In late-2016, the Florida Supreme Court finally addressed the application of the statute of limitations in a re-filed mortgage foreclosure action.  In Bartram v. U.S. Bank, N.A., Fl. Sup. Ct. Case No. SC14-1265 (Fla. Nov. 3, 2016), the Court ruled that the statute of limitations does not bar a lender from filing a new foreclosure action after dismissal of a prior foreclosure action, as long as there was a default within the preceding five years.  Now, Florida’s appellate courts are being asked to further refine the scope of Bartram.

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In Desylvester v. The Bank of New York Mellon, Fla. 2nd DCA Case No. 2D15-5053 (Fla. 2nd DCA Feb. 22, 2017), the Second District answered the question of whether a re-filed foreclosure action that relied upon an initial payment default more than five years earlier was time-barred.  Applying Bartram, the Second DCA found that such a claim would not be barred because the allegation of default in the re-filed Complaint stated, not only the initial default date, but also a failure to make

all subsequent payments.

The lender was able to avoid the statute of limitations by alleging that the borrowers were in

a continuing state of default.

 

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The Court made a point of distinguishing Desylvester from Collazo v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., 41 Fla. L. Weekly D2315 (Fla. 3d DCA Oct. 13, 2016). Unlike in Desylvester, the lender in Collazo, had tried its case “on the basis of a date of default that was outside of the five-year statute of limitations period.”  The continuing state of default at the time of the re-filed Complaint in Desylvester was the key distinction.

 

In Desylvester, the Second DCA has made clear that, when re-filing a mortgage foreclosure action based upon an initial default that is more than five years earlier, the lender must allege that the borrower continued to miss subsequent payments and remained in a continuing state of default up to the date that the new Complaint is filed.

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.

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  • 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.

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What is “redemption” in bankruptcy?

  • Redemption is an option available to Chapter 7 individual debtor (not corporations or business entities).
  • Redemption may allow the debtor to keep personal property (intended for personal, family, or household use) which is acting as collateral for a secured debt.
  • The most common example of personal property may be redeemed is an automobile.
  • The personal property is redeemed by paying the lienholder the amount of its allowed secured claim in full by one lump sum payment.  However, the road to redemption is oftentimes too difficult for debtors to travel because of the lump sum payment requirement.

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How does “redemption” work?

Suppose the debtor files for bankruptcy and still owes $20,000 to ABC Bank on her Honda Civic but, the car is now only worth $12,000.  In this scenario, ABC Bank has a debt secured by the vehicle up to its value ($12,000) and $8,000 that is essentially unsecured.

During the redemption process, the debtor can generally wipe out the unsecured portion (in this example, $8,000) by paying ABC Bank a lump sum of $12,000.  If the debtor chooses redemption and can follow through with payment, the debtor will own the car free and clear once the debtor receives her discharge.

If redemption is not an option, the debtor may be able to keep her Honda Civic by “reaffirming” the debt instead.  In that case, the debtor signs a “reaffirmation agreement” with ABC Bank prior to discharge where, the debtor agrees to again become legally obligated to pay all or portion of the entire debt owed by the debtor on the Honda Civic to ABC Bank, essentially excepting the debt from discharge.

Yet another option would be for the debtor to surrender her Honda Civic to ABC Bank.  In this case, assuming the debtor receives her discharge, she will no longer by liable for any debt to ABC Bank on the Honda Civic.

The decision whether to surrender, redeem, or reaffirm in bankruptcy is a difficult one and any debtor facing these issues will want to consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney before making any election.


  Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation. You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

 

Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently addressed an interesting question concerning whether Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act applies to an action seeking a deficiency decree. In the situation presented, the appellate court answered the question in the negative.

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In Dyck O’Neal, Inc. v. Kami Ward, Fla. 2d DCA Case No. 2D15-2989 (Fla. 2nd DCA Jan. 27, 2017), the 2nd DCA was presented with the issue of whether compliance with Fla. Stat. § 559.715, a provision of Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) that requires written notice of assignment of a consumer debt at least 30 days before any action to collect that debt, is required in a deficiency action following a foreclosure judgment. Specifically, after a final judgment of foreclosure was entered against Ms. Ward and the property was sold at auction for $100, the judgment was assigned to Dyck O’Neal, Inc., which then filed a deficiency action against Ms. Ward. Ms. Ward defended by arguing that she had not received notice of the assignment at least 30 days before the deficiency action was filed. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in her favor.

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The appellate court reversed, finding that FCCPA (Fla. Stat. §§ 559.55 – 559.785) did not apply because a deficiency action is not an action to collect a consumer debt on a note, but rather an action to obtain a monetary judgment on a foreclosure judgment.

Because a deficiency action is not an action to collect consumer debt, section 559.715’s [notice] requirement … does not apply.

The Second District’s opinion provides guidance to lenders as to the applicability of FCCPA to deficiency actions and precludes the assertion of this defense in such cases.

 

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.

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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.

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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).

____________________________

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.

At the end of my October blog post, Dear Debtor, You Said I was Your First Priority, a VIP!, I suggested that you might want to join a “support group” called the “Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors” (fondly referred to as the OCC or GUCCs), if you felt angry or depressed about your unsecured claim status.  Admittedly, I may have led you astray.

The OCC is not really a “support group,” at least in the conventional sense of the word. So, if it is not a support group, what is it?

Going back to my October post – you have come to the realization that you were not really a VIP to the Debtor and are not entitled to priority payment. Shortly after you admit you are a general unsecured creditor, you receive a letter from the U.S. Trustee’s Office telling you that they are forming an OCC in the Debtor’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case and asking you if you would like to serve on the committee.

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Your first reaction is to say – Yes, pick me!  Of course I want to “be all I can be”.

Not so fast! Aren’t there some questions you want answered first like…what is the OCC?…what can the OCC do?…what are members of the OCC required to do?…and what are the dangers and benefits of being an OCC member?

Here are the answers to those questions…

The OCC is a committee appointed by the U.S. Trustee’s Office from unsecured creditors that hold the 20 largest claims against the Debtor. It represents the interest of all unsecured creditors of the debtor before the bankruptcy court and in negotiations with the debtor and other parties. Generally, there are 3 to 7 members, depending on the size of the case.

The OCC members are fiduciaries to the other unsecured creditors and are expected to act in the best interest of all unsecured creditors. As a member of the OCC you cannot favor your interest over those of other unsecured creditors.

Among other things, the OCC has the power to do the following:

  • consult with the chapter 11 debtor on administration of the case.
  • investigate the debtor’s conduct and operation of the business.
  • participate in formulating a plan.
  • may, with the court’s approval, hire an attorney, accountant or other professionals to assist in the performance of the committee’s duties. These professionals are compensated by the debtor.
  • monitor management of the debtor’s business.

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The Pros:

  • having a seat at the table and an opportunity to have a voice in the bankruptcy process.
  • legal representation of the committee, paid for by the debtor, that you would ordinarily not receive on your own.
  • access to information regarding the bankruptcy process and the debtor’s financial information, some of which is not readily available to individual creditors.
  • power to participate in and affect the debtor’s plan negotiations and negotiations with other creditors.

Possible Cons:

  • Serving as a committee member can be require a significant (uncompensated) time commitment. Are you sure you have the free time to commit?
  • Is the case out of town? You may need to travel there once in a while.
  • Since your duty is to act in the best interests of all unsecured creditors, you might have to endorse actions that would be detrimental to you and your claim.  Are you prepared to do that?

So – now that you are in the know about the OCC are you ready to “be all you can be” in your debtor’s bankruptcy case?

Before you say “yes,” serving on a creditors’ committee is an important decision. You should carefully weigh pros and cons of serving based on the facts surrounding your claim and your relationship with the debtor. Seek out a trusted bankruptcy attorney in your neck of the woods for advice.


  Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation. You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.