National Clothesline
National Clothesline
A few things you may not know
I like themes, but sometimes it is difficult to compose an article on a single theme. So this month, my column is a grab bag of legal tidbits and observations.
I am surprised by the number of drycleaners who call me to ask about dealing with unclaimed clothing. In fact, I thought that drycleaners would know the law on disposing of unclaimed clothing better than I do.
Apparently, I am wrong.
Thanks to the Internet, there is no reason for you not to know state law (and in some cases local law) on what to do with clothing that has been unclaimed for months. Just search the name of your state and key words like “unclaimed property,” “lien,” and “clothing.” With a little effort, you will find the law for your jurisdiction because most governments now post their statutes online.
Maryland, my home state, has a statute that creates an “artisan’s lien,” which covers drycleaners.
Basically, section 16-302 of the Commercial Law Article allows the drycleaner (or watch repairman) to dispose of the goods after 90 days by following a somewhat complicated procedure or after six months in any way it wants.
The drycleaner must, however, post a notice advising customers of its right to dispose of the goods after six months.
In my “test,” it took me five minutes of googling to find the statute online.
Social media cautions
Social media continues to generate controversy, and I don’t mean the price of Facebook shares.
Many companies have Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social media pages. Frequently, these sites are set up by savvy employees for their employers, and in some cases, employees are encouraged to have their own social media accounts that promote their employer.
Disputes are now arising over who owns these accounts, especially ones used by the employee in connection with his employer’s business.
Obviously, the employer has an interest in preventing an employee from going to another company and announcing to his or her Facebook friends — your customers — that he or she now works for a better, cheaper, more responsive, and more convenient drycleaner.
If you use social media, or encourage your employees to do so, you may want to establish agreements on ownership and use.
Do not wait until the employee quits or is fired before resolving issues of ownership (or in the case of the savvy employee who set up your site, the login, password, and email address associated with the account). Imagine your business account going down and you being unable to access the account information.
Partisan politics
Both the Democratic and Republican platforms mention OSHA. The Democrats want more of the same, or more stringent enforcement of safety laws. Republicans want regulations re-examined.
Both parties miss the point. Safety laws should be designed to make the workplace safer, not penalize employers for noncompliance with voluminous regulations with little or no relationship to safety. I recently had a client cited and fined $2,400 for having the “wrong” corporate officer sign an OSHA log. Ridiculous.
I agree with the Republicans that safety regulations of dubious value cost employers money. Even the government agrees, but reports like that rarely get the publicity they need.
Unless the government completely changes the way the safety laws work, the best we can hope for is a slowdown in the number of new regulations, not a decrease. Even under a Republican administration, OSHA appears here to stay.
The retaliation impulse
Retaliation is the hot labor and employment topic these days. Most employment laws have restrictions against retaliation for making claims under those laws. This is true even if (or especially if) the charge is baseless.
Unfortunately, unless the employer can demonstrate that the employee brought the charge in bad faith (an extremely difficult task), disciplining the employee creates serious risks.
Further, if any action is taken against that employee shortly after a charge is filed, it can create a presumption that the action was taken because the charge was filed. The timing in a retaliation case becomes critical.
Anti-retaliation provisions also apply to informal complaints of discrimination, wage and hour issues, safety, and other concerns covered by labor and employment laws.
If an employee complains about any of these things, be careful not to say anything that might be used against you later in a retaliation lawsuit. If you are angry, disguise it with a sincere smile.
I hope to return to a single theme next month. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, let me know. I am always looking for ideas for this column.

Frank Kollman is a partner in the law firm of Kollman & Saucier