Guest post by Summer Associate Kristen Schalter

Football players took another hit in Tallahassee (pun intended) – this time in the workers’ compensation arena in the recent decision in Arena Football League v. Bishop, 2017 WL 2438335 (Fla. 1st DCA June 6, 2017). Bryon Bishop previously played for the Orlando Predators for one season and later wanted to rejoin the team. While participating in the Predators’ two-day tryouts in 2013, he suffered an on-field injury.

AFL Contract

Prior to participating in a tryout, a prospective Arena Football League (“AFL”) player is required to sign a contract.  Interestingly, the AFL contracts with players differently than the NFL. In the NFL, contracts are between individual teams and individual players, while in the AFL contracts are between the league itself and individual players.

Continue Reading AFL Player’s Workers’ Compensation Claim is Sacked by 1st DCA

Can you believe it’s been two months since we hosted the 25th Anniversary HR Law & Solutions seminar? Where does the time go?! Thank you so much to the nearly 400 people who attended – it was a record-breaking day! As usual, our Henderson Franklin team had a blast getting to catch up with so many familiar faces at what truly feels like a big family reunion. We loved seeing many new faces as well!

HR Law Room

We had a full day of speakers on various legal topics, a delicious lunch, and great networking opportunities. At the end of the day, we had a celebration for our 25th Anniversary that included cocktails and an AMAZING cupcake tower from our favorite chocolatier Norman Love Confections.

HR Law Cupcakes

Additionally, we inducted Nathalie Galvan, Lucille Ford (not pictured), Cindy Kelberer, Judy Marcucci, and Joanne Lashey in our HR Law & Solutions Hall of Fame (see photo, below). Additional photos from the day can be found on Henderson Franklin’s Facebook page.

HR Law HOF

Special thanks goes to our amazing major sponsors, Lykes Insurance and Gravity Benefits. Our seminar would not be the same without our long-standing partnership with Lunch Sponsor Lykes, and we were proud to welcome Gravity back for the second time, this year as our 25th Anniversary Celebration Sponsor. We look forward to partnering with both groups for years to come.

I also want thank EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg and plaintiff’s attorney Ben Yormak for braving the HR/employer-filled crowd to offer great advice and tips for employers to avoid ending up on the wrong side of a lawsuit! Kudos to the crowd for not peppering these “bad” guys with anything but great questions (I warned them to watch out for flying food!). Over the next several weeks here on the blog, I will be answering some of the pre-submitted questions we were not able to address on the panel. As always, if you have additional questions you’d like me to tackle in a blog post, feel free to reach out to me at any time.

On behalf of our entire employment law team, thank you all so much for making our 25th Anniversary so wonderful. It truly is such an incredible day, and one we all look forward to every year.  We couldn’t do it without your support year after year.  Now, here’s to the next 25!

Guest post by Michael McCabe, Esquire

It has now been almost one year since the Florida Supreme Court, in Castellanos v. Next Door Co., held that statutory fee limitations on what an injured worker’s attorney could be paid were unconstitutional. In response, the insurance industry has raised workers’ compensation rates by almost 15%. Florida employers and insurance companies now wait to see what, if anything, the Florida Legislature will do to address the situation.

Impact on Employers and Insurance Companies

As a workers’ compensation practitioner, representing only employers and their insurance companies, it is clear that the result of both Castellanos and the lesser known Miles v. City of Edgewater Police Department (a 2016 First District Court of Appeal case that held unconstitutional the workers’ compensation provisions prohibiting an injured worker from contracting independently with their attorney for a contingent fee) have certainly resulted in increased litigation and costs. While the prior fee limitations limited litigation and caused claimants’ attorneys to be selective as to which cases they chose to litigate, the current reality suggests that the opposite is occurring.

Proposed Legislation to Cap Attorneys’ Fees

With its prior attempts to limit the amount of fees that an employer or its insurance company would have to pay an injured worker’s attorney, first in 2008 and again in 2016, the Legislature’s challenge is to find more than a stop-gap solution to fees and resulting claims costs.

Two current proposed bills are currently being considered by the Florida Legislature. They both appear to involve Legislative Amendments to Chapter 440 that addresses recent Florida Supreme Court decisions and focus mainly on attorney’s fee provisions. House Bill 7085 includes amendments that propose a cap of $150.00 per hour on fees paid to claimants’ attorneys, while Senate Bill 1582 caps such fees at $250.00 per hour. This attorney’s concern is that amendments that focus mainly on only attorney fee provisions, and not substantive provisions of the Statute that lead to the payment of attorney’s fees, will be short-lived and not provide long-term relief for Employers and Insurance Companies.

Employers must keep in mind that they (and their insurance company) only have to pay for an injured employee’s attorney’s fees when a Judge of Compensation Claims finds that an employer/carrier improperly denied workers’ compensation benefits, or when an employer/carrier fails to provide due and owing benefits on an untimely basis. In all other instances, including when a claim is settled, the injured employee pays his own attorney’s fees. Therefore, the best medicine for employers and insurance companies is to use the tools available to them to make sure that claims are quickly and accurately investigated so that informed decisions can be made on which claims are compensable and valid, and which claims are not.

Move Forward Strategically

The Workers’ Compensation Defense attorneys at Henderson Franklin can help both employers and their insurance companies come up with strategies to effectively investigate claims and make informed decisions on which claims to contest, and which claims to accept. For those valid and compensable claims that are accepted, our attorneys can provide strategies and information which help employers and carriers limit claims costs.

For those cases spiraling out of control with ever-increasing medical costs, Henderson Franklin’s attorneys can help formulate a strategy to settle those claims at a fraction of what may be paid in the future (and with the employee paying for his attorney’s fees). There are many strategies that employers can apply, both before and after a work accident occurs, to reduce and control costs.

For insurance companies, we are available at a moment’s notice to provide recommendations on local physicians and to provide informed strategies on how a local claimant’s attorney will proceed with litigation. All of our Workers’ Compensation attorneys have over 13 years of experience. We welcome you to contact us with any questions or concerns. I can be reached at michael.mccabe@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1218.

Human resource keyboardMake plans now to attend the biggest employment law conference in Southwest Florida, HR Law & Solutions, now in its 25th year! Henderson Franklin’s Employment Law and Workers’ Compensation attorneys will return to Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers on Friday, March 10, 2017, for a fun-filled day of education. Click here to view the seminar brochure.

Topics and Speakers

8:30 – 9:45 a.m. Legislative and Case Law Update
Speakers:  Robert C. Shearman, Esquire and Vicki L. Sproat, Esquire
Bob and Vicki will provide an interactive update on notable court decisions, including cases addressing contentious employment policies and other noteworthy employee claims. Attendees will learn practical advice and tips for businesses to reach their goal of a compliant workplace under current laws and regulations.

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. The ADA – 25 Years Later
Speaker:  John F. Potanovic, Esquire
On March 5, 1992, Henderson Franklin sponsored its first “Employer’s Update,” where John spoke to a small gathering at the Royal Palm Yacht Club about a brand new law – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Much has evolved since then. 25 years later, the Henderson Franklin seminar is called “HR Law and Solutions” and has 300+ attendees each year; the Royal Palm Yacht Club is a Pinchers Crab Shack; and John no longer has need for a blow-dryer. In this session, John will discuss the more difficult issues confronting employers attempting to steer clear of ADA problems, and he will share best practices to assist in dealing with these challenging issues.

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. How to Avoid Costly Litigation in Workers’ Compensation
Speakers:  David Roos, Esquire, Michael McCabe, Esquire and Tania Ogden, Esquire
Henderson Franklin’s Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorneys will share strategic tips employers can implement to help avoid costly litigation. They will discuss best practices with regard to policies that should be in place before the injury, how to manage and set employees’ expectations when an injury occurs, employer do’s and don’ts, as well as return to work policies. David, Michael and Tania will also share the importance of communication between the employer, insurance company and defense attorney(s) to try and achieve the best outcome possible for the employer.

1:45  – 2:45 p.m. New Year, New Administration: What Does 2017 Hold for Employers?
Speakers:  Panel discussion moderated by Suzanne M. Boy, Esquire, with panelists Robert E. Weisberg, Esquire, Regional Attorney for U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Miami) and Benjamin Yormak, Esquire
There is little doubt in employer and HR circles that the ever-evolving nature of employment law can make management and prevention of problems difficult for even the most experienced leaders. After a 2016 that saw the Department of Labor roll out its huge new overtime changes mid-year, only to have implementation halted just weeks prior to the effective date, this has probably never been more true for 2017, when there is significant uncertainty surrounding what the new Administration will mean for employment laws. In this session attendees will have a unique look into what experts from all sides of the employment law world believe is on deck for 2017, including: potential changes to minimum wage and overtime laws, paid sick/maternity leave; the status of sexual orientation/gender identity protections; and, the ever-changing NLRB rulings. The panelists will also share their best tips to help employers stay in compliance and reduce exposure to the many employment claims prevalent today.

3:00 – 4:30 p.m. The Co-Workers’ Challenge
Guest Speaker Scotty Gunther
The Co-Workers’ Challenge is a quick paced, unique program that combines humor, motivational speaking, and leadership training. This session promotes teamwork, communication, and stress relief for HR professionals and other leaders through laughter. The Co-Workers’ Challenge provides participants various tools, strategies and tactics that they can use to help facilitate better communication, forge stronger working relationships among co-workers, and diffuse difficult or stressful situations more effectively.

4:30 – 5:30 p.m. 25th Anniversary Celebration
Please join us for a cocktail hour to celebrate our 25th Anniversary!

Continuing Education

This conference has been approved by SHRM for 5.75 PDCs and from HRCI for 6 Recertification Credit Hours (General).

Conference Partners

We are grateful for the support and sponsorship of Lykes Insurance (lunch sponsor) and of Gravity Benefits (our 25th Anniversary Celebration Sponsor), as well as our in-kind partners Charlotte County SHRM, SHRM SWFL, and HR Collier.

Registration

Registration is $50 per person and includes a continental breakfast, plated lunch, seminar materials and valet parking. To online register now, click here.

Join the discussion on social media using the #swflhrlaw hashtag.

We hope to see you soon! For group reservations or questions, please contact me at gail.lamarche@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1186.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked in the last few weeks:  is there any chance the new overtime rule will go away or at least be postponed to sometime after December 1?  Well, apparently the answer is…

YES!  Yes.  Yes.  The answer — much to my surprise — is YES, the overtime change is NOT happening December 1.

A federal court in Texas just entered a nationwide injunction, enjoining the Department of Labor’s Final Rule, which was set to make sweeping changes to the white collar exemptions beginning December 1.  Yes, nationwide.  Injunction.  December 1 change, done.  Gone.  If you want to read the opinion, click Nevada v DOL Injunction.

So what does this mean for employers?  For employees?  It means there is no change happening December 1.  For now, the salary level remains at $455/week, or $23,660/year.  Will it happen someday?  Who knows.  The likelihood of it happening under a Republican White House, Senate, and House is, in my opinion, quite slim (at least in its current form).  Once we have had a chance to digest the decision and its effects, we will be back with more information.

I’m not sure what to say right now other than WOW.

addict-1032371_1280Editor’s Note:  At the time of publishing, there was a typographical error in the title of “Wedding.” We apologize for any confusion.

Amendment 2 has passed – it’s no longer a pipedream (no more puns, I promise). So now what for employers? Will it gut employers’ drug-free workplace policies? Will employers be required to grant accommodations to prescription card carrying users (e.g. provide a location for such employees to light up during the work day?). Will employees be able to successfully sue employers who terminate them for failing a drug test due to a positive test for medical marijuana use? There are sure to be other questions and issues arise, some of which may take court cases to fully answer, but let’s take a look at what we know:

  • A Constitutional Amendment takes effect the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January. That would be an effective date of January 3, 2017;
  • The Florida Department of Health will then have six months to pass implementing regulations;
  • The Department must begin issuing patient and caregiver identification cards, and registering MMTC’s (Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers) a/k/a/ “dispensaries”, within nine months from that effective date.

While the infrastructure and implementing regulations are ramping up for the new law and the industry it will spawn, employers may be well served to use the time now to survey their approach to the law. Consider these facts:

  • The Amendment specifically states that it shall not require accommodation in a place of employment.
  • It specifically states that it does not purport to give immunity under federal law.

Why are these facts important?

Continue Reading Weeding Out Workplace Impacts of Medical Marijuana Legalization

Join Attorney Suzanne Boy on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at Pelican Preserve (in the Magnolia Room – Town Center) as she presents “Wage and Hour Compliance:  What the New Rule Really Means for Florida Employers.

Tackling wage and hour issues is one of the most challenging (and potentially costly!) legal issues faced by businesses today. Add on the Department of Labor’s new Final Rule on overtime, which includes a complete overhaul of the salary basis portion of the primary overtime exemptions, and even the most experienced business owner, HR professional, or manager may face compliance issues. Florida employers need to take steps now to prepare for and make decisions on how to incorporate the changes required by the Final Rule. In this detailed session, attendees will learn tips regarding a broad variety of wage and hour issues, along with key actions to implement now to prepare their businesses for the upcoming changes.

hrci_afc_preapprovedseal_2016_newThis course has been approved for 1.5 HRCI Re-certification Credits (General) and 2.0 SHRM PDC’s.

Cost is $25.00 per person and includes a buffet breakfast.

Registration and breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m.  The session will begin at 8:00 a.m. and conclude at 10:00 a.m.

Please click here to register.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at gail.lamarche@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1186.

Guest post by Michael McCabe, Esquirehurted hand and work injury claim form

Earlier today, the Florida Supreme Court rendered its opinion in the workers’ compensation case Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg. The Court held the 104 week limitation of Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) benefits in section 440.15(2)(a), Florida Statutes, to be in violation of an injured workers’ constitutional right to access to courts. The remedy reached by the court is to “revert” to a pre-1994 version of 440.15(2)(a), which provided payment of up to 260 weeks (5 years) of TTD benefits, before an injured worker reaches what is referred to as Statutory Maximum Medical Improvement (“MMI”).

Unique Case

While the impact of the Court’s opinion will be broad, the facts of Westphal were quite rare. An injured worker had been paid TTD benefits for 104 weeks, was still on an off-work status, and the workers’ compensation physician refused to release the claimant to return to work or place the claimant at MMI, until additional surgery was performed.

Continue Reading Breaking News: Florida Supreme Court Rules 104-week Limitation on Temporary Total Disability Payments Unconstitutional

Last week, the Defense of Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) was signed into law. The DTSA creates a federal legal scheme for the protection of trade secrets. Previously, protection of this form of intellectual property was solely a matter of state law, unlike patent, trademark and copyright, which have always been matters of federal law. The DTSA has a number of unique provisions, one of which immediately impacts employers who use confidentiality agreements with their employees. My colleague Mark Nieds and I offer the following summary of this new law.

Whistleblower Protection

Due to concerns over the impact that confidentiality agreements might have on employees who might otherwise report their employer’s wrongdoing to the government, an amendment was tacked on to the DTSA to provide civil and criminal immunity to whistleblowers under state and federal law for disclosing confidential or trade secret information to the government as part of whistleblowing activity.

Continue Reading Why Employers Need to Review Employment and Confidentiality Agreements in Light of the Newly-Enacted Defense of Trade Secrets Act

The moment we have all been waiting for (dreading?) has arrived — the Department of Labor issued its “Overtime” Final Rule.  The details are available on the DOL’s website, with the “official” Final Rule to be published in the Federal Regulations tomorrow.

As anyone who follows HR or employment law knows, this Final Rule has been highly anticipated — not to mention hotly debated — due to what is essentially a complete overhaul of the salary basis portion of executive, administrative, and professional overtime exemptions.  We now know:

  • The new minimum salary basis is $913/week or $47,476/annually.
  • The highly compensated employee salary basis jumps to $134,004/annually.
  • The salary basis will be “automatically” updated every three years, beginning January 1, 2020.
  • Employers may now use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments, including commissions, to satisfy up to 10 percent of the salary basis.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the effective date of the Final Rule is December 1, 2016.

To me, what stands out the most is the effective date — it gives employers much more time to adopt the new regulations than most people anticipated (some suspected it would be as few as 30 days).  So, that’s good news for the thousands of employers who will be impacted by these changes.  Also notable? The DOL did not make any changes to the duties test for any of the exemptions.

Once we have a chance to fully digest the Final Rule, we will be back with additional updates.   In the meantime, check out the DOL’s Questions and Answers section and Fact Sheet for additional information.  You can also comment on this post or email me directly if you have questions.  Stay tuned!