E-Verify Operations Resume – Guidance from Department of Homeland Security

With Friday’s agreement to re-open government operations, at least temporarily, E-Verify is once again operational. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided the following guidance to employers who participate in the E-Verify program.

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Gambling at Work: Everybody Out of the (Office) Pool

With Super Bowl LIII this Sunday and March Madness fast approaching, it is important to consider the impact of office pools on the workplace.

Office pools can build workplace morale and improve employee relationships, not to mention add a little fun to the typical workday. Yet they remain illegal in many states, including Florida.  In a recent article that I wrote for the Daily Business Review, I outlined the practical and legal risks employers should consider before implementing policies towards office pools.

You can view the article here.

*Special thanks to Thomas Raine, who assisted in the drafting of this post. Thomas is a third year Juris Doctor Candidate at the University of Miami School of Law.

Don’t Be Snake Bit. Make Sure the COBRA Notices You Use Are Correct.

Using a vendor for your COBRA compliance does not mean you are safe from claims. The employer bears ultimate responsibility for complying with COBRA. It appears that Pepsico and Lockheed may be about to learn this lesson.  Both were sued recently in Hillsborough County for failure to send proper COBRA election notices after employees terminated employment. In both cases, the COBRA notices at issue appear to be from a third party COBRA administrator. The plaintiffs allege that the COBRA notices did not contain all of the items required under the COBRA notice regulations such as the address for mailing payments, the name of the plan administrator, and when the COBRA coverage would terminate.

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Our group is growing again – Tallahassee here we come!

We are pleased to welcome Melanie Leitman to our Labor & Employment Law group. We look forward to Melanie being a part of the continued expansion of our Labor & Employment practice throughout the State. Our Labor and Employment attorneys have established a solid reputation in South and Central Florida for nearly four decades. In 2017, we expanded our Central Florida footprint with the addition of Janet McEnery and Andy McLaughlin to our Tampa office. We are excited to extend our services to clients in the Tallahassee market and throughout North Florida.

Melanie’s practice includes employment defense litigation and Human Resources compliance, consultation, and training. She has experience representing management-side clients in various employment-related claims, including Chapter 760, Title VII, ADA, FMLA, FLSA, whistleblower retaliation claims, drafting and enforcement/defense of covenants prohibiting competition, and constitutional claims arising out of employment disputes. She has represented clients in pre-claim consultation, EEOC/FCHR position statements and investigations, state/federal court litigation, and appellate disposition thereof. Read her full bio here.

Stay tuned for details regarding upcoming seminars in your area and join us in welcoming our newest member to the Stearns Weaver Miller family!

E-Verify a Victim of Partial Government Shutdown

One of the casualties of the partial government shutdown is the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program. Employers that participate in E-Verify verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9 against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

While E-Verify is unavailable, employers will not be able to access their E-Verify accounts to: create an E-Verify case; view or take action on any case; add, delete or edit any user account; reset passwords; edit company information; terminate accounts; or run reports. Employees will also be unable to resolve E-Verify Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs). Continue Reading

Dave & Buster’s Settlement – Busted! But Not So Fast….

The Dave & Buster’s restaurant chain recently settled a class action lawsuit claiming it violated ERISA’s “discrimination” rules by reducing hours of various employees to cause them to lose eligibility for the company’s group health plan. After over three years of litigation in the Southern District of New York and suffering some procedural losses along the way, Dave & Buster’s agreed to settle the matter for $7.425 million.  After attorneys’ fees and costs, we estimate the employees will receive about $2,100 each.

Dave & Buster’s took the action in response to the “employer mandate” provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which require large employers to offer compliant and affordable group health coverage to full-time employees, generally defined as those working an average of at least 30 hours each week, in order to avoid potentially substantial tax penalties. The saga took a long time to play out.  The law passed in March 2010.  Dave & Buster’s started reducing employees’ hours in mid-2013. The lead plaintiff worked a reduced shift and lost eligibility for group health insurance in March 2014.  She filed suit in May 2015.  The court approved the settlement in December 2018.  The class members have to be notified, the plaintiffs’ attorneys will seek their fees and the court is expected to approve everything once and for all in mid-May 2019.  After that, class members will be paid, likely well into late-2019. Continue Reading

Performance evaluations are… coming to town?

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice… performance evaluations are…” Coming to town? Indeed. The end of year is not only holiday season, but also the time of year when a number of employers complete performance evaluations of their employees.

Just like gift giving, the evaluation process is time consuming and for many, about as much fun as a trip to the mall on Black Friday. However, evaluations—if done right—are essential to companies in various ways such as identifying and logging an employee’s performance, advising an employee on goals for the coming year, or even serving as key evidence in a company’s defense of a legal claim brought by a terminated employee. Continue Reading

Happy Holidays from Stearns Weaver Miller’s Labor & Employment Department

Thank you for being a subscriber. We hope that BeLabor the Point has brought you important information throughout the year and a few smiles along the way. Speaking of smiles, check out our department holiday card!

Wishing you a joyous holiday season and happy, healthy year ahead.

Tips For Having a (Hopefully) Happy Office Holiday Party

With the New Year right around the corner, office holiday parties are in full swing. While many enjoy celebrating the season, these festivities can sometimes turn into an HR disaster. To help ensure your celebrations are jolly, check out my tips on planning a fun, festive and inclusive holiday party here.

Wishing you all a safe, happy and healthy holiday season without any HR “Undue Hardships!”

Employing Workers with Student Debt? Bipartisan Bill Could Help.

$1.5 Trillion-that is with a T.  That is the amount of student debt currently owed by more than 40 million Americans, about 70% of whom are college graduates.  One in ten borrowers are at least 90 days delinquent on their loans.  No wonder economists and others believe it may be the next big bubble to burst.

With this in mind, members of Congress recently proposed a new bipartisan bill that would allow employers to pay down thousands of dollars a year tax-free toward employees’ student loan debt. Modeled after 401k retirement savings plans, the bill permits as much as $10,000 per year in tax-free contributions towards employees’ student loan debt. If the bill passes, it might be a first step toward alleviating a major obstacle for college graduates. Continue Reading