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What Are the Legal Implications of Too Much Perfume at Work? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 3/6/12

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On Tuesdays and Fridays, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss the last Free Joe? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Lynda: What is the proper way to handle the situation when a co-worker wears too heavily perfume in the workplace and it is affecting other co-workers? Is there any legal complications if we were to request them to not wear perfume?

Joe Escalante: This varies by state because some states or regions, like Santa Cruz California, have actually attempted to pass laws protecting employees from certiain forms of discrimination, like agains the “ugly.”
However, there are competing rights because many have perfume allergies. I would frame this in a “employee’s right to be free from allergy causing chemicals” rather than saying something like “yo body stank.”
If a person decides to sue their employer over this, the allergy defense would be the best one. So start with that. Basically you tell the person that the establishment might get sued by these allergic employees, so please do us a favor, and cut back on the sauce.

Patricia: Good Morning Joe, I have wrote to you before i am going threw a divorce been separated since October and can not afford an attorney have a child to care for and i am on unemployment got separation and settlement papers they are so unreasonable i cant sign sent a paper to his lawyer saying i did not agree and would not sign sent it cert. mail. I have not heard anything back. What do i do now .plz give me some guide lines how this goes. Went to legal aid said my unemployment is too much so wont help.What a joke.Again i live in Virgina Please give me some advice so i can protect myself . Do i write a letter explaining the thing i want .Or am i better letting a judge decide.WE have been married 10 years.( no children together)…

Joe Escalante: Court works like this. The opposition files something. You file an answer. You present your best case for your position. You submit evidence supporting it. In this case, the main evidence seems to be your low income, and high expenses. You have to do all the math and present it to the judge. The main issue here is what is in the best interest of the child. How much does the child to prosper in terms of time with parents and financial support.
It’s really not as complicated as it seems, but without a lawyer, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Get this book by Nolo press right away and read it. Keep searching the internet for other legal help. You are what is called a “pro se” litigant, meaning without an attorney. This word helps when googling for information. But try to get a lawyer on your side.

Pam: Good morning, Joe. Is there a statue of limitations on having a QUADRO approved? It was issued in 2004, denied, and I haven’t had the funds to hire a lawyer to re-do.

Joe Escalante: I am unaware of any time litmitations with respect to QDROs but they are not retroactive. You can only get prospetive benefits so it’s in the interest of beneficiary to get it done as soon as possible.

Pam: Thank you – is there an agency that assists with just the writing and re-writing of the document? Nothing is being added

LegalZoom: Hi Pam, Our legal plan attorneys can help. Check it out here:

Jon: I just recently bought a car and they made a mistake on pricing it online…it was WELL below book. However they made me finance it through them and made me buy a warranty. I was going to finance it through my bank with no warranty. However a warranty isn’t the end of the world it raised the price 3000.00. I was told after 60 days I could refinance at my bank…otherwise they wouldn’t do the deal….I am in Texas….can they do that? Their interest rate was higher by 2 points as well as the down payment. They told me that the warranty had to be added because of the lender…I think it was just so they could regain some of their losses…. Thanks

Joe Escalante: Sounds like good old fashioned Texas Shenanigans. No one can force you to buy a car bundled with financing and a warranty, and no one can prevent them from offering bundled products, but their advertising practices might put them in violation of state and federal consumer protection regulations.
You should talk to a consumer protection attorney in Texas. Also, you should consider filing a complaint with the Texas State Attorney General.
If that doesn’t work, there’s always Chuck Norris.

Stashia: My husbands baby mama has a restraining order against him for terristic threats which he is currently on probation for and since this court orde?r they had twi children together are these kids a violation of his probation and how can he exercise his rights to see these kids and get atleast joint custody of theses kids without going to jail/violating probation

Joe Escalante: The first thing he would do is petition for a court order for supervision rights to visit the twins. However, he must reveal the restraining order info. At that point it will be up to the court to decide if it is in the best interest of the twins to be visited by a guy with this kind of criminal record and restraining order, etc.

Betsy: If a sister is listed as the “agent” on a Medical Power of Attorney & HIPPA Relesase Authorization form, and the other 2 sisters are listed as 1st and 2nd Alternate Agents, does this mean that the 2 Alternate Agents will not be able to obtain any health information about the patient? I believe it also means that the “agent” sister does not have to consult the other 2 on any decisions. Am I correct in all of the above?

Joe Escalante: You are correct. This is not a committee. The alternates are nothing until needed to take the place of the 1st choice, in the event she could not exercise the duties. Until then, they have no extra rights or privileges to info just because they are alternates.

Be: I am looking to start an online business re-selling jewelry I purchased from different places. I live in Maryland. What do I need to get started?

Joe Escalante: Well, let’s start with a legalzoom DBA? That’s always fun. But seriously you will need one, that’s key to you getting you business bank account. You will need a seller’s permit from your state, that’s how they keep track of sales tax. You may need a business license from your city, county, or state as well.
But most of all, you need a good tax advisor. Get one now. Also, get some liability insurance. Down the road, you may want to incorporate or form an LLC, but for now, just make sure you are insured and have a good tax pro on your side. Follow the link below to get started on your adventure. Good timing, it’s National Start A Business Month. Was this a trick question?

LegalZoom: Here’s a link to some biz resources:

Michael: I see that many times police officers park their car in the center medium at an intersection looking for violators of Title 75. Yet Title 75 says that the only time an officer himself can violate the law is in pursuit of a suspected criminal, or for the purpose of investigations. Clearly, the officer who is handing out citations is no longer investigating, but acting on collusions based on his investigating. Question: Since the officer in fact in violation of the law, is the evidence attained by the officer admissible in court?

Joe Escalante: I talked to all my friends. No one knows what Title 75 is.

Elyssa: Are there benefits to having a business ID from the IRS vs. being a sole proprietor and using your own SS#?

Joe Escalante: Benefits usually stem from being a corp or LLC. Mainly, people are trying to protect personal assets from lawsuits or debts incurred by the company. There are tax advantages as well. However, if you are not ready to become one of these entities, a sole proprieorship with insurance is almost as good, at least in terms of liability. For the tax advantages, talk to your tax pro.

Joellyn: My husband and I, ages 71 and 62 respectively, have not yet made a will. We own our home, and have a few other assets, but we would like to know if a simple will is the right way to go, or a living trust, or a living will? We want the simplest, least complicated, least expensive way to transfer our assets on to each other in the case of our deaths. Thanks!

Joe Escalante: To transfer assets to eachother, the simplest way is to just make sure the title to the property is held in a manor where it automatically transfers to the other spouse upon the death of the other, as in “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.”

Next, make sure your bank accounts are the “payable upon death” variety. That will take a lot of stuff out of the probate process.

However, if you place the house in a living trust, it will avoid probate even if you both die simultaneously in an accident or something. A living will is just a medical derective for end of life issues.

Jeffrey: Joe; If you do not threaten or use foul language, is it legal to challenge someone to a fight via social media? THX

Joe Escalante: Fisticuffs? It sounds quite honorable to me. However, as soon as you land a blow, the big baby might sue you for damages or have you arrested for assault. And gentlemen should always adhere to the Marquess Of Queensberry rules of pugilistic competition, some of which are listed below:

1. To be a fair stand-up boxing match in a 24-foot ring, or as near that size as practicable.
2. No wrestling or hugging (clinching) allowed.
3, The rounds to be of three minutes duration, and one minute’s time between rounds.
4. If either man falls through weakness or otherwise, he must get up unassisted, 10 seconds to be allowed him to do so, the other man meanwhile to return to his corner, and when the fallen man is on his legs the round is to be resumed and continued until the three minutes have expired. If one man fails to come to the scratch in the 10 seconds allowed, it shall be in the power of the referee to give his award in favour of the other man.
5. A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down.
6. No seconds or any other person to be allowed in the ring during the rounds.
7. Should the contest be stopped by any unavoidable interference, the referee to name the time and place as soon as possible for finishing the contest; so that the match must be won and lost, unless the backers of both men agree to draw the stakes.
8. The gloves to be fair-sized boxing gloves of the best quality and new.
9. Should a glove burst, or come off, it must be replaced to the referee’s satisfaction.
10. A man on one knee is considered down and if struck is entitled to the stakes.
11. That no shoes or boots with spikes or sprigs be allowed. 12. The contest in all other respects to be governed by revised London Prize Ring Rules.

Pamela: LegalZoom I have a question regarding Grandparents Rights? I have two Granddaughters whom I am not allowed to visit with as their father is angry with me.. Do I have rights to visitation?

Joe Escalante: This varies by state. You can always petition the court for visitation rights, but some states don’t buy into it and might say you have no standing to file. Check out this page, but beware, a lot of web sites claiming to be resources for Grandparents Rights are just lawfirms looking for clients.

Mary Lou: We’re about to launch 1 for-profit & 2 not-for-profit web sites – Can we/I use “free” images from the net and/or email slides that go around? If approval required, and there is nothing on the image to note origin, how do I obtain approval to use?

Joe Escalante: This is a very sensative area. The fact that you are a non-profit has NOTHING to do with whether you can use copyrighted works without permission. The Ku Klux Klan is a non-profit organization. There are sources for pre-cleared photos on the web. has pictures you can license, as well as images placed in the public domain through Creative Commons or something like that. If you accidentally use an image owned by Getty, you are in trouble.

Judy: need to get out from under high car payments and just drive a “beater” – but how????

Joe Escalante: I have a 2003 Subaru I can give you a deal on.

Liz: I have an S Corp, but in 2011 I didn’t run business through it. I’m thinking of using it in 2012, but I don’t know whether it’s an advantage or just extra paperwork. Can you help me understand?

Joe Escalante: This is a question you need to sit down and discuss with your tax pro. Many states have a high minimum tax for corps on file, whether they are doing anything or not.

Maury: If I sign a document with the term “without prejudice” does it give me recourse to dispute it in the future if I choose too and what ways can others who are required to sign the same document respond?

Joe Escalante: This is a term used in court to declare that the case is dismissed but can be refiled. With prejudice means the matter is over. In a contract it could mean a lot of things depending on the context.

Judy: Is there a time limit on when trusts must be disclosed or disbursed after a death?

Joe Escalante: Yes, but it varies by state. The beneficiary can file a claim with the probate court to get the disbursements, or remove the executor.

Amaira: My mother set up a life trust before she died on her house. My Dad is the property owner, my sister has the life trust. I am under the impression the trust was only on my Mom’s estate. Since my sister is trying to sell to sell the house without my Dad’s approval, I need to know what his legal rights are since he owns the property. Also, the property taxes on the house are not in my name, but I have been paying them. Do I have any legal rights to get what I have paid back from my family? It is in the lease from my sister that I am required to pay them.

Thank you!

Joe Escalante: If your dad’s name is on the title, it cannot be sold without his approval. Just paying the taxes doesn’t give you an ownership interest. If you paid the taxes and the property was otherwise abandoned by others, you could claim “adverse possession” and file declaration of title with the county registrar but that’s rare. Can you get repaid for things you give people? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Beldon: Several years ago(2001) my brother died. He was from New Orleans. I hired a lawyer to handle his succession. This lawyer demanded that he be paid his fees upfront because I was not living in Louisiana so I paid him . He did not complete the succession until 2010. Because of his delays and lollygagging when Hurricane Katrina destroyed my property I could not get any aid from anyone because I was not the sole owner of the property. He delayed and foot dragged until I almost lost the property.

Joe Escalante: If you suffered damages from his incompetence you have a right to sue him for malpractice to recover the damages. And check with the laws in that state regarding payment for probate services. They are usually governed by statute, not by whether he likes money up front or not. He may have committed a state bar ethics violation.

Lisa: hi Joe – If you get a multi-colored logo trademarked, will that trademark apply to the logo if it is used in black/white or other colors? Thanks

Joe Escalante: Yes and no, but the good news is that if anyone else uses your logo and just changes the colors, it is still likely a bold infringement. In other words, don’t get a new trademark for each color scheme you end up using down the road.

Stephanie: Hi I have a question…. I was attending a tech. School and became pregnant during the first semester. At the beginning of my second semester, ( of a 4 semester corse) the school started telling me that I couldn’t drink water in the computer room bc the water could damage the computers. They knew I was pregnant, so I brought a note from my doctors stating that I had to drink LOTS of water or I could go into preterm labor. They continued hassling me about drinking water in the computer room and telling me that if I needed to have a drink then I should step out into the hallway every time! At that time I told my doctor what they said and wrote another note stating again that I will go into preterm labor. I gave them the note again and the same thing happened. Two days later I went into preterm labor. The doctors stopped me from having my baby and put me on bed rest. I had to stop work and school. After having my daughter 4 mouths later, I tried to return to school. The school changed the program I was taking and told me I would have to take some of the classes I finished over again. Which ment, they wanted me to go to school Monday thur Friday 2 hours in the morning, 1 hour in the afternoon and 2 hours in the evening. Before all of this I was going Monday thur Thursday 7am-12pm. I can’t do the new hours plus work and take care of a new baby!
My question is… Can I do anything about this because if I don’t go back to school I will have to start paying my tuition right away for school I can’t finish. It was determined I went into preterm labor because of dehydration.

Joe Escalante: Sounds like grounds for a lawsuit to me. Talk to a plaintiff’s attorney and see if you can get anyone to take it. If not, you might have to file it yourself or cough up a bunch of money to finance it.

Lyra: What kind of attorney can handle a small claims case for $7,000.00 and garnishment of wages for that judgement????

Joe Escalante: You are not allowed to be represented by an attorney in Small Claims Court. You have to do it yourself. You can get advice from a wage and hours attorney, but they can’t appear with you.

LegalZoom: That’s it for Free Joe Tuesday! If you’ve already posted your question, hang tight–Joe is still working on them. Otherwise, come back on Friday to join us for more free legal advice:

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March 8th, 2012 at 6:15 am