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.

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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.

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.

Following other efforts across the country to raise minimum wage above the Federal requirement, a Florida senator is now proposing a $15 minimum wage here in Florida.

Florida already has a statute that mandates a minimum wage higher than the Federal requirement.  Currently, as of January 1, 2015, Florida’s minimum wage is $8.05 for regular employees and $5.03 for tipped employees.

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Dori K. Stibolt is an attorney 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, ’tis the season for holiday parties, Christmas cheer and time for Florida employers to pay attention to the new 2014 Florida minimum wage.  As of January 1, 2014, Florida’s minimum wage will rise from the current rate of $7.79 per hour to $7.93 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 2014 is $7.93 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, $7.93, minus the tip credit for Florida, $3.02, or a direct hourly wage of $4.91.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a senior associate 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.

 

Paid Sick Leave Ballot Initiative – Orange Co., Fla.

Recently in the Orlando, Florida area, a coalition of groups backed a 2012 ballot referendum in Orange County, Florida that would have provided that all employees of businesses with more than fifteen (15) employees the right to paid sick leave.

The proposed ordinance, which was to be voted up or down by Orange County, Florida voters, would provide that employees could earn paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours worked. Paid sick leave would be capped at 56 hours per year, but would carry over from year to year.  However, an employee would not be permitted to take more than 56 hours per year in paid sick leave.  Additionally, there would be no right to “cash out” the earned sick leave.

Small businesses, those with less than fifteen (15) employees would not be required to provide paid sick leave, but the ballot initiative did provide that employees of these small business with the right to take up to 56 hours of unpaid leave without retaliation.

The Orange County, Florida area was targeted for this intiative due to the high numbers of low wage and part time employees that work in the many businesses that cater to the Orlando tourism industry.

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Fight Over Ballot Measure

In September 2012, the Orange County commissioners voted that the ballot initiative could not appear on the November 2012 ballot because the proposed language was unclear and outside counsel would be required to edit the language before it could appear on the ballot.

Thereafter, a three-judge panel, in February 2013, ordered Orange County to put the earned sick leave referendum on the next ballot, ruling that the commission’s decision to keep it from voters on the November 6 ballot violated the “plain meaning of its charter.”

Governor Scott Issues a Preemptive Strike

On June 14, 2013, in response to the Orange County, Florida ballot initiative and similar efforts in Miami-Dade County, Gov. Scott signed House Bill 655 which prohibits political subdivisions from mandating an employer to provide any particular benefits, including, but not limited to paid sick leave.  Additionally, HB 655 prohibits political subdivisions from requiring employers to provide any “employee benefit” which is defined as anything of value that an employee may receive in addition to wages or salary.  And such benefits include, but are not limited to, health benefits; disability benefits; death benefits; group accidental death and dismemberment benefits; paid or unpaid days off for holidays, vacation, and personal necessity; retirement benefits; and profit-sharing benefits.

A Heart Two Sizes Too Small

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An estimated 40% of employees, primarily low wage employees, do not have paid sick leave benefits or paid time off. Paid sick leave is especially crucial for working mothers and fathers who may need to take time off to care for sick children. MomsRising, a grass roots organization focused on issues conerning moms and families, has targeted Gov. Scott on this issue with personal stories about balancing caring for sick kids and losing wages to do so.

Accordingly, in an effort to avoid the appearance of heartlessness, the bill includes a provision to set up an eleven (11) member task force to analyze employee benefits and the state’s preemption.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a senior associate 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.

As of January 1, 2013, Florida’s minimum wage will rise from the current rate of $7.67 per hour to $7.79 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 is $7.79 per hour.

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, $7.79, minus the tip credit for Florida, $3.02, or a direct hourly wage of $4.77.

Florida law requires employers who must pay their employees the Florida minimum wage to post a minimum wage notice in a conspicuous and accessible place in each establishment where these employees work. This poster requirement is in addition to the federal requirement to post a notice of the federal minimum wage. Florida’s minimum wage poster is available for downloading in English and Spanish from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a senior associate 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.