Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Employment Law Bills Pending In The Florida Legislature

Since I've been writing about states that have pro-employee laws, and complaining about the lack of protections for employees in Florida law, I thought you'd like to hear about some legislation that has been filed in the Florida legislature for the upcoming session. Will any of it pass? Doubtful. Still, now might be a good time to contact your representatives and state senators to support some of these laws:

Intern Sexual Harassment: Rep. Joseph Geller has proposed a law expanding the Florida Civil Rights Act to include unpaid interns. Why? Because we currently have no laws in Florida prohibiting sexual harassment of interns. Who will come out in favor of sexual harassment of our teenagers? Stay tuned.

Florida Overtime Act: This proposed law revises the number of hours of labor that is a full legal day's work from 10 to 8; revises rates of overtime compensation; provides that commuting to and from certain locations is not part of a day's work; prohibits an employer from requiring employee to continue working after punching out; prohibits employers from paying an employee for less than the amount of contracted hours worked by the employee; and provides penalties for violations.

Fair Pay: The Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act would condemn gender-based pay disparity and have the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Florida Commission on Human Relations do research and disseminate information about unequal pay. No remedies for victims, but it could help prove that disparities exist and spread the word about what legal protections women have.

Minimum Wage: A law increasing the state's minimum wage to $10.10 probably doesn't have a snowball's chance.

Social Media Privacy: Right now, Florida employers can get away with demanding employee social media passwords. A law prohibiting this kind of invasion of privacy would make it illegal for employers to demand user names and passwords for personal social media accounts of employees and prospective employees.

Bullying: The Safe Environment Work Act would make employers liable for allowing an abusive work environment to exist. Will Florida join Tennessee in banning workplace bullies? Not likely.

Ban The Box: With this law, Florida would join the many states that ban employers from making prospective employees disclose their criminal history on an employment application. So far 13 states have passed ban-the-box laws.

LGBT Discrimination: One law that might pass, mainly because lots of Florida employers have come out in favor of it and it has bipartisan support, is the law proposing to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the categories of prohibited discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Although it isn't specifically related to employment law, there's yet another attempt to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida. The ERA was the first campaign I worked on when I moved here in 1981, and I thought it was a no-brainer. Here we are, 33 years later, with no ERA. Will it pass? No.

Monday, January 19, 2015

What I See In My Crystal Ball For Employment Law In 2015

So far I've been pretty prescient in my annual predictions, so better pay attention here. My predictions for what will happen on the employment law scene in 2015 are:

1. Intern sexual harassment: With Broward County moving to develop an ordinance to ban sexual harassment of interns, can Miami-Dade County be far behind? While I predict a bill will be introduced in the Florida legislature, Republicans in charge of both houses and the governorship will block it. Who can be in favor of sexual harassment of our teenagers? I'm guessing pretty much anyone who has an elephant as their symbol. On the national front, we'll see a move afoot in other states to pass a law similar to the ones passed in California, New York, Oregon and Illinois.

2. Micro-unions: As the NLRB flexes its muscles to ease union organizing, and big unions like AFL-CIO pushing organization of smaller units, the union movement will slowly start coming back swinging. Employees who realize they have been getting the short end of the stick will start organization efforts of smaller groups. Micro-unions will start popping up more this year.

3. Minimum wage: 2014 was a huge year for minimum wage increases, and employees will continue fighting for raises in 2015. It won't be as big a year for increases because it isn't an election year, but we'll see some more states and local governments raise the minimum wage to over $10/hour.

4. Obama as employee advocate: Now that he has nothing to lose, President Obama will continue to use executive orders to push for employee rights. He has just penned expansions to federal employee and federal contractor employees' minimum wage and medical leave, and to help immigrant-employees. He'll do everything he can with his pen to expand worker rights. His push to pass a paid sick leave law will fail. Members of Congress with elephantitis will do everything they can to make sure workers remain oppressed.

5. Gay marriage: Having reached the tipping point with a solid majority of states legalizing gay marriage, we'll continue to see marriage equality expand. This may not be the year for complete legalization, but it's all over but the shouting for pro-discrimination folks.

6. Marijuana: Legalized marijuana and medical marijuana will continue to expand. Employees who use marijuana for medical purposes will continue to get fired as employers fail to wake up to the fact that marijuana actually helps people and isn't as bad as, say, codeine or benadryl for workers on duty.

7. Republican roll-back: The President will have to exercise his veto pen lots this year, as Republicans try to roll back worker rights. Look for very excited Rs to try to roll back the Fair Labor Standards Act, National Labor Relations Act, ObamaCare, safety laws, discrimination laws, and pretty much every pro-employee law they can think of. They long for the days of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The President will promptly veto all such attempts, which will egg them on to even more extreme positions.

8. Noncompetes come into question: With Jimmy Johns and other minimum wage noncompete agreements coming to light, legislators are starting to wake up to the abuses that these agreements impose on employees. We'll start to see some antitrust investigations of the more extreme noncompete agreements. There will be another effort in Massachusetts to ban them, but it will likely fail as both parties cave to employer interests. This won't be the year states start banning or limiting them, but eyes will start to open.

9. Gridlock: Not difficult at all to predict will be that zero will actually happen on the national level. ENDA, Civil Rights Tax Fairness Act, FAMILY Act, and Arbitration Fairness Act are just some of the laws that will die a horrible death this year. It will be at least two years before anything at all can get done in the way of national legislation.

10. Ban the box: More states and local governments will ban employers from asking about arrests and convictions on applications, and will limit the use of convictions found in background checks to those that are actually relevant to the job sought.

That's all for this year's predictions. How do you think I will do? What are your predictions? Tell me about your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How I Did On My Employment Law Predictions For 2014

Last year I made predictions for what would happen in 2014. How did I do? Call me Cassandra again, because I did pretty well:

  1. Minimum Wage: I predicted that raising the minimum wage would be a hot political issue in 2014. Eleven states enacted minimum wage increases and so did several municipalities. At the beginning of 2015, 23 states saw minimum wage increases. Five states had ballot measures approved by voters. Plus now federal contractors have to pay a minimum wage of $10.10/hour.
  2. Legalize It: I predicted that legalized marijuana would spread to more states, and two more states, Oregon and Alaska legalized it. 23 states and DC have legalized medical marijuana, with Maryland, Minnesota and New York legalizing it in 2014. Florida's ballot measure failed (it got a majority but not the super-majority it needed).
  3. Health CareObamaCare kicked in and I predicted it would cause come confusion and some stupid employers to start dumping insurance and cutting people to part-time to avoid paying insurance, but that most of the stupid employer activity would be at the end of the year and into 2015. While some employers did cut hours and dump insurance, the number of employees involuntarily cut to part time actually dropped this year.
  4. Internships Cut: I predicted we'd see unpaid internships cut and see some attempts to put interns under the protection of discrimination and sexual harassment laws, but that Congress would not pass such a law. It's true - unpaid internships are going the way of the dodo bird. New York, Illinois and California passed laws against sexual harassment of interns.
  5. Failed Again: Attempts to pass anti-bullying laws and the Civil Rights Tax Fairness Act will fail just like they do every year. States tried and failed, and New Hampshire passed one that was vetoed, but only Tennessee has managed to pass an anti-bullying law. California passed a law requiring that employers train supervisors regarding abusive conduct.
  6. NLRB and EEOC Cut Off By Courts: I predicted NLRB and EEOC would continue to try to expand the protections employees have and that courts would continue to stop them, but that they would inch forward with some new progress for employees. NLRB did make progress, saying employees can use employer email to organize unions. EEOC fought for its life against big sanctions, but managed to press for LGBT rights.
  7. Lip Service: I predicted lip service to pro-employee laws for the midterms but that little or nothing would pass due to gridlock. Failures included theFAMILY ActArbitration Fairness Act, and ENDA
  8. Background Checks: I predicted that more states would ban or limit use of credit information in hiring but that federal efforts to do so would fail. I also predicted that more states will pass ban-the-box laws barring many inquiries about arrest and conviction records in job applications but that there was zero chance such a law will pass on the federal level this election year. No federal laws passed but Delaware passed a law prohibiting use of credit information in hiring decisions, making it the 11th state to limit or ban the use of credit information. Ban-the-box was a hot issue in 2014, with New Jersey, Illinois and DC adding themselves to the 13 states along with 67 cities and counties having passed these laws nationwide.
  9. Pregnancy Discrimination: I predicted the Florida Supreme Court would say that the  Florida Civil Rights Act covered pregnancy discrimination. It did.
  10. LGBT Protections: I predicted that states and local governments would continue to pass discrimination laws banning LGBT discrimination. In 2014, Virginia and Maryland passed anti-discrimination laws along with many municipalities and counties.
  11. Religious Discrimination: I predicted that right-wing religious groups would push the argument that religious discrimination laws allow them to speak out against gay rights in the workplace. They did, with some states and local government passing or introducing "religious freedom" laws that say it's okay to oppress LGBT citizens in the name of religion.
Next week I'll put in my predictions for 2015.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Federal Judge Says All Florida Clerks Have Duty To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

So, it's official. On Tuesday, January 6 at 12:01 a.m., gay marriage is legal in Florida (absent some intervention by the 11th Circuit or the Supremes). While Greenberg Traurig had previously advised the clerks not to issue the licenses, after the ruling by Judge Hinkle ruled that all Florida clerks have a duty under the Constitution to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

In a display of extreme douchebaggery and poor-loserdom, clerks in Duval, Baker, Clay, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties have decided to stop all marriage ceremonies in their offices, just so they don't get the gay cooties. That's right. They've decided to shirk their duty to all citizens of their counties because they don't like gay marriage. Boo-freaking-hoo. These guys go on my permanent Roll Of Shame, and their names will be on the wrong side of history, just like the idiots who tried to stop school integration in the 60s.

Some clerks have announced they will start issuing licenses at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. The clerks so far that have made such announcements include Broward and Osceola counties. Many other clerks have announced that they will comply with the order. I haven't heard of any who plan on outright refusing to issue the licenses, but stay tuned.

If you plan to get married on January 6 or 7, please take the 4 hour premarital course that is required, which you can do online or in person. There are quite a few online providers out there. Otherwise, you have a 3 day waiting period. For more on requirements for marriage licenses in Florida, check here and here. Your county clerk's website will also have information about the requirements and their hours. Please note that a license issued by any Florida clerk will let you marry anywhere in Florida, so if your clerk refuses, go to the next nearest county to get the license.

Why does it matter, employment law-wise? Well, it will affect Family And Medical Leave, pension, insurance, benefits, confidentiality, marital status discrimination, privilege, and tax filing status. Florida employers need to get on the phone or email their management-side employment lawyers ASAP to adjust policies and make sure they are in compliance with the laws.

Remember, employee-side lawyers like me are watching to make sure you obey the law and treat same-sex married couples with dignity.

Congratulations to everyone who is getting ready to tie the knot!