Taxes, immigration and climate among issues to watch in Biden’s first 100 days, panelists say

Less than one month into the Biden administration, actions taken by the president have indicated a much more progressive approach to governing than in the conservative Trump administration.

More than 30 executive orders signed by Joe Biden so far have mostly overturned many of the more controversial policies of his predecessor.

Like with any change, there will be winners and losers.

Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business spoke with a panel of legal experts on what to expect during the first 100 days of the Biden administration and beyond.

Sectors of the economy most likely to benefit under the administration are health care, manufacturing and technical industries, who will now have a more stable stream of access to foreign-born workers with specialty skills.

The environment and those companies that support clean technology will also likely find a better friend in the Biden administration than they did with Trump. On the flipside, companies involved in fossil fuel are likely to see a drop in subsidies and support.

High-wealth individuals will also likely feel a larger tax impact than they had under Trump, but maybe not as much as they fear.

The legal panel of experts from left to right: S. Graham Simmons III, Melissa Kelso, Steven Koehler, Christian Johnson

Boost to M&A

Melissa L. Kelso of Kelso Law in Carlisle said she is hearing concern from many of her small business clients who are worried about potential changes in the minimum wage and estate taxes could impact their profitability.

“I think one point that I don’t want to overlook, they are concerned things will be less stable, whether that is founded or not,” she said. “They’ve very concerned they are going to see their costs go up.”

She said the minimum wage going from its current $7.25 an hour to $15 is the largest concern she is hearing. “Most of our clients pay above that, but they’re concerned about that making everything go up,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said, concern over issues like estate tax are leading many of her clients, who may have been thinking of selling their business, to wonder if now is the right time.

Christian Johnson, a law professor at Widener University in Harrisburg, agreed that such concerns will likely lead to a short-term jump in merger and acquisition activity. “With big changes on the horizon there’s always going to be a rush for the exits,” Johnson said. “The tax structure is very favorable right now and I don’t think it will get any better.”

Stimulus payback

The big looming concern with taxation is the question of how the government is going to pay for all of the stimulus money it’s handing out now, which will certainly lead to higher taxes in the long run. S. Graham Simmons III, an attorney with Norris McLaughlin in Allentown, said that time will come.

“It will be interesting to see when we get to that point where they look across the aisle and realize we have no choice to raise taxes to pay for what we are doing with the stimulus and spending to get out of the COVID situation,” he said.

The fact that such a conversation isn’t happening now concerns Johnson.

“There appears to be very little thought about how were’ going to pay these amounts back in the long run,” he said. “It’s impossible to say with a straight face that $1.7 trillion dollars isn’t going to have any impact on our economy. It is just total nonsense.”

“I’d be looking to see how this administration is going to look to make changes involving crypto currency and the fintech tax,” said Simmons.

The Biden admin has been more crypto friendly, he noted, and with crypto currency, like Bitcoin beginning to have more widespread acceptance, that could have an impact on the economy.


One issue that the world has been paying particular attention to is how Biden is reversing many of the Trump-era restrictions on immigration, said Steven A. Koehler, an immigration attorney with Stock and Leader in York.

“As an immigration lawyer we’re certainly hoping that Biden’s big shot will be in the immigration field,” he said.

He said the US Citizenship Act of 2021 is expected to expand citizenship to undocumented immigration.

Corporate America, however, is keeping a close eye on the Biden administration renewing accessibility to H-1 Visas, which will help in the recruitment of individuals with specialty skills into fields such as health care, technology and engineering.

“Employing foreign-born workers is vital to our economy. Business will see a more stable playing field in having access to that stable workforce,” he said. “It will definitely affect the health care industry. It will definitely affect the manufacturing industry. A lot of professors are foreign born. It’s probably the most widely used visa in the U.S.”

Going electric

The environment will also be a bigger concern under the Biden administration, said Johnson.

“Biden is pushing for the U.S to become a leader in batteries, electric cars and general electrification,” Johnson said. “That is something Biden could see as a big win for him, it would keep jobs in the auto industry.”

With less subsidies for fossil fuels however, he noted states like Pennsylvania would feel a stronger impact because of the proliferation of coal and fracking gas, so such trends might not be as popular in the Keystone state.

“Sometimes we underestimate just how passionate people feel about climate on both sides,” he said.


Overall, however, the panelists didn’t see huge sweeping changes in any direction.

With an evenly balanced legislature, it may be difficult to get any major legislation passed, and like Trump, Biden may have to rely on executive orders to make some changes.

Even expected tax increases should be tempered, said Johnson.

“You’re going to see a lot of loopholes being closed and he’ll be quite aggressive,” Johnson said. “But, I don’t see congress having the stomach for a huge tax increase.”

A Conversation With: Rebecca Warren of Norris McLaughlin in Allentown

Warren –


The Honorable Rebecca Warren (Ret.), a member at the law firm of Norris McLaughlin, devotes her practice to labor and employment, business and corporate matters, and general liability litigation. She was a former in-house corporate attorney and having counseled businesses for over 25 years and is a former prosecutor.

 LVB: What is the single biggest legal concern business should have at this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Warren: Every business should ensure that they have a legally compliant COVID-19 Action Plan in place, along with a named Pandemic Safety Officer.

As a result of the ever-changing orders issued by the Pennsylvania Governor and Secretary of the Department of Health, businesses need to be able to pivot quickly.  One moment we are in the green phase and the next we have reverted to a new form of yellow.  Businesses should expect that more changes are in store.  A solid plan for each phase will allow a business to react as swiftly, efficiently, and effectively as is possible under the circumstances.

 LVB: Are there legal issues that you are concerned businesses are overlooking?

Warren: Yes.  There are many legal issues created by COVID-19.  Three that I have seen repeatedly are FFCRA Benefits — When an employee refuses to return to work, they may actually qualify for mandatory benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  FFCRA seems like it was passed ages ago when many businesses were closed or had furloughed employees.  As a result, FFCRA did not apply to the business at that time and was overlooked.  However, FFCRA is in effect through December 31 and employers must engage in the interactive process with employees who mention a situation that may trigger eligibility for FFCRA sick leave or family medical leave benefits.

The need for a Pandemic Safety Officer — In speaking with many business owners, it seems as though many are unaware of the requirement in Pennsylvania to name a Pandemic Safety Officer prior to re-opening.  Name your PSO and communicate the contact information to your employees.

Use of Loan Proceeds — Many businesses have received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan.  Do not use the EIDL monies for PPP allowable categories to avoid disqualification of loan forgiveness.  Ensure that you read the restrictions regarding use of any loan proceeds and follow those guidelines.

LVB: What are some legal issues with the workforce returning to in-person work? What about with those who don’t want to return to the office because they don’t feel safe?

Warren: In counseling businesses on return to work issues, I have repeatedly heard two main concerns expressed: co-workers failing to abide by the social distancing and CDC guidelines, and co-workers’ belief that allowing some, but not all, employees to work remotely is unfair.  Businesses need to be proactive in clearly communicating the reason for staff assignments and the required protocols, as well as enforcing these requirements.  Again, implementing a COVID-19 Action Plan will assist with addressing such issues.

A generalized fear of returning to the workplace will not insulate an employee from termination.  However, as mentioned earlier, if an employee’s refusal to return to work is legitimately grounded in a FFCRA-eligible reason, an employee is entitled to that benefit.

LVB: Safe Harbor protections for businesses during COVID-19 is a hot topic. What do you see as the positives and negatives of such protections?

Warren: Safe Harbors have been instituted for businesses with regard to employee retention and reinstatement under the PPP loan forgiveness.  This realistic approach to circumstances is a positive for businesses and our economy.

There is discussion of implementing safe harbors for business liability related to customers contracting COVID-19.  Although a person may be precluded from recovering for their injury, a positive effect would be less lawsuits and burden on the courts arising from a widespread contagion that cannot be completely prevented.

At the end of the day, I think we have to remember that businesses are already struggling to survive in this COVID-19 era.  A lawsuit filed against a business already crippled by COVID-19 may very well be its death knell.


Business is shuttered, income is stalled, now is the time to talk to your lender

Bankers and business owners are thinking outside the box when it comes to debt service and dramatically reduced income due to Covid-19.

With incoming receipts reduced or suspended – and no end in sight on when restrictions for conducting face-to-face business will be lifted, lenders and legislators are stepping up with a variety of ways to help mitigate losses and allow small businesses to remain viable through the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath.  

“We’ve had a lot of requests for businesses affected [by Covid-19] for payment deferral…sometimes going to interest only, for a period of time. We are handling this on a case-by-case basis,” said David W. Freeman, president and CEO of QNB Bank in Quakertown.

He said for those with fixed rate mortgage loans owned by Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) or Freddie Mac (The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation “six months of forbearance” has been written into new legislation. Those missed payments would be tacked onto the original end of the loan and extended. 

“Forbearance does not mean loan forgiveness,” Freeman said. “I think there’s some confusion about the terms. In those cases [borrowers] don’t have any payments to make and the interest will continue to accrue.”

He said the decision whether to push out or pay loan obligations was an individual one. 

Payments deferred as a result of Covid-19 hardship with the consent of lenders would not impact the borrower’s credit ratings, Freeman said. He recommends heading payment problems off right away with direct communication to lenders. 

“I’ve been telling everybody…if you think you’re going to have a problem making a payment on your loan or you’re running into late fees or interest fees…have that conversation. Don’t wait for the bad things to happen,” Freeman said. 

Talk to your lender

Rebecca Price, an attorney and partner at Norris McLaughlin in Allentown, is advising business clients to talk with commercial lenders now.  Price said Pennsylvania law does provide judgment clauses – or immediately calling in a loan upon perceived default, or when the borrower fails to make a payment. 

“I have not seen anything preventing a commercial lender from doing that right now,” Price said. 

As far she knows, no lenders in the Lehigh Valley are taking out judgments or calling in debt notes on commercial borrowers for missing a payment. 

“At some point, you have to figure out how you’ll may payments. It will take some time to get back to where we were before,” Price said.

At Fulton Financial Corporation in Lancaster payment deferral plans are available to customers, which could include deferring principal, interest, or both, said Meg Mueller, senior executive vice president and head of commercial banking.

“Most banks have come out with a 90-day deferral option,” she said. “Banks feel very comfortable making these [terms] without adverse regulatory impact because the regulatory [sector] has been very helpful.”

Deferring payments puts relief on business cash flow. Government programs like the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program, which aims to help businesses retain workers, and the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), that helps businesses pay bills during government mandated business shutdowns, are also part of the solution, Mueller said.

She said the balance lenders are trying to strike was between managing risk and supporting their customers. 

Paula Barrett a partner at RKL, LLP in Spring Township, Berks County, said her firm is advising clients in two ways: a short term tactical crisis response and planning for the long haul.

“Look at the options,” Barrett said. 

Short term, she advises clients to assess cash and assets and consider liquidating assets if needed. If it is possible, accelerate billing and receivables to create income.

Costs and cash flow

Cash flow forecasting and scenario planning can help. While specific assumptions may be unknown, Barrett said forecasts and projections can provide an understanding of the “sensitivity of revenue” or profit right now.

On the debt side she said look at fixed costs like rent, utilities and other debt service. “Look at loan agreements,” and talk to vendors and banks about what options exist, Barrett said.

“Don’t assume a ‘doomsday mentality’….In these very extraordinary situations we’re seeing people [lenders and landlords] trying to work with companies,” she said.

Longer term planning may be harder now and could be even more important moving forward.

“I think the debt issue is a challenging one…because it takes looking inside to say ‘has this business run its course.’ Will we have market possibilities once we have transitioned,” she said.

This may be the time to consider protections under bankruptcy law, or liquidating the business.

When considering the future of the business make sure there is a viable scaffold supporting it. That may include looking at the pre-Covid business model, and figuring out ways to pivot and adapt to an ever-changing environment. 

“I think the key is for people to begin to shift and look at taking a process and doing it differently,” Barrett said.

Taking the Leap: Cady Darago is helping law firms grow through marketing

For Cady Darago, an interest in law came at an early age.

She studied criminal justice in college, and since graduating, only worked for law firms. She served a number of roles, including a legal assistant, paralegal, office manager, and in the accounting department. However, when she began working in the legal marketing department at the Lehigh Valley-based firm Tallman Hudders & Sorrentino, she found her true passion.

Darago started working at Tallman Hudders in 2009 as a legal assistant, got involved in the marketing department full time shortly after as a marketing assistant, got married in 2010, had her daughter in 2012 when she became a marketing coordinator, and her son in 2017 when she became the firm’s marketing manager.

She was with Tallman Hudders & Sorrentino before the firm merged and changed its name to the Bridgewater, New Jersey-based Norris McLaughlin nearly 10 years ago. When the merger happened, the law firm wanted someone to represent their office as the firm’s marketing manager and as the firm got bigger, it began hiring more people.

“I really loved everything that I got to do in that role,” she said. “The firm was super supportive of letting me take over that role.”

Cady Darago started her own business with partner Ed Miller because she wanted more time for family.-PHOTO/SUBMITTED

She knew she wanted to spend more time with her family, while also building her marketing career. After traveling a lot for the firm, she realized she wanted more family time while also pursuing her passion, which led to an important decision, a jumping off point for a new venture. Having worked with lawyers for years, she knew they were busy people who needed someone to help them stay organized and position themselves to stand out in a crowded market.

After identifying a niche that needed filling, she thought of starting her own marketing firm, but one focused on helping lawyers. She began ESQuisite Marketing in 2019 with Ed Miller, who was chief marketing officer at Norris McLaughlin. Together, they began a small business that offers business development and management services, in addition to marketing and communication support for law firms.

Other marketing companies do not quite understand the law industry and the ethics and culture involved, she said. Darago is relying on that to help set her firm apart from others. The firm has office space on Hamilton Street in the heart of downtown Allentown.

Today she also makes time for volunteer activities. She serves on the development committee for the Third Street Alliance for Women & Children, a social services organization in Easton, and is head coach for Girls on the Run International, a nonprofit that motivates and encourages girls.

Lehigh Valley Business recently sat down with Darago to learn more about what led to her current career.

LVB: What made you want to start your own business?

Darago: Feeling like my growth had met its limit at the firm. I want to do the class mom stuff and go on field trips. I was in Allentown twice a week, Bridgewater twice a week and Manhattan once a week. I take my career very seriously. It wasn’t always feasible to take the time off, now it is. I can work overnight as needed. We do have an office in Allentown that we go to and we do onsite visits with clients.

We had steady employment at a well-respected firm. It was a leap. It was scary to leave. I had been there for 10 years. Ed had been there for 20. But we saw a need in the legal community where a lot of law firms were starting their own firms and needed marketing support.

Frankly, the growth we had in the last year proved us right.

LVB: Why marketing?

Darago: I like the ability to still learn about the law because that’s what interests me and to take it and be creative with it and to take lawyers and showcase them in a positive way. A good day for them is when they are able to help their clients solve a problem, and lawyers aren’t taught marketing in law school. They have a ton of competition. Lawyers are competing for the same pool of clients who need their services.

LVB: What advice would you give to someone who always wanted to start their own business but was afraid to try?

Darago: Find a mentor who already made the leap and can talk you through it and has the ability to continue to give you guidance after you open the doors. Ed and I relied on a friend. He was invaluable. He and his company were really instrumental. They let us use their conference rooms. Even with pricing and proposals, it’s nice to have someone who understands your industry. [The company is] a larger, general marketing firm in the Lehigh Valley.

And just do it. Once you have all your ducks in a row, rip the Band-Aid off and make it happen.

LVB: Any trends in marketing that you are seeing?

Darago: Especially in the legal industry, clients want their attorneys to teach them. More than ever, clients want to be educated. I think lawyers need to showcase they are the best and how they can help their clients, whether that’s being interviewed about changes in the law or cases, writing blogs, podcasts. Consumers are hungry for knowledge. You can be the best business out there, if you can’t showcase that, then clients are going to look elsewhere.

LVB: Is there anything specific about your firm that sets you apart from others?

Darago: We definitely have the law background. We want it to be fun. We really want to work with each client on an individual basis to find out what works for them. For an attorney to build their business they have to understand who their target audience is.

We work with an attorney to find out what their comfort zone is and find the best way to showcase their marketing. You have to find out what you like to do and we sit down with each attorney and find out what works for them.

LVB: Describe some of the challenges that you face.

Darago: Managing your workload, because we have different clients and being able to compartmentalize. Having our office space really helped with that. To be organized and to see the bigger picture of everything that we are working on. Thankfully, we have a really great accountant who helped us manage our books. We were fortunate that more of our clients knew we were a startup. Some of our clients found us on social media. A lot of smaller firms, which is our sweet spot, don’t have marketing support and those are the ones who really need it.

LVB: What do you like to do when you are not working?

Darago: After years of helping attorneys be on boards, I am a coach for Girls on the Run. Running is a passion of mine. I serve on the development committee for the Third Street Alliance and I have two kiddos that I run around with. I spend a lot of time on the D&L trail.

LVB: What are some causes that are important to you?

Darago: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is something I have been involved in. It’s been about 10 years. I do fundraising for them. I’ve been involved with the Light the Night Walk. I was their captain for the Light the Night Walk. The day before the walk, my mom was diagnosed with both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She’s in remission.

Brewers get a reprieve with excise tax extension

The extension of the excise tax on brewing is a win-win, says Chris Lampe, president of the Brewers of Pennsylvania and an owner of Weyerbacher Brewing Co. in Easton. (File Photo) –

Brewers can breathe a little easier. And so can beer drinkers.

Congress enacted legislation that will avoid a massive tax hike on beer in 2020.

For now.

As 2019 ended, the Brewers of Pennsylvania and other beer industry groups lobbied Congress to pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, or extend the current excise tax rate before Dec. 31.

They extended the tax.

Not doing so would have meant higher taxes for brewers across the state and potentially, higher prices for consumers. However, for brewers, the $3.50 per barrel tax will remain. Had Congress not acted, the tax would have returned to its $7 rate.

In a statement, Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute, said the recently signed legislation extending excise tax relief for all brewers and beer importers provides brewers and beer importers the certainty they need to continue growing and reinvesting in their businesses.

“More than two-thirds of Americans across the political spectrum want excise tax relief for the beer industry, which supports more than 2.1 million American jobs,” McGreevy said. “As we look forward to 2020, Congress must continue working to pass the extremely popular bipartisan, bicameral Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, and make the current beer excise tax rates permanent.”

Making the current excise tax rates permanent for all brewers would avoid a repeat of the uncertainty leading up to the end of the year, uncertainty that affects decision-making, job growth and planning for all brewers.

“Obviously, people are very happy,” said Ted Zeller, general counsel for the Brewers of Pennsylvania and an attorney for Norris McLaughlin in Allentown. “There’s a whole segment of brewers who don’t know of any other tax. Their whole business model is formulated on the lower tax. This is what they perceive it will always be.”

Planning for a potential tax hike is something that brewers should do this year, said Zeller, who specializes in liquor law. There’s always the chance Congress may not act in time to extend the current rate again.

“Plan on it not being extended and then be happy when it is,” he said. “The industry is rapidly changing so we’ll see what this year brings. It’s a highly regulated industry and it’s very difficult to predict.”

Chris Lampe, president of the Brewers of Pennsylvania and an owner of Weyerbacher Brewing Co. in Easton, said the National Brewers Association has been working hard to get the excise tax extended again.

“I don’t know how it’s going to affect Weyerbacher this year,” Lampe said. “For brewers in general, it’s a win-win because you can use the credit to purchase equipment. If you purchase equipment you can roll money back into the business.”

For one growing brewery, the news of the extension proved particularly welcoming.

“It is so beneficial to craft brewing, to what we do,” said Fred Maier, co-founder and vice president of Susquehanna Brewing Co. in Pittston, Luzerne County.

With 35 full- and part-time employees, and seven years in business, Maier has been hiring more employees and constantly buying equipment to advance the business.

“We haven’t stopped buying new equipment,” he said. “We probably would have had to spend it regardless. We are always investing back into the brewery.”

Susquehanna Brewing recently installed a can production line, which he said was a necessary investment.

He wasn’t certain that the federal government would extend the excise tax and said he was thankful for what the brewers could get.

“We were making plans on kissing it goodbye,” Maier said. “Until it’s made permanent, we don’t act like it’s permanent.”

The Generation Gaps: The unique challenges of the multigenerational workplace

Ashley Ohlin, 30, desk manager for Brown Daub Chrysler Jeep in Palmer Township, often works in tandem with Joey Hoagland, 64, lease retention manager for the dealership.

Despite the over three decades between them, Ashley and Joey have an easy rapport and a good working relationship. Even so, generational differences between the two, and others of varying ages on the sales team, rear their head in the workplace.

Ashley Ohlin and Joey Hoagland of Brown Daub Chrysler Jeep in Palmer Township work well together despite their age difference. -photo by Dawn Nixon

“Millennials could learn a lot about hard work from older generations, but the older generation is sometimes too old school,” said Ashley. “They do a lot by paper and generally aren’t as good with technology. That can make you fall behind in this industry.”

Joey agrees that while it might be harder for a baby boomer like him to learn new tech, he sees a relaxed work ethic among millennials  that frustrates him.

For a dedicated company man like Joey, who is always the first to arrive at work and the last to leave, watching a co-worker pass time on his phone or rush out the door at quitting time is a disappointment.

Joey and Ashley aren’t alone in their observations. Frustrations over generational differences are common on the job.  Three and sometimes four generations are competing for time and attention in the workplace. And with each generation having its own unique value system, how can we all just get along?

What makes a generation?

Understanding what makes each generation tick is the key first step to bridge that generation gap, according to experts.

“A generation is an age group that shares a lifelong set of core values,” said Chuck Underwood, author of “America’s Generations in the Workplace, Marketplace and Living Room,” and founder of The Generational Imperative, Inc., an Ohio-based generational consulting firm.

“Each generation is a reaction to the previous one,” he said. “To understand someone and how they think, you can learn a lot by studying the generation they grew up in.”

Underwood explains that today’s workplace is made up of millennials  , Gen-Xers, baby boomers and sometimes, the silent generation.

Who are all these people? Let’s take a look.


They are between the ages of 18 and 37, are eager to learn from elders and have been raised by “helicopter parents,” according to Underwood.  They have a short attention span, due to growing up with smartphones and easy access to information.

Chuck Underwood, expert in generational studies – submitted

Craving variety, they are frequent job hoppers. The average millennial has had six different full- time jobs by the age of 26.

Although over-parenting and technology have done some damage to this generation, according to Underwood, millennials  have positive leadership values like being group focused, idealists and activists.

Generation X

Between the ages of 38 and 54, Gen-Xers are starting to move into the C-Suite and power positions at work. But with baby boomers and millennials  getting all the press, they are the most overlooked.

According to Underwood, Gen X has been failed by the government and their parents, saddled with the effects of their parents’ divorces and student loan debt. Because of this, they are less trusting, don’t like baby boomers and prefer to work alone.

On the positive side of this, Gen-Xers are independent and efficient. Underwood calls them “an army of 59 million armies of one.”

Baby Boomers

They are between 55 and 73 and taking their turn at the top. Boomers have a strong work ethic and care about the good of the organization, yet often struggle to adapt to new technology and ideas.

The Silent Generation

The oldest people in the workforce, they are between the ages of 74 and 92, and can be found still at work in the fields of law, architecture and health care.

Four generations at work

Bill Hartin, founder of FIFO, a filmmaking consortium dedicated to growing and supporting the film industry in the Lehigh Valley, is in his mid 70s, on the border of the baby Boomer and silent generation. He often trains and works alongside millennials  on film sets.

Hartin finds millennials to be less patient. “They want everything ‘now, now,’ ” he said. “And that mindset runs right up against the wall of pre-production.”

The more pre-production you do before you start rolling film, Hartin said, the better the film will be.  While a location manager for “Getting Grace,” a faith-based film made in the Lehigh Valley and distributed nationwide, Hartin taught the young production assistants about the importance of pre-production, which can be a lot of hurry up and wait.

He also kept an eye on their phone usage, making sure they weren’t distracted from the set by their smartphones.

In the end, the young people were grateful for Hartin’s mentorship.

“That’s when one culture meets another,” said Hartin. “By the end of the first week, we were working together smoothly.”

Hartin himself was thankful for the youthful exuberance the millennials  brought to the set. “I’ll never have that sort of ‘get up and go’ again,” he said. “That’s something important that millennials bring to the table.”

Theresa Schwartzer, herself a Gen-Xer, hires and works with all four generations as executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Univest Financial Corporation in Souderton. Schwartzer sees frequent generational differences in work styles.

“Boomers want more face to face meetings,” she said, “verses millennials   who will say ‘Can we do this via conference call?”

Schwartzer sees Gen-Xers and millennials  as more efficient, which helps the company learn to streamline and be more digital. “It’s easy for other generations to come down on millennials ,” she said, “and that’s not really deserved. They get a bad rap.”

Boomers, while not as efficient, are the workhorses of the office, she said. Their kids are out of the house, they don’t want to retire, and they have the time to devote to work.

The Gen-Xers in the middle are sometimes a little forgotten, according to Schwartzer. They are no longer the youngest people at the conference table, but they are not the boomer establishment. Still, they are the ones who are moving into leadership roles.

Schwartzer even has a few members of the silent generation in her office. “Those aren’t the ones to buck the system,” she said.  “You see them but you don’t hear from them. They are doing their job and that’s it, they just like coming to work.”

At Norris McLaughlin, a law firm in Allentown, Patty Pernini, director of human resources, sees  much of the same generational differences in her office.

At Norris McGlaughlin, a law firm in Allentown, a mix of generations work together – submitted

The baby boomers use more paper, while the millennials are paperless. Boomers have more loyalty to the firm, while millennials  aren’t afraid to move on.

The millennials who are young parents also want the option to work from home, she said, while the senior attorneys have less tolerance for not being present in the office.

And the Gen-Xers? Well, they are somewhere in the middle of it all, with one foot in each world.

“Each generation brings a different perspective that benefits us,” said Pernini.

Finding common ground

Each generation has positive values that can benefit the others, says generational expert Underwood, who has been training corporate clients on managing generational differences for two decades.

Underwood recommends that workplaces offer training for managers and employees that highlight each generations beliefs, strengths and weaknesses.

Once each generation understands the other, he said, it’s easier to find common ground. And easier to work together.

“Regardless of age,” said Underwood, “we all want a good quality work life, bosses who are ethical and smart, and stimulating work that gives us purpose.”

While it’s easy for boomers to blame millennials  for the problems in the workplace, and for millennials  to blame boomers, (and for Gen-Xers to blame them both), no one generation is responsible for all the problems. Or all the successes.

Whether 18 or 88, we all want to be valued and respected. Taking the time to understand that is an important first step in fostering a better working relationship between us all.

Bevy of strategies boosts staff recruitment

As temperatures soar, unemployment continues to drop, fueling a fiercely competitive market for skilled workers.

From manufacturing to professional services to higher education, one thing is sure: It takes a mixed bag of savvy recruiting tools to attract talented job candidates.

Successful matches may come from old-school networking or digital platforms designed to attract and resonate with the right candidates.

Here’s a snapshot of Lehigh Valley employers and their efforts to bring potential employees to that first interview.

Digital to-dos

Lehigh University is using its diverse departments and employee workforce to host “employee takeovers” on its Instagram account in order to get the “Work, Life, Lehigh” message out to potential job applicants, said Hillary Kwiatek, employee communications specialist at Lehigh University.

Similar to “A Day in the Life” storytelling, potential employees can take a peek into the job of a Zoellner stage manager, for example, or a Lehigh marketing professional. Zoellner Arts Center is a performing arts theater on the Lehigh University campus in Bethlehem.

“When they [employees] are in charge of the university’s Instagram account, our followers grow,” Kwiatek said.

Lehigh also uses video storytelling by creating brief video content and pushing it out on its Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“A recent hire told me one of the videos she saw inspired her” to accept a position at Lehigh, Kwiatek said.

Aubrie Fenicle, a Lehigh human resources and talent acquisition associate, said paid LinkedIn tools helped further hone the recruiting process.

“LinkedIn Recruiter allows us to speak directly to the applicant we’re looking for,” Fenicle said.

She said LinkedIn is a great way to set the stage for future recruiting, too, as she can connect with those who might not be actively looking for a job, at least not yet.

“It allows me to have conversations with them,” Fenicle said, adding: “It’s no longer a time you can put a job on a board and get 50 qualified applicants.”

Carissa Klein said social media platforms, including LinkedIn Recruiter, allow her to source talent directly.

“It’s what the majority of headhunters and [third party] recruiters use to source candidates,” said Klein, an attorney recruitment manager at Norris McLaughlin, a law firm with offices in Allentown and New Jersey.

Klein said the Lehigh Valley is a tightknit community where everybody seems to know everybody else.

“Our attorneys often serve as our recruiters,” she said.

Burnishing reputation

Carlos Valdes, director of human resources for Victaulic in Forks Township, said employment recruiting programs should include a dose of reputation management.

“Company reviews like Glassdoor, Indeed and Comparably are just a few of the fastest-growing employer review sites guiding job seekers … If you want to attract top talent you need to know what past and current employees are saying about you,” Valdes said.

Leveraging review websites as a listening tool can help firms make changes to improve employee perceptions as “that will only help your recruiting efforts,” he said.

At Lehigh Valley Health Network a “robust training program to grow our future colleagues” is a high priority, according to Megan Morris, director of talent acquisition for human resources.

Morris said LVHN has job opportunities for people of all skill and education levels, including those entering the workforce with only a high school diploma.

College students, meanwhile, can take advantage of LVHN’s summer research scholar program. Summer student scholars are paid employees with job responsibilities. They are assigned to a supervisor mentor.

“We hope they make a connection with someone at LVHN … and that they come back [to us],” Morris said.

A broad playing field

As local employment markets tighten, the same competition for talent is playing out across the nation and on the global level, said Therese Beck, director of employee experiences at Olympus Corp. of the Americas in Upper Saucon Township.

“I don’t think tactics alone work. There needs to be a strategy,” Beck said.

She said looking at the competition is an important factor in developing sound strategies and communicating the Olympus message and brand to prospective candidates. Recent benefit additions enjoyed by Olympus employees include company perks and a greater focus on health and wellness.

The company also works with staff to develop transferable skills to ensure employees enjoy longer careers with more mobility within the company, Beck said.

“We’re focusing on breadth of experience – not so much about promoting up, or climbing the ladder, but rather promoting out. We want to grow and develop good people leaders,” Beck said.

She said aligning employee talent, strengths, interests and passions in positions throughout the company helps everyone grow.

Retired judge to lead ADR practice at Norris McLaughlin

Hon. Emil Giordano (Photo submitted) –

A retired judge, Hon. Emil Giordano, is taking the helm of an alternative dispute resolution practice at Norris McLaughlin PA in Allentown.

After serving 15 years in the Pennsylvania judicial system, Judge Giordano said he wants to bring his experience in settling court cases to bear on the challenge of keep clients from having to go to court at all.

He said most people do not realize that alternative dispute resolution, known as ADR, is an option for settling domestic, personal and commercial disputes without litigation, but it has many advantages.

“You retain control over the process. You have to agree to the resolution,” he explained.

In ADR two sides of a dispute each hire their own attorneys, but instead of going to court they agree to abide by the decision of a mediator, who looks at the complaints, demands and requests of each side and tries to come up with a solution that benefits both parties.

He said the court system is backed up with criminal, domestic and civil cases, so sometimes judges simply don’t have the time to dedicate to more complex cases that can be spread out over years.

By going through ADR, clients can have their cases handled more quickly, generally no more than a few months if all parties can agree.

“When you’re a mediator your sole task that day is your case and you can give it the kind of attention it deserves,” he said.

Judge Giordano recalled one case where the minority owner of a business, who was the grandson of one of the majority owners, had taken over his mother’s portion of a business. He, the grandfather and an uncle had distinctly different ideas about how they wanted to run the business.

Instead of filing a lawsuit, they took their disagreement to mediation.

“I took a highly charged situation and solved in in one day, rather than it being in court for years and years,” he said.

Judge Giordano is the sole ADR mediator in Norris McLaughlin’s Allentown office for now, but there are mediators at the firm’s New Jersey office, which include several retired judges who serve as mediators and arbitrators.

They resolve disputes for matters involving attorney ethics and fees, banking, corporate dissolutions, deadlocks and acquisitions, energy, environmental, estates, health care, information technology, insurance, intellectual property, labor and employment, matrimonial, products liability and utility issues.

Norris McLaughlin plans to expand the service by adding two or three more mediators in the Allentown office in the near future.

As an arbitrator and mediator, Judge Giordano is certified through Harvard Law School Negotiation Institute in Advanced Mediation, is a fellow of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators and is affiliated with the American Arbitration Association.

From 2004 through 2018, Judge Giordano served as a presiding judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Third Judicial District.

He was Northampton County’s first administrative Judge of the Orphans’ County Division, overseeing estates and trusts of the county, and was named to the Statewide Orphans’ Court Task Force, an organization charged with implementing changes to Orphans’ Court.

Bill would tweak PTSD treatment under workers’ comp

A proposed bill with the power to alter Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law is designed to benefit first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Supporters believe legislation is needed because more first responders are dying at their own hands than in the line of duty. Untreated mental illness does not always lead to suicide, but it can impair a person’s health and decision making.

In a bid to make it easier for first responders to seek help, state Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Chester, Delaware) sponsored House Bill 432. If passed into law, it would use the terminology of post-traumatic stress injury, or PTSI, rather than post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and establish statewide protocols on treatment.

PTSD is currently handled as a mental-mental claim, which refers to a mental stimulus that causes a mental injury. Mental-mental claims have a higher burden of proof than do physical injuries.

An employee who suffers from a mental injury must prove it is a result of an abnormal working condition while an employee with a physical injury only has to prove it occurred during work and does not have to prove anything was abnormal.

Barbara Hollenbach, an attorney with Norris McLaughlin, Allentown, said it can be hard to determine what’s abnormal for first responders, and that is why legislation is vital.

First responders are likely to experience more traumatic events than the average person and what’s considered normal is changing. While mass shootings are becoming more “normal” today, they are not events a first responder sees on a daily basis.

“Judges are looking at the totality of the circumstances to sort through what’s abnormal,” said Hollenbach.

Courts weigh in

In a 2013 case, state trooper Philip Payes filed for workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD after his car struck and killed a woman who purposely ran in front of him.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court denied the benefits and deemed accidents and death to be a normal part of an officer’s job. However, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and said an individual running in front of a vehicle for no apparent reason is abnormal.

Other cases involve workers who were not first responders.

A former liquor store manager, Greg Kochanowicz, sought benefits for PTSD after being robbed at gunpoint at work, according to the law firm Martin Law LLC, which represented Kochanowicz. He was initially awarded the total disability he asked for, but Commonwealth Court ended the benefits, saying a potential for robbery was normal. As in the Payes case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and Kochanowicz’s benefits were reinstated.

H.B. 432, however, would apply only to police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics who suffer from psychological injuries due to their employment, or after four years or more of service.

“Having legislation like what’s pending for first responders helps to eliminate some of the stigma that’s attached to people who suffer from psychological injuries as a result of traumatic events,” said Steven Ryan, an attorney with Martin Law LLC in Camp Hill.

In addition to reducing stigma, the bill would recognize PTSD as an “occupational disease” and eliminate the higher burden of proof for first responders. As an occupational disease, PTSD or other mental injury is presumed to arise from employment. In that case, the employer must prove the PTSD came from another source.

“That requires expert testimony on both sides in terms of causation,” said Hollenbach. “You still have to prove that it’s somehow casually related to the employment.”

In other words, there is still a burden of proof for first responders, but they no longer have to prove it arose from abnormal working conditions.

“I suspect the legislation is aimed at streamlining the process of easing the burden,” said Denise Elliott, an attorney with McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, Lancaster. “There are both pros and cons to doing this. Certainly, streamlined rules and more consistent results are a pro. However, to achieve those pros it will be necessary to have a carefully worded and thought-out section of the statute addressing when PTSD (or PTSI) is considered an occupational disease.”

There are eight criteria for diagnosing an individual with PTSD, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, which is the standard classification of mental disorders used by U.S. professionals. It is unclear if the same criteria PTSI under Barrar’s proposed legislation.

Currently, employees must file a worker’s compensation report within 120 days after an incident. The requirement is tricky when it comes to PTSD because symptoms can be delayed and may be subtle at first, becoming more severe only over time. First responders may also experience PTSD from a culmination of incidents, not one specific event.

When a worker’s compensation claim is accepted, the employee pays zero medical costs until a full recovery is made; however, it can take years for a person to fully recover from PTSD. If PTSD also keeps an employee from returning to work, the insurance company pays lost wages in addition to medical benefits. This could be costly to the insurance industry, according to Barrar.

In February, the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania provided testimony to the House Committee on Veterans Affair and Emergency Preparedness. The federation said the focus should be more on preventing PTSI rather than how workers’ compensation should cover it. The testimony stated that one way of handling the increase in first responders suffering from PTSI “is to ensure that those employing emergency responders do all they can to prevent and detect PTSI” to decrease PTSI workers’ compensation cases.

In addition to its impact on insurance companies, the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania believes HB 432 would be expensive for municipalities and hamper recruitment of first responders.

“With this legislation with first responders, you’re going to see pushback on cost, if not already,” said Ryan, the attorney with Martin Law. But, he added: “There has to be some level of courage to face that, particularly for the sake of first responders who in our day and age are responding to really serious events while everybody else is usually running away from them.”

The House is expected to vote on the bill soon but additional changes may be made. If it passes in the House, Barrar said he expects the Senate to follow.