Photo of Gail Lamarche

Gail is responsible for Henderson Franklin's marketing efforts, including advertising, branding, business and client development initiatives, budget planning, events, newsletters, press releases, seminars and sponsorships. She incorporates social media into legal marketing initiatives and assisted in the launch of the firm's three blogs, Southwest Florida Employment Law Blog and The Legal Scoop on Southwest Florida Real Estate and The Florida Immigration Law Blog. Gail also guest blogs and speaks on the use of social media in professional services.

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

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.

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

Guest post by Workers’ Compensation Attorney Michael McCabe:

On April 28, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court entered its long-awaited decision in the case of Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Company, et al. The Court held that the statutory limitations on Workers’ Compensation attorney’s fees created by the Florida Legislature violated the Due Process clause of both the Florida and United States Constitutions. Rather than a limited fee based on a percentage of the benefits actually secured, attorneys representing injured workers may now be awarded an hourly fee for time and effort reasonably spent litigating Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Out with the Old (Formula)

In 2009, the Florida Legislature amended Florida Statutes Section 440.34 to create an irrebuttable presumption that only allowed a judge to award a statutory guideline fee in a Workers’ Compensation case, instead of giving a judge the discretion to award either the statutory guideline fee or an hourly fee. This “guideline” resulted in the following formula that limited the amount an injured worker’s attorney could be paid to:

  • a fee based on 20% of the first $5,000 of the amount of benefits secured by the attorney;
  • 15% of the next $5,000.00 of the amount of benefits secured;
  • 10% of the remaining amount of benefits secured to be provided during the first 10 years after the date the claim is filed; and,
  • 5% of the benefits secured after 10 years.

In Castellanos, this statutory formula resulted in an attorney’s fee of $822.70, despite the fact the worker’s attorney reasonably spent 107.2 hours litigating a complex case to secure benefits for his client. This made the effective rate for the attorney $1.53 per hour. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed the result, noting it was constrained to abide by the statutory formula, but it certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court.

In considering the constitutionality of the statutory attorney fee limitation, the Florida Supreme Court addressed:

  1. whether the Legislature “was reasonably aroused by the possibility of an abuse which it legitimately desired to avoid;”
  2. whether there was a reasonable basis for a conclusion that the statute would protect against the abuse’s occurrence; and
  3. whether the expense and other difficulties of individual determinations on attorneys’ fees “justify the inherent imprecision of a conclusive presumption against an award of fees to an injured worker’s attorney,” that would not be limited to the statutory formula.

Analysis of the Decision

Continue Reading Florida Supreme Court Finds Limitations on Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s Fees Unconstitutional

10-12-2015 3-48-06 PMWhether you have 10 or 10,000 employees, running a business can be a challenge. Making decisions based on strategic reasoning is critical to the success and longevity of any company. How can members of the c-suite, as well as the small business owner, gain helpful insight into the boardroom and, at the same time, try and avoid the courtroom?

We cordially invite you and your top-level managers to join members of Henderson Franklin’s legal team on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 as they present the Southwest Florida C-Suite Summit at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa. Topics and speakers include:

The Recipe for Business Longevity presented by Attorneys Guy Whitesman (Chair, Business and Tax Department), Eric Gurgold (Chair, Estate Planning and Administration Department) and Mark Nieds (Intellectual Property Group). They will outline proven techniques and best practices to preserve, protect, and perpetuate your business. One size does not fit all. The panel will explore avenues to successful business perpetuation, liquidity events and the preservation of wealth.

The Comeback Kid: Southwest Florida’s Ongoing Economic Recovery. Attorneys Denis Noah (Chairman of the Horizon Council) and Russell Schropp (Horizon Council Task Force Chair) will provide a look at the state of Southwest Florida’s economic recovery – from a lawyer’s perspective! Continue Reading Registration is Open — Southwest Florida C-Suite Summit

radical color copyWe are excited to announce that Suzanne Boy will be presenting at the Florida Law Alliance Employment Law Conference, taking place on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at the law offices of Hill, Ward & Henderson in Tampa, Florida. Henderson Franklin is a member of the Florida Law Alliance, a group of six independent law firms practicing throughout Florida. The firms have combined their knowledge, efforts, and resources to increase efficiency, lower costs, expand the scope and improve the quality of legal services each firm provides to its own clients.

Topics and Speakers

Avoiding and Defending Wage and Hour Class and Collective Actions presented by Attorney Craig Salner from the Clarke Silverglate firm in Miami. Employers know that the only lawsuit you win is the one that never gets filed. In the case of wage and hour litigation, this is particularly true of collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and class actions under State law counterparts. This presentation will focus ways to defend class and collective actions or better yet, avoid them altogether. Continue Reading LGBT, Social Media and EEOC Charges to be addressed at Fall Employment Law Conference

Boy low resAddiction is one of the most prevalent and costly issues affecting businesses today. Yet the strategies employed by most human resource professionals have changed very little since the Drug Free Workplace Act was signed into law in 1988. Human resource professionals will have an opportunity to hear from national and local experts who will deliver cutting-edge information and practical tools to address this significant problem.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, SHRM SWFL and the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce will present “New Strategy and Tactics for HR Professionals to Address the Largest Threat to Workplace Health” on August 11, 2015 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Florida Gulf Coast University in Edwards Hall 112 in Fort Myers. Patrick Nolan, anchor and journalist from WFTX-TV, will provide opening remarks and introductions. Cost for the full day is $25 and includes breakfast and lunch. Attendees will receive up to eight certification credits through HRCI and SHRM and a newly released research update will also be distributed to the attendees upon completion of the program.

Speakers and Topics: Continue Reading Suzanne Boy to present at Southwest Florida Symposium on Addiction in the Workplace

hurted hand and work injury claim formAttorneys David Roos and Michael McCabe met with several attendees at the HR Law & Solutions seminar last month, in a question and answer session to address specific issues from a workers’ compensation perspective. A major focus of the questions centered around the extent to which HR policies, practices, and procedures would be affected by a pending workers’ compensation claim. Questions also addressed how much control an HR manager or employer has over issues that would normally result in disciplinary actions, including termination.

Have Consistent Policies and Procedures

David and Mike explained that an employer retains the same level of control over employee conduct regardless of a pending workers’ compensation claim, and that an employer could exert that control through consistent implementation of HR practices and procedures. According to David and Mike, this would eliminate potentially expensive employment law actions such as retaliatory discharge. HR professionals need to maintain the same practices and procedures that apply to all employees, and need to keep in close contact with their insurance company adjuster and defense attorney (if one has been retained) to make sure that the employer is aware of how an HR decision affects the pending workers’ compensation claim. Understanding how HR decisions, such as termination, affect the underlying injury claim allows the employer to understand how those decisions will increase (or decrease) the costs of a workers’ compensation claim – and ultimately future insurance premium increases.

When Does Termination Affect Workers’ Compensation Benefits? Continue Reading Workers’ Compensation Update – 2015 HR Law & Solutions