to support the employee’s continued employment in the United States.

In order to seek an extension of stay for an employee under an L blanket petition, the petitioner must file a new Form I-129S on behalf of the employee. This extension request may be filed concurrently with a request to extend the validity of the L blanket petition. However, the applications will be considered separately.

Transferring Employees Under L Blanket Petition

An employee may be transferred from one of the petitioner’s organizations with L blanket approval to another with L blanket approval so long as the employee will be performing virtually the same job duties. If the job duties will be different, the petitioner must complete a new Form I-129S on behalf of the beneficiary and submit it for approval with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director who approved the blanket petition. The petitioner cannot transfer an L blanket employee to an entity that does not have L blanket approval under an L blanket petition.

Conclusion

Large petitioners that meet the L blanket requirements may benefit from seeking L blanket approval. L blanket approval makes it easier to transfer multiple L1A and L1B employees from abroad than filing individual petitions on behalf of each employee. However, it is important to note that, while the L blanket petition makes it easier to seek approval for L1A and L1B intracompany transferees, it does not alter the beneficiary’s requirements for eligibility. For this reason, petitioners may still be required to file individual petitions on behalf of beneficiaries who do not present clearly approvable cases or for L1B beneficiaries who fall outside of the scope of the L blanket procedure.

Petitioners should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance in seeking L blanket approval and in handling individual cases that may present special concerns.

by A. Segal

If you have any additional questions or queries contact us at (954).944.2799 or email info@DSALegalGroup.com

 Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact an attorney.