The Writ (and Wisdom) of Wage Garnishments

locked bankYour employee, Debbie Deadbeat, doesn’t pay her debts and gets slapped with a judgment. Before you know it, a process server comes to your office and serves you with a continuing writ of garnishment of Debbie’s salary and wages. First:  What is a Writ?  Second:  What should you do about it?

A Writ is essentially a command from the court.  In this case, a Writ of Garnishment is a command to withhold a portion of the employee’s pay to cover a debt the employee owes to someone else.  When you receive a writ of garnishment, you have 20 days for your lawyer to file a written response to the writ with the court that issued it. (Hopefully, you already have a process in place so that court documents get appropriate attention and don’t languish on someone’s desk.)

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You Want to Raise the Minimum Wage to WHAT?!?!

money happyA year ago, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price announced plans to raise the salary of every employee to $70,000 by 2017, even entry level staffers.  In order to help offset the increased labor costs, Price announced his intention to lower his own salary from $1,000,000+ to $70,000 (he apparently made around $2,000,000 in 2012).  Needless-to-say, Price achieved instant celebrity status and even graced the cover of Inc. magazine.  Some, on the right, labeled him a socialist. 

Insane, right?  (Do the math:  assuming a work-year totaling 2,080 hours, that is an hourly rate of $33.65.  Overtime amounts to just over $50.00 per hour!)  No way a company can survive if it overpays what the market demands by that amount of money, right?  This must have been a ploy.  Some doubted Price’s true motivations.  It seems that not long before Price’s seemingly mind-boggling announcement, his brother (who also appears to be his partner) sued Price alleging that Price’s personal compensation was excessive, and asked the court to force Price to buy out his minority interest in the company.  Price decided in advance of the trial to turn over company financials to USA TODAY so company performance would be within the public realm.  And the financials offer an interesting glimpse into how the raise has impacted company performance. 

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Top Takeaways from our 26th Annual Labor & Employment Law Seminar

header-01With over 400 attendees from more than 200 employers, our 26th Annual Labor & Employment Law Seminar was a huge success! Thank you for allowing us to keep you “on Track”.

For the first time this year, following our morning sessions, attendees were able to choose from our “high-speed” track designed for experienced HR professionals or our “Hop Aboard” track covering broader HR fundamentals.

Below are the top takeaways from each of our sessions.

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overtime 2Well, finally. This morning, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued its final rule, about two years and two months after President Obama directed the Department to update, streamline and modernize overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Department estimates that the compensation of more than four million workers will be impacted by the new rule, the majority of whom are between the ages of 25 and 54.  More than two-thirds of the affected workers have at least some college education. Most will be women.  And fully one-fourth work in California, Texas or Florida. 

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Payperless Paydays – Paycards: A Good Alternative To Direct Deposit?

creditcardsFor years, employers have looked for ways to implement a one-size-fits-all paperless (all electronic) pay system for paying employees’ wages.

While direct deposit is a good option, there are very few states that allow an employer to implement direct deposit if an employee does not agree. Florida is not one of those states. Even still, in the few states that do allow employer-required direct deposit (e.g., Indiana), federal law requires an employee be allowed to choose the financial institution receiving the funds and state laws impose other strict requirements.

Now that paycard offerings are becoming increasingly more available, can employers finally go fully paperless? Continue Reading

What You Need To Know About a New Federal Law To Protect Trade Secrets

trade secretAnd people say Congress and the White House can’t agree on anything. Last week, by a vote of 410-2, the US House of Representatives passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act.  The Act will become law.  It has already been unanimously approved by the Senate and President Obama has indicated he will sign it.

The new law will do several important things.

  • First, it allows the owners of trade secrets to sue in federal courts, thought to be far more suited than state courts to the expedited relief necessary when confidential and proprietary business information has been misappropriated.
  • Second, a controversial portion of the Act provides for civil seizure of property “necessary” to prevent the dissemination or propagation of a trade secret – even (in extraordinary circumstances) before a hearing is held or the accused party has a chance to respond.
  • Third, the Act permits individuals to make certain disclosures of trade secret information in anti-retaliation lawsuits.
  • Fourth, the Act immunizes an individual from criminal or civil liability for disclosing trade secrets to government officials, attorneys, or in litigation, in specific circumstances.
  • Finally, the Act requires employers to provide notice of that immunity in “any contract or agreement” with an employee, contractor or consultant that governs the use of trade secret or other confidential information,” or by cross-referencing to a policy document that sets forth the employer’s reporting policy for a suspected violation of law.

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FMLA Update: New Poster and Employer Guide

updateThe Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been busy with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) this week!

New FMLA Poster

There is a new FMLA General Notice, aka FMLA poster: Employee Rights Under The Family and Medical Leave Act. The substantive information about the FMLA is generally the same as the February 2013 poster (the one you currently have posted), but the poster has been redesigned and the DOL’s contact information for “additional information or to file a complaint” is printed in much larger type and highlighted with a green background.  The poster also includes a QR Code, which when scanned should take you to the DOL’s Wage & Hour Division home page.

The new poster is dated 04/16, so it is effective immediately. However, you do not have to immediately change the posters in your workplace because, per the DOL, the “February 2013 version of the FMLA poster is still good and can be used to fulfill the posting requirement.” (The DOL did not give any indication of when the February 2013 poster will expire.)  This is good news if you have the all-in-one posters or have printed employee handbooks which contain a copy of the poster as part of your FMLA policy.

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When You Really Have to Go, Do You Ever Think About It?

Transgender Status and the Bathroom Questionmaxresdefault

With North Carolina recently passing a state law which requires a transgender person to use the restroom that matches their sex at birth, the question many Floridians are asking now is: If a person is transgender, or has a gender identity or expression different than the one assigned at birth, which bathroom in Florida would he or she use?

There is currently no codified language in the federal statutes that directly addresses bathroom use in the context of transgender status.  Yesterday, however, a federal appeals court for the Fourth Circuit (which covers five states, including North Carolina) ruled on the issue pursuant to Title IX, which is the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools. The Court held that under Title IX, students have a protected right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their deeply felt gender identity, regardless of their gender assigned at birth.

In addition, some federal agencies, including the EEOC and OSHA, have taken the position that employees enjoy certain protections when it comes to bathroom use and their gender identity or expression, or transgender status.  Increasingly, states and municipalities are also enacting legislation addressing the “bathroom question.”  Florida state law is silent on transgender, gender identity and expression issues.  Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression, but no decisions have been issued regarding bathroom use.  While the law continues to evolve (and quickly), some employers have taken a proactive approach to gender identity and the “bathroom question.”

Let’s break it down.

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You Show me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine…Or Not!

poker cardsIf I were to challenge you to a game of high stakes poker, would you accept the challenge if you had to show me your cards but I did not have to show you mine? Of course not!  But, that’s exactly what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is asking employers to do.

Here’s the skinny . . . most employers respond to a charge of discrimination by submitting a position statement refuting the allegations and attaching copies of policies, personnel files, payroll records, comparative evidence, etc., and other confidential information to support their position. Previously, many EEOC field offices (including Miami) had not shown the employer’s position statement or exhibits to the employee/complainant (“Charging Party”). Rather, the EEOC provided verbal or written summaries of the employers’ side of the story.  Well, the rules have changed drastically.

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Florida Campaign Contribution Guidelines for Private Employers

campaign financeTired of hearing about the election yet? Well, the race has just begun and the dash for cash will only intensify as candidates sprint toward the August 30 primary election.

As an HR professional, it is important that you be familiar with Florida’s campaign contribution guidelines to ensure that your company is complying with the law. I recently wrote an alert outlining the main guidelines under Florida law and how they relate to your business and employees. Check it out!

Register here for our 26th Annual Labor & Employment Law Seminar from 8am-4pm on Friday, May 20, 2016 at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami.