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NewsOK Q&A: Federal income tax challenges for medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma

Jessica Cory web

Jessica N. Cory represents businesses and individuals in a wide range of transactional matters, with an emphasis on tax planning.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Jessica N. Cory explores the conflict between federal and state law as it pertains to medical marijuana businesses.

What is the primary federal tax issue for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses?

Jessica Cory, attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm answers: The primary tax issue for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses stems from the conflicting treatment of the marijuana industry under federal and state law. Although the approval of State Question 788 last summer legalized the use, growth and sale of medical marijuana for state purposes, marijuana remains an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Special tax provisions apply to penalize anything deemed illegal drug trafficking under federal law, including licensed medical marijuana businesses.

What are the specific federal tax burdens a medical marijuana business will face?

Internal Revenue Code Section 280E represents the biggest tax challenge for medical marijuana businesses. Generally, the Internal Revenue Code allows a taxpayer to take a deduction for all “ordinary and necessary” business expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year. Congress has created an exception to this rule in certain instances, however.

One such exception is Code Section 280E, which prohibits a taxpayer engaged in the business of “trafficking in controlled substances” from taking a deduction for ordinary business expenses. Because the federal Controlled Substances Act defines marijuana as a Schedule I drug, Code Section 280E severely limits the types of deductions available to a medical marijuana business.

Although Code Section 280E prevents a marijuana business from taking normal business deductions, it does not bar a business from offsetting its gross receipts with its cost of goods sold (“COGS”). This means a business can at least reduce its potential taxable income by its direct costs of production. However, the Internal Revenue Code has issued guidance strictly limiting the types of costs a taxpayer engaging in a marijuana business can allocate to COGS, to prevent an end-run around Code Section 280E.

Case law supports this narrower interpretation of COGS for the marijuana industry, including prohibiting resellers of marijuana from including any indirect costs — costs other than the price paid for inventory plus any transportation or other necessary acquisition costs — in COGS.

Is there anything marijuana business owners can do to minimize their federal tax burden?

Yes, a tax professional can help marijuana businesses develop strategies for minimizing the impact of Code Section 280E. For example, a tax adviser can help a business differentiate between COGS and business deductions to take full advantage of the COGS offset allowed under federal law. In addition, a tax professional may be able to help a company structure its business to separate out its different activities to avoid having Code Section 280E apply too broadly. It is also essential for marijuana businesses to keep careful records, particularly if the business also engages in additional activities unrelated to growing, processing or selling marijuana.

Has there been any effort in Congress to fix the disparity in treatment under federal and state law?

Members of Congress have repeatedly introduced legislation to exempt marijuana businesses lawfully operating under state law from the parameters of Section 280E. For example, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment through Entrusting States (“STATES”) Act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect people operating within the bounds of state cannabis laws, was recently reintroduced. Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support and the backing of several 2020 presidential candidates, the odds are not in favor of passage at this time.

Jessica Cory is an attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm.

NewsOK Q&A: #MeToo movement reaches merger transactions

Erica K. Halley

Erica K. Halley represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Erica K. Halley discusses the “#MeToo” movement and the Weinstein Clause as they relate to requirements in buying and selling companies.

What is the #MeToo movement and how did it start?

In October 2017, The New York Times published an article detailing decades of sexual misconduct by film producer Harvey Weinstein. The scandal ultimately left Weinstein disgraced, his film studio bankrupt and victims of sexual harassment and assault emboldened. The #MeToo movement ensued, wherein victims tweeted (or otherwise went public with) their experiences, which highlighted the prevalence of such misconduct in the workplace. As a result, the chickens have come home to roost for many predators in power. This means, among many other things, companies must adapt and prepare for the potential PR and legal nightmare that necessarily follows misconduct allegations against employees, particularly those having influence over compensation, promotions/demotions and workplace culture. One way we see the #MeToo movement in the doldrums of corporate paperwork is through what is becoming known as the “Weinstein Clause” in merger and acquisition agreements.

What is a Weinstein Clause?

When a company is sold or merged, the selling company is typically required to make a litany of representations to the buyer concerning the status of the selling company. A Weinstein Clause is a representation made by the selling company where the seller promises that none of the selling company’s employees is the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. In its broadest form, a seller represents that no allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct have been made to the company against any individual in his or her capacity as an employee of the company or any of its affiliates. Usually, if a seller makes a false representation, the buyer can sue the seller for all damages resulting from the breach.

How do sellers negotiate Weinstein Clauses in M&A transactions?

Just like any representation in an M&A (merger and acquisition) transaction, sellers will try to limit the scope of the representation by adding knowledge qualifiers (ex: to the seller’s knowledge, there are no sexual harassment or misconduct allegations), defining or reducing the look-back period (ex: the seller represents that there have been no allegations in the past five years) and minimizing the number or type of employees subject to such allegations (ex: the seller represents that there have been no allegations against executive level employees). In addition, the lawyers on both sides will probably spend time negotiating the definitions of “sexual harassment” and/or “sexual misconduct,” as such terms are open to interpretation and, therefore, ambiguity. After the representation itself is determined, if the seller is aware of any such allegations, the seller will try to negotiate an exception to the representation and describe the allegations on a schedule attached to the agreement. In this case, the seller is essentially saying, “except for that one time, which buyer is going to overlook, there have been no allegations of sexual harassment/misconduct.”

Why should people care?

The Weinstein Clause itself will probably not have a noticeable impact on the viability or essential terms of M&A transactions. And most people will probably never lose sleep over how broadly or narrowly any Weinstein Clause is negotiated. However, everyone is affected by companies (some more directly than others), and most companies are led by individuals who have power and influence over other employees. The emergence of the Weinstein Clause is indicative of a broader social change. The Weinstein Clause provides evidence that sexual harassment and misconduct by such individuals is not tolerated, safe and respectful company cultures matter, and victims of sexual harassment and misconduct ought to be protected.

 

Published: 5/7/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5630647/metoo-movement-reaches-merger-transactions

NewsOK Q&A: Doing business by email can cause legal concerns

A. Michelle Campney

As a litigation attorney, A. Michelle Campney represents companies in a wide range of business litigation matters with an emphasis on the construction industry.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney A. Michelle Campney discusses email practices that could be considered in legal matters.

What are the general legal concerns regarding conducting business through email?

It is estimated that there will be almost 3 billion email users by the end of this year, with an average of 128 business emails sent and received per person, per day. Often, only passively mentioned in employee handbooks and with little to no training during onboarding, employers and employees adopt varied practices for email use. The sheer volume of emails creates logistical problems for businesses (e.g., server space, data protection), but it can also create legal issues when exchanges can bind companies or reveal confidential, privileged or personal information.

How can emails bind someone until they actually sign an agreement?

Does the party you are working with know that you require hard copy agreement with handwritten signatures? If not, and if the email contains all the material terms and the facts, and circumstances surrounding that show that you were conducting the transaction electronically, then you could have an enforceable agreement under the Oklahoma Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”).

But no one actually signed the agreement, so how can it be enforceable?

Not all agreements have to be signed to be enforceable, and specifically under the UETA, a signature only need be “attributable to a person if it was the act of the person.” Furthermore, an electronic signature under the act is “determined from the context and surrounding circumstances at the time of its creation, execution, or adoption … .” While Oklahoma does not have any case law on the issue, a Texas court found a simple “Thank you, Clyde” typed above the signature block was sufficient for a signature. Parks v. Seybold (Tex. App.—Dallas, 2015). Additionally, some courts (including those in Texas) broadly interpret the signature requirement to include an automatically generated signature block.

What are other potential concerns for email?

Let’s say that your company is involved in litigation regarding a contractual dispute. Most attorneys ask that all communications, including email communications, regarding the issue be turned over during the discovery process. While the communication may not ultimately be admissible in court, if there are emails between employees discussing the dispute and the surrounding facts and circumstances, those will generally have to be turned over to the other side. Additionally, if certain individuals are involved then you may have to turn over all emails regarding that person. Thus, if any mentions of any disciplinary action regarding that person or even your own personal feelings about the person are on email those may have to be turned over. While the emails may not ultimately impact your case, they could embarrass your company.

Are there any practices or policies that would help alleviate the concerns surrounding email?

While policies and procedures will be specific to each type of business and its standard practices, at the most basic level, having a robust email use policy will set a good foundation and, if properly drafted, help educate your employees on what to do and not to do. One important thing to remember is that email will only continue to grow as a means of communication. Setting good groundwork for how it is to be used in your company may help prevent issues down the road.

 

Published: 4/11/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5628396/doing-business-by-email-can-cause-legal-concerns

Firm selects Employee of the Month for February 2019

Lisa McAlister

Lisa McAlister, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for February 2019.

“It gives me much encouragement to be recognized,” Lisa said. “I am very fortunate to work with such a great team of co-workers and friends.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Lisa is an exceptionally talented paralegal and a critical part of Phillips Murrah’s litigation practice,” Director Fred A. Leibrock said. “She brings a wealth of talent and experience to our cases. She has an outstanding work ethic and her work is always top notch.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Lisa chose Jesus House.

“With such cold weather, this homeless shelter provides for more people who normally spend nights outdoors, to come inside to the warmth,” Lisa said.

To learn more about Jesus House, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

NewsOK Q&A: Some qualifications necessary to conduct businesses in other states

Travis Harrison

Travis E. Harrison is a transactional attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of transactional matters.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Travis E. Harrison discusses practical legal issues related to out-of-state business practices.

When is a corporation, limited liability company or other registered legal entity “transacting business” in another jurisdiction?

A legal entity required to be registered under the laws of one state must be cognizant of whether its structure or business activities constitute “transacting business” in another state. For example, a corporation formed under the laws of Oklahoma might provide services or buy and sell real estate in Texas. If Texas law defines this activity as “transacting business,” then the corporation should take the required steps to qualify to do business in Texas — as the failure to do so may result in unforeseeable fines or other consequences. Each state establishes its own variations on what activities by a foreign (out-of-state) business constitute doing business in that state. As a practical matter, a business that has a strong presence or engages in successive transactions in another state is likely “transacting business” and will need to take the appropriate steps to qualify in that state.

What are the consequences of failing to qualify to do business in another state?

Similar to the issue of what activities constitute “transacting business” in another state, the ramifications for failing to qualify to do business are a creature of state statute and vary by jurisdiction. However, the most common legal consequences for failing to qualify are fines and the inability to utilize that state’s court system to bring a lawsuit. For example, assume the previously mentioned corporation formed under the laws of Oklahoma fails to qualify to do business in Texas even though it meets Texas’ criteria for “transacting business.” If the Oklahoma corporation files a breach of contract action in Texas, then its case may be dismissed because it failed to qualify to do business in Texas. This pitfall is especially problematic if the corporation is jurisdictionally restrained from bringing the lawsuit in Oklahoma because of other procedural issues.

How does a business qualify to do business in a state other than its state of formation?

As mentioned above, a business should be cognizant of whether its operations in other states require it to qualify to do business in those states. Generally, a business qualifies by filing a certificate with information about the business and its good standing and paying the respective filing fee with the state’s secretary of state (or other designated office). Additionally, a business should ensure that it complies with the other state’s applicable tax requirements for foreign businesses. In Oklahoma, for example, a foreign corporation’s failure to pay annual franchise taxes may subject it to unnecessary penalties.

 

Published: 2/21/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5623523/some-qualifications-necessary-to-conduct-businesses-in-other-states

Firm selects Employee of the Month for January 2019

Curt Bauer

Curt Bauer

Curt Bauer, File Manager, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for January 2019.

“It always feels great to be recognized by your peers as we all have the same ultimate goal: to serve our clients as well as we possibly can,” Curt said. “I love working here as we are making great strides toward becoming paperless, although we still have a ton of work to do.

“It is an honor to be one of the driving forces behind reducing our carbon footprint while still continuing to serve our clients just as well as we did when we used paper, if not even more efficiently. While it is sometimes a daunting project, and one that cannot be done overnight, it is very rewarding to see the money we spend on storage continuing to go down, while finding more and more efficient ways to use technology to everyone’s advantage. Computer documents are much easier to store, much easier to find, and cheaper to maintain.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Curt is one of the most conscientious people I have ever worked with and he will help in any situation,” said Michelle Munda, Executive Director. “When he’s asked to do anything, I can always be sure it’s done and done right!”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Curt chose the Epilepsy Foundation of Oklahoma.

“I am giving to them as I have had epilepsy my entire life,” Curt said. “I have been seizure free since 1984 due to the ‘experimental’ medication my neurologist put me on in 1982 that actually worked!”

To learn more about the Epilepsy Foundation of Oklahoma, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

NewsOK Q&A: IP assignment agreement is key to invention ownership

Phillips Murrah Patent Attorney Cody J. Cooper

Cody Cooper is a Patent Attorney in the Intellectual Property Practice Group and represents individuals and companies in a wide range of intellectual property, patent, trademark and copyright matters. His practice also includes commercial litigation.

In this article, Oklahoma City Patent Attorney Cody J. Cooper discusses the rights inventors have when inventing under the employment of someone else.

Q: When an employee invents something during the course of his or her employment, who owns the invention?

A: The employee owns the invention. Inventors’ exclusive right to their inventions is specifically written into the United States Constitution and, as such, courts have generally interpreted ownership of inventions to favor individuals, except in very narrow circumstances.

Q: How can an employer assure ownership when an employee conceives of an invention on the job?

A: The employer must have employees sign an intellectual property (IP) assignment agreement. Because the general rule is that an inventor owns the rights, courts strictly interpret IP assignment agreements. Recent case law has instructed employers that how you draft the assignment agreement is equally as important as having an agreement in the first place. In fact, the Federal Circuit recently determined, in Advance Video Technologies LLC v. HTC Corporation Inc., that an IP assignment must include language saying the employee “assigns” — present tense, not future tense — their employer all IP rights. The small difference in language had a tremendous impact on the employer’s ability to sue another company for patent infringement.

Q: Should IP assignment agreements only be used by businesses in manufacturing, research or product development?

A: No. I would suggest any company consider having its employees sign an IP assignment agreement if the company expects employees to create work or inventions to which the company would expect to have rights and expects to protect it through application for apply for a trademark, patent, copyright or other appropriate protection to keep others from using it without permission.

Q: What are some other employer considerations regarding IP assignment agreements?

A: Make sure that your employees sign IP assignments before they begin working for you, and make sure that you consult an attorney on the drafting of the IP assignment to ensure that it complies with current law and effectively assigns the IP rights you are seeking to protect.

Q: What if an employer has employees who’ve already created inventions that the employer presumed the company owned but doesn’t have an IP assignment in place? Can the company enter into an IP assignment agreement retroactively?

A: If this is the case, the invention is owned by the employee, and the employer likely has no rights to the invention. Nevertheless, the employer and employee can still enter into a IP assignment agreement, but there must be some sort of consideration (exchange in value) passed between the parties. The law makes clear that it is not enough for the employer to say that the consideration the employee is receiving is that they get to keep their job — there must be something more passing to the employee for their assignment of their invention (i.e. money, stock, etc.).

 

Published: 1/30/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5621521/qa-with-cody-j-cooper-ip-assignment-agreement-is-key-to-invention-ownership

 

Firm selects Employee of the Month for December 2018

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for December 2018.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled,” Donna said. “I feel truly blessed to work for such a great company that I consider a part of my family.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Congratulations to Donna Anderson, a skilled paralegal, working with our legal team to provide top-notch client service to our often anxious family law clients,” Director Nikki Edwards said. “Clients, support staff and all of the attorneys Donna works with describe her similarly as ‘the calm in the storm’.

“We are so happy that Donna deservingly received the December Employee of the Month recognition. Donna’s insight and dedication are evident in all she does.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Donna chose Positive Tomorrows.

“We are so grateful that Donna and Phillips Murrah P.C. have chosen to support Positive Tomorrows in this way,” said Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows President and Principal. “As Oklahoma’s only elementary school and social service agency specifically serving children and families experiencing homelessness, we rely on a generous community to keep our doors open.

“Gifts like this mean that we can continue to provide life-changing services to some of our communities most vulnerable little ones.”

Positive Tomorrows recently broke ground on a new facility in Oklahoma City, and Phillips Murrah has been a supporter of their mission for years.

“I believe children are our future, and the fact that Positive Tomorrows is trying to ensure their success makes this a worthy cause,” Donna said. “Many children would not have the simple pleasures of life such as a meal or a place where they feel safe if it were not for Positive Tomorrows.”

To learn more about Positive Tomorrows, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

The Oklahoman honors Phillips Murrah as Top Workplace for fourth year

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce its inclusion as one of Oklahoma City’s Top Workplaces for the fourth year in a row.

The Oklahoman newspaper published their annual list of Oklahoma’s Top Workplaces on Dec. 10 ranking the Firm No. 20 out of 40 in the small employer category (fewer than 125 employees), up one spot from last year.

“Being recognized for our workplace culture for the fourth year in a row is a thrill for us,” said Phillips Murrah Marketing Director Dave Rhea. “It affirms to us that not only do we excel at the practice of law, we also provide a positive work environment for everyone on our team – attorneys and staff, alike.”

The Firm was first named to the Top Workplaces list in 2015 and moved up the list in 2016 and 2017.

In determining the defining criteria of Top Workplaces, The Oklahoman partners with the Philadelphia-based company, Energage, which evaluates companies across the country, pertaining to internal components of healthy workplace dynamics.

Every year, the newspaper encourages local participants in Oklahoma City to nominate businesses for the program. The methodology of candidate evaluation is determined from anonymous surveys, detailing employee satisfaction, company values, internal communication, leadership and other various determinates.

To learn more about the workplace culture and opportunities at Phillips Murrah, visit our Careers page: http://phillipsmurrah.com/careers.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for October 2018

Cory Everett

Cory Everett

Cory Everett, Information Technology, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for October 2018.

“It is truly an honor being voted Employee of the Month,” Cory said. “We have so many great people that work here and do far more important work than what I do.

“My Phillips Murrah family has given me more than I could even begin to describe.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“It has been a pleasure and honor to work with Cory,” said Sam Lincoln, Information Technology Director. “No matter the task, Cory always has a positive and professional attitude.

“His work ethic and dedication to excellence is immeasurable.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice.

“The work at Hough Ear Institute of restoring hearing for people all over the world is truly a modern miracle,” Cory said. “This is the future we are living in and to see a group dedicated to reaching ‘all who have ears will hear’ is so awe inspiring.”

Hough Ear Institute is currently running a campaign to raise $300,000 to dedicate to the Institute’s research efforts and will match contributions.

“Our research is truly cutting edge and is on the way to restoring one’s natural hearing for less than the cost of one hearing aid,” said Justin DeMoss, Director of Development at Hough Ear Institute. “This will revolutionize the way hearing loss and tinnitus is treated.”

To learn more about Hough Ear Institute or make a personal contribution to their fundraising campaign, click here.


Top Work Places 2017Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm celebrates Halloween, raises funds for Oklahoma Regional Food Bank

Phillips Murrah staff members dress up for the Firm's annual Halloween costume contest.

Phillips Murrah staff members dress up for the Firm’s annual Halloween costume contest.

Phillips Murrah staff members were given the chance to test their creativity and help raise money for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma on Oct. 31 at the Firm’s annual Halloween Party.

Contestants competed to win the annual costume contest, and Phillips Murrah raised $580 from those in attendance for Firm’s Annual Harvest Food Drive fundraising campaign.

Rachel Schones, Receptionist, won First Place by a landslide with her pregnant nun look. Second Place was awarded to Cristal Bazemore, Administrative Assistant, dressed as an alien, and Third Place was won by Tess Bromme, who dressed as Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones.

“I enjoy dressing up every year,” Schones said. “It’s fun to see the creativity of the different costumes each year.

Receptionist Rachel Schones in her First Place costume

Receptionist Rachel Schones in her First Place costume

“I was very surprised this year when I heard that I won first place. I wasn’t sure what people would think about the pregnant nun costume, but it was a fun day.”

Employees dress up to compete for a popular vote in hopes of winning a cash prize.

“A lot of people didn’t know it was me and some people were creeped out,” Bazemore said. “It was the best ever, seeing people’s reactions!”

Phillips Murrah partners with the Oklahoma County Bar Association to support their annual Harvest Food Drive, which all proceeds are donated to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

If you would like to donate to the Young Lawyers Division’s Harvest Food Drive, please contact the Oklahoma County Bar Association at (405) 236-8421.


Top Work Places 2017Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Phillips Murrah’s legal team welcomes labor and employment attorney

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah law firm is proud to welcome Lauren Barghols Hanna to our downtown Oklahoma City office.

The Firm welcomed Lauren to the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group as an Of Counsel attorney.

As a part of her employment practice, Lauren counsels and represents management in all phases of the employment relationship, including litigation matters involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment and wrongful discharge claims, whistleblower claims, claims related to employment agreements and theft of trade secrets, and other disputes arising from the workplace.

She also works with employers in crafting appropriate employment policies and procedures, employee handbooks, non-disclosure/non-solicitation agreements, and employee severance agreements and releases.

Lauren’s practice in the area of water rights frequently involves the representation of landowners in obtaining groundwater and streamwater permits for irrigation, oil and gas industry production, and other beneficial uses.

Lauren is a contributing author to the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter and has been interviewed by The Oklahoman, served as a guest legal columnist for The Journal Record business newspaper, and spoken at seminars on a variety of employment-related topics. She also authored the Oklahoma chapter of the LexisNexis Waters and Water Rights treatise.

Lauren’s achievements have earned her inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (employment law—management; labor and employment litigation) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers.

In addition to her legal practice at the firm, she serves as a volunteer attorney for Oklahoma Lawyers for Children, a nonprofit organization that uses the time, talent, and resources of pro bono lawyers to represent and assist children in various matters, including parental termination jury trials before the Oklahoma County District Court (Juvenile Division).

In 2014, the Oklahoma CASA Association honored Lauren with its “Attorney of the Year” award for her work with OLFC. Lauren and her family also work with the Tinker Air Force Base Home Away From Home Program, welcoming Airmen serving their first tour into their family for holiday meals, birthday celebrations, summer cookouts, and other activities to create community and mentorship for young enlisted airmen.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Lauren lives in Edmond with her husband Adam and her two children. Her hobbies include rowing, camping, and OU sports.

Phillips Murrah rowing team wins gold in 2018 Oklahoma Regatta Festival

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah's rowing team, gets ready to compete in the 2018 Oklahoma Regatta Festival.

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, gets ready to compete in the 2018 Oklahoma Regatta Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder ended the Fall 2018 season on top and scored gold medals in the annual regatta competition.

The team competed on Sept. 28 at the 2018 Oklahoma Regatta Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District and achieved a 500-meter run of 2:05:39.

“Another great season, and I think the main thing we learned as a team is to never underestimate your competition,” said Deena Baker, Legal Assistant and Law & Oarder team captain. “Regardless, a gold medal and trophy for the team it was!”

In all nine seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“The team worked really hard all season,” said Bradley Burt, Legal Assistant. “We had some changes in the seating configuration as well as multiple rained out practices, but the team overcame a lot of adversity and practiced indoors even when it was not necessary allowing us to perform to the best of our abilities.”

“I am ecstatic that competing to the best of our abilities led us to the gold medal.”

The team will resume practice in the Spring for the Stars & Stripes Festival in June 2019.


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for September 2018

Tifany Manning

Tifany Manning

Tifany Manning, Legal Assistant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for September 2018.

“Wow, it’s such a privilege to be chosen as Employee of the Month,” she said. “My bosses and co-worker’s are the BEST around!  I love my job and thankful I get to work for such a great firm.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“It has been a pleasure and honor to work with Tifany,” Director Jennifer L. Miller said. “No matter the task, Tifany always has a positive and professional attitude. Her work ethic and dedication to excellence is immeasurable.

“Tifany is a valuable member of the Phillips Murrah team and the award is very much deserved.”

Starting this month, the Firm will begin making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice.

“I chose Cavett Kids Foundation as my charity,” Manning said. “Cavett Kids strives to help kids with severe and life threatening illnesses have some normalcy by attending camps, of which they have six different ones, and just be a kid doing kid things.

“I have volunteered several times and learn something from these sweet kiddos every time. I love their mission, their values and their motto.”

Phillips Murrah attorneys volunteer each year with the foundation’s Camp Cavett send-off.

To learn more about Cavett Kids Foundation and how you can get involved, visit their website here.


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

NewsOK Q&A: Mineral owners should be informed about leasing, selling options

Zac Bradt

Zac Bradt is an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. He represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

In this article, Oklahoma City Oil and Gas Title attorney Zachary K. Bradt discusses the advantages mineral owners have when taking action with their mineral interests.

Q: What options are mineral owners faced with in today’s market?

A: As oil and gas activity in the state remains strong, mineral owners are seeing more opportunities related to their mineral interests. Some are being approached about signing new leases, while others are receiving calls and letters about selling their mineral interests. Whether leasing or selling, mineral owners are being presented with options that create certain advantages to an informed mineral owner.

Q: What advantages can leasing provide over selling?

A: The obvious answer is that the mineral owner will get to keep their mineral interest. By signing a new lease, the mineral owner will receive a bonus payment that is calculated based on the number of mineral acres owned, and a royalty on any production occurring during the term of the lease. The bonus and royalty can be negotiated with the lessee, but mineral owners should be aware of the inverse relationship between the two. A higher bonus will offer a lower royalty, whereas a lower bonus will provide for a higher royalty.

Q: What advantages can selling provide over leasing?

A: Selling mineral interests presents a financial advantage over leasing. If a mineral owner is financially incentivized, they may feel comfortable selling their interests away to a third party. Much like the bonus payment, mineral owners will receive a price per mineral acre offer to buy from third parties. The difference with selling is that there is a direct correlation between the royalty and purchase price. Minerals with a higher lease royalty will bring in a higher price per acre from potential buyers.

Q: How can a mineral owner decide what is the best option?

 

Published: 9/25/18; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5609461/qa-with-zac-k.-bradt-mineral-owners-should-be-informed-about-leasing-selling-options

Firm selects Employee of the Month for August 2018

Deena Baker

Deena Baker

Deena Baker, Legal Assistant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for August 2018.

“It is once again an honor to be recognized as employee of the month,” she said. “My co-workers and bosses are the best a person could ask for!

“It’s a great privilege to be part of such a wonderful firm and awesome team!”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Deena works until the job is done right, regardless of what the clock says, which is a function of her strong work ethic,” Director Juston R. Givens said. “The value Deena brings to my practice and the work she does for the Phillips Murrah team is truly immeasurable.”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for July 2018

Nanette Morris

Nanette Morris

Nanette Morris, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for July 2018.

“I’ve worked for Phillips Murrah for almost 19 years, and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d want to work,” Morris said. “The work is challenging and fun, and – even better – I get to work with so many smart and talented people.

“I really do love my job!”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Nanette has been with the firm for over eighteen years and is a highly skilled legal assistant,” Director Elizabeth K. Brown said. “She plays an integral role in our transactional and estate planning department.

“With her positive and professional demeanor, she works well even under the most stressful situations in  the practice of law. She is smart, hard-working and dependable and always a pleasure to work with. She definitely deserves this honor.”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Phillips Murrah partners with Cristo Rey OKC

Cristo Rey Students

Phillips Murrah Marketing Director Dave Rhea and Attorney Bill Price welcome the four Cristo Rey students who will be working with the Firm during the 2018-2019 school year.

Phillips Murrah law firm is proud to sponsor the inaugural freshman class of Cristo Rey Oklahoma City Catholic High School.

Students in the school’s Corporate Work Study Program will begin working with the Firm in a variety of capacities on Aug. 13.

Four students will alternate working with the Firm each day in general clerical and administrative matters. The team of students “job share” the position for the school year with each student working one full day per week plus one Friday per month. Academic schedules are staggered so students won’t miss class due to work. As part of the school’s Corporate Work Study Program, students get valuable work experience in addition to a salary that is used to support their tuition and minimize costs for families.

“We at Phillips Murrah are excited for the opportunity to work with these bright, young minds and share with them insight into the legal field,” said Thomas G. Wolfe, Phillips Murrah President and Managing Partner. “Given that the work may be fast-paced and ever-changing, I have full confidence these students will gain unique and practical experience that will stick with them throughout their education and professional careers.”

Phillips Murrah joins a long list of Corporate Work Study Partners including: American Fidelity, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, BancFirst, Catholic Charities, the Chickasaw Nation, Clements Foods, Express Employment Professionals, First National Bank of Oklahoma, Grace Living Centers and Humphreys Capital, Latino Community Development Agency, Lopez Foods, Loves Travel Stops & Country Stores, McBride Orthopedic Hospital, Mercy Health, Oklahoma City National Memorial, Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, The Oklahoman, Slawson Exploration, Stella Nova Cafes, Synergy Datacom Supply, United Way, Variety Care and Weokie Federal Credit Union.

Cristo Rey’s Oklahoma City chapter is part of Cristo Rey Network, the only network of high schools in the country that integrate four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience.

To learn more about Cristo Rey, visit the network’s website here.

 

Firm selects Employee of the Month for June 2018

Tess Bromme

Tess Bromme

Tess Bromme, Billing Coordinator, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for June 2018.

“I am beyond thankful to call Phillips Murrah my place of work and to be recognized in this way is a fantastic honor,” Bromme said.

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Tess is a valued member of the Accounting Department and her contributions help to make the Firm run efficiently,” Controller Stephanie Oseland said. “She is a hardworking and positive person, and it is a pleasure to work with her. She deserves this honor.”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Phillips Murrah rowing team competes in 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah's rowing team, gets ready to practice before racing in the 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival.

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, gets ready to practice before racing in the 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder completed the Summer 2018 season and improved on the team’s competitive time from Fall’s rowing season.

The team competed on June 23 at the 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District.

“I am super proud of Law & Oarder,” said Deena Baker, Legal Assistant and Law & Oarder team leader. “At the regatta we had a time of 1:58 in our heat race, which advanced us to the finals.

“Even though we didn’t medal in the finals, we made a great run for it and finished with a time of 2:03.  We aren’t disappointed with our efforts at all, and it just gives the team more determination than ever for the Fall season which starts in just a few weeks.”

In all eight seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“The rowing team has been a great way to spend time with my coworkers,” Attorney Mark E. Hornbeek said. “It is also exciting to see the amazing changes that have been made to the city’s riverfront in recent years.”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for May 2018

Tyler Sullivan

Tyler Sullivan

Tyler Sullivan, Administrative Assistant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for May 2018.

“I have the privilege of working with an incredible group of people, and I feel so honored that they chose to recognize me as Employee of the Month,” Sullivan said.

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Tyler started with our Firm in an entry level position, and has proven that she is capable of much more,” Executive Director Michelle Munda said. “She was recently promoted, and she continues to grow at our Firm.

“We are happy that she works here with us and look forward to more advancement for her!”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

NewsOK Q&A: Surface owners have rights regarding oil and gas development

Zac Bradt

Zac Bradt is an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. He represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

In this article, Attorney Zachary K. Bradt discusses protections land owners have in regards to surface rights in oil and gas exploration.

Q: Why should surface owners be concerned about the development of oil and gas?

A: In Oklahoma, courts have ruled that the mineral estate is superior to the surface estate for purposes of oil and gas development. Oil and gas operators have the right to enter upon your property and make reasonable use of the surface to explore for oil and gas.

Q: As a surface owner in Oklahoma, what laws are in place to protect my interests?

A: In an effort to better protect the rights of surface owners throughout the state, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the Surface Damage Act that went into effect on July 1, 1982. Prior to July 1, 1982, operators had the right to enter upon a surface owner’s property and make reasonable use of it to conduct their operations without paying any damages. With the passage of the Surface Damage Act, surface owners were afforded more protections and operators were required to follow procedural steps as defined under the act before entering upon the property.

Q: What procedural requirements does an operator have to meet?

A: Operators are first required to send a letter by certified mail providing notice of their intent to drill and informing the surface owner of the proposed location of the well and the approximate date drilling will commence. Within five days of delivery, the operator must engage in good-faith negotiations with the surface owner. If the parties agree upon damages, a written contract is executed, damages are paid, and drilling operations can commence.

Q: What if the surface owner and operator don’t reach an agreement?

A: If the good-faith negotiations don’t result in an executed damages contract, the operator must petition the court for the appointment of appraisers. Then, an operator may enter the property and commence its operations. Although drilling may be commenced, the determination of surface damages will remain before the court. The three appraisers (one from each party, who then choose a third) will inspect the property and submit a report to the court estimating the surface damages. Once the report is submitted, you can accept the suggested amount or challenge in court. Before you demand court consideration, you should make yourself aware of the related costs.

 

Published: 5/22/18; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5595368/surface-owners-have-rights-regarding-oil-and-gas-development

Firm selects Employee of the Month for April 2018

Penny Stansberry

Penny Stansberry

Penny Stansberry, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for April 2018.

“I’m humbled by the recognition by my co-workers, and since we help each other a lot working here, I’d prefer to call them my friends,” Stansberry said. “I’ve been with Phillips Murrah and its predecessors a long time and that it feels like a family to me is the biggest reason I’ve been here so long.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Penny for more than 30 years between different firms and am glad we’ve made Phillips Murrah ‘home,’ ” Thomas G. Wolfe, Firm President and Managing Partner, said. “She is cheerful, reliable, and a vital part of the Firm.”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for March 2018

Maribeth Mills, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for March 2018.

“It is such a compliment to be recognized by an amazing team of co-workers,” Mills said.

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“I’m very proud to work with Maribeth on a daily basis,” Director Clayton D. Ketter said. “Her work ethic and dedication are of the highest caliber, as is her expertise in many areas of the law. The award is very much deserved.”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for February 2018

Jack Thach

Jack Thach, Office Clerk, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for February 2018.

“I’m blessed to be able to work with such a great group of people, and it is a real honor to win this award,” Thach said.

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Jack is dependable and always willing to pitch in or help with things outside his primary duty assignments,” David Carter, Lead Office Clerk, said.


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects two Employees of the Month for January 2018

Nathan Hatcher and Lisa McAlister

Nathan Hatcher and Lisa McAlister

Nathan Hatcher, Assistant Marketing Director, and Lisa McAlister, Paralegal, are Phillips Murrah’s Employees of the Month for January 2018.

“I know it’s hard every month for each of us to decide who should get this honor, because the Firm’s staff is full of hard-working, deserving individuals,” Hatcher said. “I am so thankful that they’ve decided I am worthy of being ranked up there with them.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“More than being proud of working for an extraordinary law firm, I am proud of working with extraordinary peers that have presented me with this honor and recognition,” McAlister said.

In rare cases, the votes tallied end in a tie, and both winners receive the Employee of the Month honor.

“Nathan has worked with me for a few years, and I am continually impressed by how smart and diligent he is,” Executive Director Michelle Munda said. “His demeanor and personality are a complete delight every day.

“Lisa is a wonderful asset and Legal Assistant, and she takes the initiative to step in when she’s needed in other areas in a way that is very impactful and shows what a true team player she is.  We are lucky to have her here!”


Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for December 2017

Cristal Bazemore

Cristal Bazemore, Administrative Assistant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for December 2017.

“It is an honor to win Employee of the Month,” she said. “I am grateful to be a part of such a great team and workplace!

“It is nice to work with such a large group of people who show their appreciation and care for one another.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Cristal is a great worker with what seems to be boundless energy, and never lets anything get her down,” Director J. Mark Lovelace said.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Firm selects November Employee of the Month

Tommye Johnson

Tommye Johnson, Legal Nurse Consultant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for November 2017.

“I am truly humbled to receive the Employee of the Month recognition from my peers,” she said. “Exhibiting the qualities which earn this recognition requires being surrounded by great co-workers who bring out the best in you.

“I’m very fortunate to work with the most professional and caring people at Phillips Murrah.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Tommye is a consummate professional whose strong work ethic, expertise and wide breadth of experience have solidified her as an essential team member to the litigation group at Phillips Murrah,” Director Juston R. Givens said.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage two years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

NewsOK Q&A: Some mortgage, business loans may need updating with looming bank rate phaseout

From NewsOK / by Paula Burkes
Published: November 16, 2017
Click to see full story – Some mortgage, business loans may need updating with looming bank rate phaseout

Click to see Kendra M. Norman’s attorney profile

Kendra M. Norman represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Q: What is LIBOR?

A: The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is the daily calculation of an average of estimated interest rates that a panel of around 20 banks calculate they’d be charged to borrow from other banks. LIBOR serves as the primary reference interest rate that’s overwhelmingly used by lenders to set their own interest rates including mortgage and student loan lenders, as well as credit card companies. It’s been used since 1986 for this purpose. LIBOR hasn’t been without its scandals, and in 2012, media outlets began to allege that LIBOR was being manipulated by the very banks that set the rate, leading to fines levied against financial institutions and prison sentences for individuals involved in the rate manipulation as well as regulatory backlash. The Financial Conduct Authority is the regulatory agency for LIBOR, and on July 27, in an apparent effort to replace rather than reform LIBOR, Chief Executive Andrew Bailey announced the recommendation that LIBOR be phased out at the end of 2021 due to a lack of confidence in the calculation as well as unwillingness among banks to use it.

Q: What’s the future of LIBOR and how could it affect consumers?

A: LIBOR has been used pervasively as a benchmark rate for loans for over 30 years. Most consumers have at least one agreement in effect that references LIBOR, whether it be a mortgage or business loan. Many of these contracts are long-term and won’t expire before 2021 when LIBOR will be phased out. Some of these loan contracts based upon LIBOR contain a fallback provision and reference an equivalent or alternative interest rate to be used in place of LIBOR, laying the foundation for those instruments to be governed by LIBOR’s eventual successor. However, lenders and borrowers should review existing loan documents, especially those continuing after 2021, to ascertain whether they’re LIBOR-based loans and then whether they reference an alternative rate in the event that LIBOR is no longer published. Those documents without fallback provisions or an alternative rate should be amended and updated so that they reference a substitute or new rate to avoid legal uncertainty once LIBOR is replaced.

Q: What will replace LIBOR?

A: LIBOR’s administrator will continue to produce LIBOR until 2021 and possibly after that time if banks continue to contribute to the benchmark rate, so there’s still time to figure out what will replace LIBOR, but there’s currently no go-to replacement. Lenders and borrowers should consider use of fallback provisions and flexible amendment provisions due to the unavailability of LIBOR in the future.

NewsOK Q&A: Not all jokes, propositions necessarily workplace sexual harassment

From NewsOK / by Paula Burkes
Published: November 14, 2017
Click to see full story – Not all jokes, propositions necessarily workplace sexual harassment

Click to see Kathryn D. Terry’s attorney profile

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense.

Q: What is sexual harassment?

A: The word “harassment” gets thrown around and used in a lot of contexts. or employment law purposes, unlawful sexual harassment is conduct in a work-related environment that reasonable persons would characterize as offensive and sexual in nature, which actually offends a person and can be said to affect the terms of conditions of the sufferer’s employment.

Q: What does “work-related” mean?

A: First, unlawful sexual harassment doesn’t just occur at work or work events. In fact, more often than not, harassment takes place outside the office and after hours. All of the following are common: one co-worker shows up on the doorstep of another, uninvited and unwelcome; after work drinks; work-related texts that turn personal. If the relationship is primarily work-related and a problem develops, it could be an issue for the employer. Secondly, the employer must actually be an “employer.” Today, almost every employer engages independent contractors and consultants — people who are not employees. If one or both of the persons involved aren’t actually employees, while the conduct at issue may be offensive, even reprehensible or unlawful, it may not be sexual harassment. For example, if an employee makes unwelcome and offensive advances to a courier or caterer who isn’t an employee but interacts with the company and its personnel, that isn’t technically sexual harassment for employment law purposes. Incidentally, although an employer in this situation may not be required to address the situation, it should. If another instance occurs, the first incident likely would demonstrate the employer had notice of bad conduct by the employee but took no remedial action.

Q: How offensive is offensive?

A: First, the proverbial “reasonable person” has to be offended. What offends someone in Oklahoma may be commonplace elsewhere. Every joke, or even every proposition, isn’t necessarily harassment. If a co-worker invites another co-worker out to dinner, the second declines and that’s the end of story, that exchange is not very likely to be characterized as sexual harassment here in middle-America, regardless of whether the invitee was actually offended by the invitation. Second, actual offense must occur. One co-worker could make routine, crude, offensive, sexual remarks toward a specific co-worker. However, if those remarks aren’t offensive to the recipient (he or she takes them, rightfully so, as jokes), there’s no sexual harassment, no matter how vulgar the remarks may be. There are important caveats to be considered, however. Oftentimes persons who complain about long-standing harassment say they went along with the behavior hoping it would stop, fearing retaliation or thinking it was a joke and then it turned more serious. Thus, if a situation like this develops in the workplace, a prudent employer not only will inquire of the persons involved as to their comfort levels, but also will direct the employees involved, regardless of their congenial relationship, to tone it down and be respectful not only of each other, but also of other co-workers who are present.

Q: How bad does sexual harassment have to be to be deemed harassment?

A: The buzzwords are that is has to adversely affect the “terms and conditions” of employment; it has to make the sufferer’s job worse in a meaningful way. But, for example, repeatedly asking out a co-worker despite being rebuffed and asked to cease the invitations, probably can be considered harassment. Moreover, as recent news events demonstrate, one severe incident can be very significant harassment. Conversely, little and subtle remarks and conduct over time can be detrimental to a person’s employment environment and an employer who knows of this type of conduct but fails to take action does so at its peril. A couple of major red flags also exist. If the employee alleging harassment also suffers an adverse economic impact (for example, demotion, reassignment or failure to give a bonus) or if there’s any kind of physical contact (even an unwelcome hug), very careful scrutiny of the events and the relationship is warranted.