Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP RSS Feed Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800firmwise Annual Report<p>As we move forward with a sense of optimism towards what 2021 will reveal, we also take a moment to look back on what we were able to achieve together during an unprecedented and challenging year. Here's to new beginnings. To view the 2020 annual report, please click <a href=" ">here</a>.</p>News25 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Nunnally Announces 2021 LCLD Fellow, Pathfinders<p>Bell Nunnally Senior Associate Arianna G. Goodman has been selected to the 2021 &ldquo;Fellows Program&rdquo; class for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) &ndash; an organization comprised of more than 350 corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners dedicated to building a more open and diverse legal profession. In addition, Bell Nunnally Associate Sydnie A. Shimkus was selected to the LCLD&rsquo;s 2021 &ldquo;Pathfinder Program.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re proud to support the LCLD and its mission to foster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the legal industry &ndash; goals we are committed to at a firm level,&rdquo; said Chris Trowbridge, managing partner of Bell Nunnally. &ldquo;This is our sixth year of partnership with the LCLD and it&rsquo;s an important component in our internal DEI efforts &ndash; which also include empowered internal committees dedicated to championing diversity and rooting out discrimination, and support of national and community-based groups dedicated to advancing racial equity.&rdquo;</p> <p><b>Goodman</b> is a member of the firm&rsquo;s litigation department where she focuses her practice on white collar criminal defense. She represents corporations and professionals from the initial phases of an investigation through trial. Goodman defends individuals and companies in government and internal investigations, state and federal grand jury matters and regulatory proceedings, including SEC enforcement actions. Active in the community, she contributes <i>pro bono</i> hours to the Buried Alive Project &ndash; a non-profit organization which fights to free people serving life without parole for sentences handed down under outdated federal drug laws. Named to <i>The Best Lawyers in America&rsquo;s</i> &ldquo;Ones to Watch&rdquo; list for 2021, Goodman is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law (J.D., <i>magna cum laude</i>, 2014) and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (B.A., <i>High Honors</i>, 2010).</p> <p><b>Shimkus</b> is a member of the firm&rsquo;s litigation department where she focuses her practice on commercial litigation and labor and employment matters. Shimkus&rsquo; broad experience covers cases involving general business disputes, contract disputes, misappropriation of trade secrets, covenants not to compete, fraud, landlord-tenant disputes, and construction litigation. Shimkus also works with business managers, in-house legal departments, and human resources managers to ensure compliance with a wide array of federal, state, and local employment laws, including Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act. Shimkus has experience defending employers against claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation before the Texas Workforce Commission, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and in both state and federal court. Shimkus contributes pro bono hours to the Human Rights Initiative, an organization dedicated to assisting individuals seeking asylum in the United States because of past persecution or fear of future persecution in their home countries. Named to <i>The Best Lawyers in America&rsquo;s</i> &ldquo;Ones to Watch&rdquo; list for 2021, she is a graduate of Southern Methodist University&rsquo;s Dedman School of Law (J.D., <i>cum laude</i>, 2016). While at SMU Law, Shimkus served as Case Note and Comment Editor for its <i>International Law Review</i> and successfully competed on two national mock trial teams. She earned her undergraduate degree at Texas A&amp;M University&rsquo;s Mays Business School (B.A., <i>cum laude</i>, 2013).</p>Press Releases16 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Nunnally Partner Russell Mills on Subchapter V Bankruptcies in NACM Newsletter<p>Partner Russell W. Mills authored the National Association of Credit Management (NACM) article &ldquo;Small Business, Subchapter V Bankruptcies Hit 1,000 Cases.&rdquo; The piece discusses the number of bankruptcy filings by small businesses under the Small Business Reorganization Act (SBRA) of 2019 occurring against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBRA, enacted in February 2020, eased the barriers to entry for small businesses seeking to file bankruptcy. The CARES Act, also passed in 2020, Mills notes, &ldquo;[A]mended the SBRA (also known as Subchapter V to the Bankruptcy Code) to make it even more available to small businesses by increasing the debt limitations to $7,500,000. This increase is set to expire on March 27, 2021.&rdquo;</p> <p>Mills reports that Subchapter V filings have been robust, &ldquo;By early October (2020), 1,000 Subchapter V cases had been filed with the number increasing every single month since SBRA&rsquo;s passage. Of all small business bankruptcy filings, 80% elected to file under Subchapter V.&rdquo;</p> <p>Mills concludes with an important caveat, &ldquo;But Congress&rsquo; increase of the debt limitations under Subchapter V to $7,500,000 was only temporary. It is set to expire on March 27, 2021, though it can be extended by Congress. There is no guarantee that Congress will extend the increased debt limitations. While Subchapter V was originally passed with bipartisan support, it is unclear how the recent elections and incoming legislature may temper past support for Subchapter V. And, in the event there is no effort to extend the debt limitations, one can also expect a &ldquo;rush to the courthouse&rdquo; in March 2021.&rdquo;</p> <p>To read the full article, please click <a href="">here</a>.</p>News15 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Nunnally Grows with Three Attorney Additions<p align="center"><i>Dania Duncan Moreno Joins as Partner</i></p> <p>Bell Nunnally has added three attorneys &ndash; Partner Dania Duncan Moreno, Senior Counsel Kartik R. Singapura and Associate Alexandria M. Risinger.</p> <p>&ldquo;Dania brings a unique and valuable skillset to our real estate, construction and M+A offerings. Texas and Mexico have an enormously valuable and synergistic business relationship and Dania&rsquo;s practice and perspective is an advantage for clients on both sides of the border,&rdquo; said Christopher Trowbridge, Bell Nunnally managing partner. &ldquo;In addition to expanding our cross-border client capabilities, we&rsquo;re excited to add support and additional experience to our Litigation practice with Kartik and Alex.&rdquo;</p> <p><b>Moreno</b> joins the firm&rsquo;s Corporate and Securities, Real Estate and Mergers and Acquisitions groups with a focus on cross-border corporate and real estate transactions. Moreno regularly represents international and U.S. companies in the acquisition, disposition, lease and development of real estate properties for hospitality, retail, industrial and residential projects throughout Mexico. She also advises clients in connection with mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and strategic alliances in a broad range of industries. Additionally, Duncan Moreno works with developers, buyers and financing parties in real estate development projects and construction financing secured by real estate. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law (LL.M., 2007) and the University De Monterrey (J.D., 2001). Admitted to practice in Texas as a Foreign Legal Consultant and in Mexico, Duncan Moreno was previously a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig in Dallas.</p> <p><b>Singapura</b> joins as senior counsel and member of the firm&rsquo;s Litigation practice. He represents clients in complex disputes involving business torts, contract disputes, partnership disputes and business divorces. Singapura also has substantial experience representing clients within the commercial real estate industry, regularly being called upon to handle nearly any matter that involves protection of their assets, investments and business objectives. He is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center (J.D., 2012) and the University of Texas at Austin (B.S., 2008).</p> <b><span>Risinger</span></b> joins as an associate in the firm&rsquo;s Litigation group. With a substantial civil litigation experience, she has tried more than 10 jury trials to final judgment, including securing a verdict of more than $18M. Two of the matters on which Risinger has worked were recognized as &ldquo;Top 100 Verdicts in Texas,&rdquo; in 2016 and 2018. Named a &ldquo;Texas Rising Star&rdquo; in 2019-2020 and to the National Trial Lawyers&rsquo; &ldquo;Top 40 Under 40&rdquo; for 2020, she is a graduate of Baylor University School of Law (J.D., 2016) and the University of Portland (B.A., 2012). <br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>Media Contact:</strong><br /> Brittany Lewis<br /> Marketing Manager<br /> 214-880-6661<br /><br type="_moz" />Press Releases10 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 FAQ: Can Employers Require a Vaccine?<p><strong>Posted: February 10, 2021 at 1:00 PM</strong><br /> <br /> After almost a year of fighting COVID-19, relief is on the horizon. The FDA has given Pfizer&rsquo;s and Moderna&rsquo;s COVID-19 vaccines approval for emergency use and formally recommended the final authorization of the vaccines. This step now paves the way for final FDA approval. With publically available vaccines, employers will soon face a new COVID-19 question: should we require the vaccine for our employees?</p> <p><b>Can Employers Require the Vaccine? </b></p> <p><i>Generally</i>, yes, an employer may require employees to be vaccinated. In fact, mandatory vaccine programs in the workplace are nothing new. The EEOC recently issued direct guidance that makes clear that employers <i>are</i> permitted to require vaccination. <a href="#_ftn1" name="_ftnref1" title=""><sup><span><sup><span>[1]</span></sup></span></sup></a> However, the EEOC addresses two exceptions.</p> <p><b>What are the Exceptions? </b></p> <p>In mandating vaccinations in the workplace, employers must consider and potentially make reasonable accommodations for: (1) an employee&rsquo;s <i>covered</i> disability; and (2) an employee&rsquo;s sincerely held religious belief.<span> </span></p> <p><i>Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (&ldquo;ADA&rdquo;)</i>: An employee with a <i>covered</i> disability may refuse to take a mandatory vaccine and request a reasonable accommodation. Upon request for an accommodation, the ADA requires an employer to engage in an &ldquo;interactive process&rdquo; to determine if a reasonable accommodation is achievable. Under the ADA, an employer can deny an employee&rsquo;s request for a reasonable accommodation if the accommodation poses &ldquo;undue hardship.&rdquo;</p> <p>Undue hardship under the ADA imposes a difficult burden for an employer to prove because the employer must show that the requested accommodation is unduly expensive, substantially disruptive of the employer&rsquo;s business or fundamentally alters the operation of the business.</p> <p><i>Religious beliefs under Title VII</i>: An employee with a sincerely held religious belief may refuse to take a mandatory vaccine and request a reasonable accommodation. It is important to note that personal, political or moral objections to a vaccine <b><u>are not</u></b> protected by Title VII. Similar to a request under the ADA, an employer must first open a dialogue with the employee to determine if a reasonable accommodation is feasible. Under Title VII, an employer can deny an employee&rsquo;s accommodation request if the accommodation poses an &ldquo;undue hardship.&rdquo;</p> <p>Unlike the analysis under the ADA, a religious accommodation constitutes an undue hardship even if it imposes a minimal cost or burden. Nonetheless, an employer must consider what a reasonable accommodation would be for an employee who refuses to be vaccinated for religious reasons.</p> <p><b>What Should Employers do a When an Employee Refuses the Vaccine<u>?</u></b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;A. Refusal Based on Disability.</b><b><span><br /> </span></b></p> <p>The employer should determine whether the employee would be a <i>direct threat</i> to the health and safety of others in the workplace.</p> <p>If a safety-based qualification standard, such as a vaccination requirement, screens out or tends to screen out an individual with a disability, the employer must show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a &ldquo;significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.&rdquo; 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(r). The assessment must be made for each individual refusing the vaccine on account of a disability and four factors should be considered:</p> <p><span>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;1. the duration of the risk;</span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;2. the nature and severity of the potential harm;</span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;3. the likelihood that the potential harm will occur; and</span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;4. the imminence of the potential harm.</span></p> <p>A conclusion that there is a direct threat would include a determination that an unvaccinated individual will expose others to the virus at the worksite.</p> <p>There will not be a one-size-fits-all test for an employer to make a determination that an unvaccinated employee will pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others in the workplace. A lot will depend on the nature of the employer&rsquo;s business and the job duties of the employee. For instance, a hospital or assisted living facility will have an easier time proving that an unvaccinated employee in constant contact with patients or residents is a direct threat to others in the workplace than a construction company would have proving that an unvaccinated tower crane operator is a direct threat to others at the construction site where the operator is working.</p> <p>If an employer determines that an individual who cannot be vaccinated due to disability poses a direct threat at the worksite, the employer cannot exclude the employee from the workplace&mdash;or take any adverse action&mdash;unless there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation (absent undue hardship) that would eliminate or reduce this risk so the unvaccinated employee does not pose a direct threat. Potential accommodations could include wearing a mask and social distancing, modifications of job duties, alternative work areas or telework.</p> <p><b>B. Refusal Based on a Religious belief</b></p> <p>The employer must explore with employee what would be a reasonable accommodation. If the cost to the employer of providing an accommodation imposes more than a minimal cost or burden to the employer, the employer can enforce the vaccination requirement. In this circumstance, a reasonable accommodation may include the employee continuing to wear a mask, social distancing or continuing work from home (if possible.) &nbsp;</p> <p><b><u>Next Steps for Employers </u></b></p> <p>Each business is different and will need to adopt its own requirement or plan for vaccinations. The pandemic has already taken a significant economic, physical and mental toll on businesses and their employees, and a business that goes forward with no plan or a poorly thought-out plan will likely continue that toll. The best employers are the ones who are willing to adapt to new circumstances that may be weeks or months away from reaching the average workforce. Bell Nunnally can help you devise and implement a plan that will allow you and your employees to smoothly return to pre-pandemic operations, profits and morale.</p> <div><br clear="all" /> <hr size="1" align="left" width="33%" /> <div id="ftn1"> <p><a href="#_ftnref1" name="_ftn1" title=""><span><span><span>[1]</span></span></span></a> EEOC: &nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> </div> </div>Newsletters & Client Alerts10 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Kassandra McLaughlin Elected President of CREW Dallas<p>Partner Kassandra G. McLaughlin is the 2021 President of CREW Dallas &ndash; the oldest chapter of the national Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) organization, an international business network of more than 11,000 members dedicated to transforming the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally.<br /> <br /> CREW Dallas, with a membership of approximately 350, describes itself as &ldquo;the leading organization for decision-making executive women, providing opportunities for networking, education, leadership development and civic/philanthropic involvement.&rdquo; It showcases member expertise and successes and serves as a resource to its members and the commercial real estate industry. CREW Dallas&rsquo; members represent all aspects of commercial real estate &ndash; offering direct access to real estate professionals across all geographies and disciplines.<br /> <br /> McLaughlin, a member of Bell Nunnally&rsquo;s Real Estate and Commercial Finance practice areas, has been a member of CREW Dallas since 2002, and has served on its various committees as member and Co-Chair, as well as Director on the CREW Dallas Board. Kassandra received CREW Dallas&rsquo; Future Vision Award in 2010 and is also a founder of the CREW Austin chapter.<br /> <br /> To learn more about CREW Dallas, please click <a href="">here</a>.</p>News08 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Nunnally's Mark Shoffner and Mason Jones Mentioned in Texas Lawbook Article on Arbitration Agreement Enforcement During FLSA Litigation<p>Partner Mark A. Shoffner and Associate Mason G. Jones are featured in <i>The Texas Lawbook</i> article &ldquo;NDTX Enforces Arbitration Clauses Signed During Ongoing FLSA Litigation.&rdquo; The pair represent Irving Holdings, Inc. d/b/a Yellow Cab, defendant in a Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit brought by two former cab drivers. As detailed in the article, in late December 2020 a federal judge ruled that Irving Holdings can compel arbitration for a group of plaintiffs who tried to join the ex-driver&rsquo;s collective action but had signed arbitration agreements after the litigation began.</p> <p>Shoffner commented that the ruling provided clarity on an unusual fact pattern where there is little precedent, &ldquo;There are very few instances in which arbitration agreements are going to be signed after litigation is filed,&rdquo; but &ldquo;if you act swiftly and efficiently in a way that&rsquo;s not coercive or arm-bending to your workers, the court will still enforce arbitration agreements regardless of the timing of a lawsuit.&rdquo;</p> <p>To read the full article, click <a href="">here</a>.</p>News01 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 & Employment Conversations<strong>Event Details:<br /> </strong><br /> Partners Alana Ackels and Ben Riemer are presenting &quot;Labor and Employment Conversations&quot; for The Independent Insurance Agents of Dallas. <br /> <br /> <strong>Date/Time:</strong><br /> <br /> Thursday, January 28, 2021<br /> 12:00 PM<br /> <br /> <strong>Overview:</strong><br /> <p><br /> Join us to hear labor and employment lawyer, Alana Ackels, and commercial litigator, Ben Riemer, discuss the 2021 legal landscape for employers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will provide answers to some of the most critical questions facing business owners trying to navigate the continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic and will also discuss the latest on Texas non-compete laws.</p> <p>Questions they will address include:</p> <ol> <li>Can employers require employees to get the COVID vaccine?</li> <li>Do employers have to continue to allow employees to work remotely even if the workplace has re-opened?</li> <li>What should employers do if an employee refuses to return to work because they are afraid of getting sick?</li> <li>What are best practices to minimize risks associated with COVID-related litigation?</li> <li>Should employers have people sign a &ldquo;COVID waiver?&rdquo;</li> <li>Can employers ask employees or job applicants if they have or have had COVID-19?</li> <li>New year best practices for enforcing Texas non-competes.</li> </ol> For more information and to register, please click <a href=";group=">here</a>. <br />Events27 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Nunnally's Jeff Cash Breaks Down M&A Challenges, Opportunities During a Pandemic<p>Bell Nunnally Partner J. Jeffrey Cash authored <i>The Texas Lawbook </i>article &ldquo;Mergers &amp; Acquisitions in a Pandemic.&rdquo; <span>In the article Cash reflected on how dealmaking has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. He starts by noting that travel for deal attorneys had already dropped dramatically prior to shutdowns and social distancing, but that the &ldquo;biggest change&rdquo; is now time &ndash; with all aspects of deals being scrutinized more closely, including expiration dates, exclusivity periods and termination provisions in Letters of Intent. Due diligence time has also lengthened, partially as a result of widespread work-from-home. Beyond these elements the sheer issue of running a business while it is being sold is already hard and time-consuming, but &ldquo;Running a business in a pandemic has cranked that variable up considerably.&rdquo; Cash adds deals are also taking longer to close, due in large part to rapidly changing market conditions. He comments, &ldquo;The good news is deals are getting done,&rdquo; while also acknowledging one notable change from pre-pandemic times &ndash; no closing dinners.</span></p> <p>Cash is a member of the firm&rsquo;s Mergers and Acquisitions practice. He collaborates with client teams negotiating securities offerings (public and private), structures and negotiates mergers and acquisitions, and advises in-house counsel and management regarding general corporate matters.</p> <p>To read the full text of the article, please click <a href="/27F299/assets/files/Documents/Texas Lawbook - Cash - 12-8-20.pdf">here</a> to open a PDF, or <a href="">here</a> to visit <i>Texas Lawbook</i>.</p>News26 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800 Nunnally's Ross Williams and Scott Larson in Commercial Factor Explore Key Provisions in Factoring Agreements<p>Bell Nunnally Partner Ross Angus Williams and Associate Scott R. Larson authored the article &ldquo;Build with Bricks, Not Sticks: Helpful Provisions for Factoring Agreements&rdquo; in the December 2020 issue of <i>Commercial Factor</i>. The piece explores some of the mission-critical clauses that are sometimes left out of or poorly drafted in factoring agreements, including those covering recovery of attorneys&rsquo; fees, forum selection, UCC filing authorizations and confidentiality. After delving into each element, they conclude by cautioning, &ldquo;Following these tips in consultation with counsel, or in review of one&rsquo;s agreements, will help keep a factor&rsquo;s legal house strong and, ultimately, increase the collectability of &mdash; or at least the options for collecting on &mdash; unpaid accounts despite huffing and puffing from the client or account debtor.&rdquo;</p> <p>To read the full article, please click <a href="">here</a>.</p>News26 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800