In November 2016, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved, with more than 70% voting yes, expanded medical marijuana by passing Amendment 2.

Now comes the tough work of implementing Amendment 2.  One bill, SB 614, proposes to throw out the current medical marijuana system in Florida (which was set up in 2015 to grow, process and distribute low-THC cannabis oil) which strictly capped the number of businesses allowed to participate in medical marijuana.

37140040 - florida state flag on cannabis background. drug policy. legalization of marijuana

St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, the proponent of SB 614, calls the current system “state sanctioned cartel” that limits competition and results in higher prices.  At present, the Florida medical marijuana system is limited to only seven vertical license holders.  A “vertical license” means that the license holder must do it all and grow, process and distribute the product.  And, by maintaining the current system it will obviously severely restrict businesses who want to be involved in what will be big business under Amendment 2.

Senator Brandes’ plan would get rid of the vertical license system and instead create four types of licenses:  one to grow marijuana, one to process marijuana, one to transport marijuana, and one for retail centers.  Each county, and Florida is a large state with 67 counties, could have one retail center per 25,000 residents, or nearly 800 statewide.  But, the bill still permits local governments to outright ban retail dispensaries.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

Who could have ever guessed that post same-sex marriage legalization, litigation would focus on the issues of wedding cakes and wedding florists.  But, now comes recent news that the case pending in Washington State involving the florist who declined to provide flowers for her friend’s gay wedding has lost her case at the state level.

As Barronelle Stutzman explained, in her own words to The Seattle Times, because she is a Christian weddings have a particular significance to her and despite her long friendship with this particular gay customer, even knowing that he was gay for many years, she simply could not provide a special arrangement of flowers for his wedding due to her religious beliefs.

I just couldn’t see a way clear in my heart to honor God with the talents He has given me by going against the word He has given us.

The Washington Supreme Court held, in unanimous decision, that her floral arrangement talents did not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism.

Ms. Stutzman indicates that she will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.

46809589 - wedding-gay couple-red hair

As I explained back in 2015, Palm Beach County’s public accommodation law was amended to greatly broaden the types of businesses covered as public accommodations.  As a result, cake bakers and florists are covered by the law which means that turning away customers based on a religious basis is asking for trouble and litigation.  To avoid litigation, businesses including small businesses, should serve all customers unless there is a safety or security reason not to.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

Florida, dating back to its early years, has always been a hot bed of scams and fraud.  These days, Florida leads the nation in IRS tax return fraud.  And, that is because Florida has a large transient population, no state income tax (so no state review of tax returns which provide a second layer of scrutiny), elderly population with low income but valid Social Security number, etc.

Doctor’s offices and hospitals have been ripe for the collection of Social Security numbers, so have schools.  Accordingly, most data experts advise against providing Social Security numbers at hospitals, doctor’s offices and schools.  Remember, just because they ask for your Social Security number does not mean you need to fill in that information since most providers really have no reason to collect this information.  I, personally, long ago stopped giving that information out on behalf of myself and I’ve never provided it for my daughter.  If you are a senior or you are caring for a senior, unfortunately the  Medicare system, for many years, utilized seniors’ Social Security numbers on their Medicare cards so that information has been collected for thousands of seniors.  Thankfully, in 2015, President Obama signed legislation requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to send out new Medicare cards without seniors’ Social Security numbers.

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Now, comes news on the latest scam.  The scammers have decided to go directly to Human Resources and payroll departments to collect this data in bulk.  Large companies, mid-size companies and small companies are all being targeted with phishing scams designed to get employees to send W-2s and W-2 data directly to these scam artists.  Please see this important blog post from Fox’s Privacy and Data Security blog for more information.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

Back in 2015 Houston, Texas attempted to and failed to pass an expanded human equal rights ordinance (“HERO”) which would have made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on 15 different “protected characteristics,” including sex, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Now, the State of Texas has thought it prudent to follow the lead of North Carolina and pass a state wide law restricting bathroom access.

Texas Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex.”  The measure would also preempt local nondiscrimination ordinances (these are the HERO or HROs that more liberal or progressive cities pass to provide protection within city limits) that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

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Not surprisingly, like North Carolina’s HB-2 there may be a large negative economic impact if Texas passes Senate Bill 6.   Texas politicians have already invited the ire of the NFL, large companies and celebrities/entertainers by proposing to limit bathroom access by “biological sex”.

“Biological sex” is defined in the bill as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate”.   What’s so complicated about that, you ask.

  • First, as many as 1 in 1,500 babies are born with ambiguous genitalia that qualify them as “intersex”.
  • Second, thousands of the 1.4 million transgender Americans have had sex-reassignment surgery, which means that many people who were designated as male or female at birth now have “the physical condition” of being another gender.
  • Third, for transgender people who retain the biological markers of their original gender identification (because they choose not to undergo surgery or cannot afford it), many transgender women and men feel not only uncomfortable but endangered when being forced to use a bathroom that does not mesh with their identity.

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Baffled by bathroom litigation and how to handle bathroom access, I’ve written several posts on bathroom access and employment litigation regarding bathroom access.  See my posts here (OSHA guidance on bathroom access), here (EEOC settlement of litigation which included bathroom access claims), here (11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned summary judgment in favor of employer in discrimination claim that involved restroom access), and here (litigation involving Hobby Lobby that included restroom access claims).

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

After previous efforts that failed in 2012 and 2016, the City of Jacksonville, Florida has now passed an expanded human rights ordinance (“HRO”) that provides employment and housing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This time around the City Council addressed several issues that created hurdles during the prior efforts to expand the HRO.

  • First, sexual orientation and gender identity are defined in the HRO;
  • Second, gender identity must be demonstrated in a “consistent and uniform” manner and be sincerely held, not asserted for “improper, illegal or criminal purpose”.

These two provisions are designed to address the scenario, much discussed in the news, where a man dresses up as a woman solely to invade the women’s restroom for nefarious purposes.

35571133 - jacksonville, florida, usa city skyline on st. johns river.

  • Third, addressing the locker room issue, the HRO states that businesses can still provide single sex facilities for anything that is, by its nature, a private facility, like a single-sex bathroom.  Businesses will not be required to change any existing signage or retrofit any existing facility.
  • Fourth, dress codes are also allowed under this bill, but cannot be based on “sex stereotype”- meaning a business cannot tell a secretary to wear a skirt if she’s female (if your dress code requires women to wear skirts or high heels or makeup, you are already asking for trouble).  Rather, the dress code would require the secretary to be dressed professionally.

Additionally, the City of Jacksonville provided carve outs for religious institutions and small businesses.

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Befuddled by bathroom litigation, I’ve written several posts on bathroom access and employment litigation regarding bathroom access.  See my posts here (OSHA guidance on bathroom access), here (EEOC settlement of litigation which included bathroom access claims), here (11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned summary judgment in favor of employer in discrimination claim that involved restroom access), here (addressing Houston’s bathroom access ordinance) and here (litigation involving Hobby Lobby that included restroom access claims).

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

Well, its a few days until kickoff at Superbowl LI.  If your office is like many, someone is collecting money for Super Bowl squares.  Most employees and employers view a friendly office pool as all in good fun and most of the time it is.

68091334 - game day football party table.
68091334 – game day football party table.

But, don’t forget, under Florida law workplace gambling is technically illegal and could form the basis for a Florida whistleblower action.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

Happy New Year!  Also, its time for Florida employers to pay attention to the new 2017 Florida minimum wage.  As of January 1, 2017, Florida’s minimum wage will rise from the current rate of $8.05 per hour to $8.10 per hour.

Under Florida Statute § 448.110 4(a) and (b), the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity must calculate Florida’s minimum wage based upon the increase, if any, in the Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Earners and Clerical Workers in the southern region.  Based upon this year’s calculation, Florida’s new minimum wage for 2017 is $8.10 per hour.

63255315 - happy new year 2017 gold champagne bottle celebration in mosaic style. ideal for holiday card or elegant party invitation. vector.

Employers of tipped employees, who meet eligibility requirements for the tip credit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, may count tips actually received as wages under the Florida minimum wage.  However, the employer must pay tipped employees a direct wage.  The direct wage is calculated as equal to the minimum wage, $8.10, minus the tip credit for Florida, $3.02, or a direct hourly wage of $5.08.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

By many accounts, North Carolina has lost in excess of $400 million in business revenue (and a whole lot of basketball games) due to HB2.  HB2, for those who don’t know, is the controversial law that limited who could use which bathrooms and was the subject of fierce protests by many in the LGBTQ communities.  HB2 also limited state level discrimination claims (later rescinded by the legislature) and restricted the ability of local municipalities to raise the minimum wage.

Now, Charlotte City Council has repealed their non-discrimination ordinance in an effort to strike a deal with North Carolina’s state legislature to repeal HB2 and return things to the status quo.  And, the status quo may actually be better for transgender Tar Heels because they will no longer be “formally” banned from public bathrooms.  However, Charlotte’s repeal only goes into effect if the State of North Carolina repeals HB2 and that did not come to pass even after 9 hours of debate yesterday.

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The bathroom battles are not over in North Carolina or nationwide (especially with a new administration waiting in the wings).   But, in general, employers and private companies are better off permitting access to the bathroom that transgender employees and customers choose to use.

I’ve written several posts on bathroom access and employment litigation regarding bathroom access.  See my posts here (OSHA guidance on bathroom access), here (EEOC settlement of litigation which included bathroom access claims), here (11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned summary judgment in favor of employer in discrimination claim that involved restroom access), here (addressing Houston’s bathroom access ordinance) and here (litigation involving Hobby Lobby that included restroom access claims).

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

News today that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reached agreements with several large retail companies to limit on-call scheduling of employees.  On-call scheduling has been a way for large companies with fluctuating staffing needs to schedule employees depending on weather, holidays, shopper volume, etc.  However, many employee rights’ organizations have lobbied against what they see as an unfair practice since on-call scheduling may make cause employees difficulties in scheduling transportation, child care, school/classes, or other employment.

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While Florida does not have a reporting time pay law, several other states require employers to compensate employees a minimum number of hours in pay if they report to work.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

Three months ago, I posted about North Carolina’s HB2 (the transgender bathroom bill that is still garnering headlines) and that many had overlooked a big change to North Carolina’s discrimination law separate and apart from bathrooms.  As I pointed out in my prior post, lost in the protests over the bathroom issues was the fact that all North Carolina citizens had lost the private right of action to file a state level discrimination claim for race, religion, color, age, biological sex or disability.

50995163 - north carolina us state law, code, legal system and justice concept with a 3d render of a gavel on the north carolinian flag on background.

Now, North Carolina legislators have taken steps to reverse that part of HB2 and restore the private right of action for citizens to sue for discrimination related to race, religion, color, age, biological sex or disability.