For years, Scott Dinin was one of South Florida’s most prolific filers of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cases. His run ended two years ago, when, after obtaining default judgments against two gas stations on behalf of his client, Alexander Johnson, Dinin submitted a request for attorneys’ fees whose billing entries caught the attention of Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
On April 7, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its long-awaited opinion in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., reversing a trial court’s decision against Winn-Dixie, holding that websites are not places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and that Winn-Dixie’s website does not violate 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
On February 1, 2021, in an unpublished opinion resolving a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) attorney’s fees dispute, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Batista v. South Florida Womans Health Associates, Inc., struck another blow against unreasonable plaintiffs’ counsel seeking “reasonable” fees.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
On December 31, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court rendered an opinion in In Re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.1510, No. SC20-1490, aligning Florida’s rules of civil procedure with the supermajority of U.S. states and formally adopting the federal standard for summary judgment motions.
Several states’ minimum wage rates will increase in 2021. The following chart lists the state (and certain major locality) minimum wage increases for 2021—and future years, if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
On October 14, 2020, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal granted a petition for a writ of certiorari quashing a trial court’s discovery order that had compelled an employer to produce “financial worth” discovery in an employment discrimination case. While the trial court retained broad discretion over the scope of discovery, the appellate court held that the employee lacked an evidentiary basis to substantiate the need for financial worth discovery.
On September 25, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis announced Florida’s entry into Phase 3 of its coronavirus pandemic reopening plan and issued Executive Order 20-244.
We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.
On June 26, 2020, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) issued Emergency Order 2020-09 suspending the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption at all businesses that “derive more than 50 [percent] of gross revenue from such sales.” The DBPR issued the order due in part to a spike in the number of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020, especially among younger people who may have been visiting bars, pubs, and nightclubs where alcohol is served and such establishments failing to comply with orders on occupancy restrictions.
COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to increase, particularly in the Tampa Bay area. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties have enacted ordinances requiring face coverings in most indoor settings where social distancing (of at least six feet between persons) cannot be maintained.
On April 29, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order (EO) No. 2020-112, outlining the first phase of a three-phase plan to lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen Florida following the state’s COVID-19 closures. Phase 1 begins the “path to re-opening Florida [to] promote business operation and economic recovery while maintaining focus on core safety principles.”
On April 27, 2020, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) released its Critical COVID-19 Guidance Standards for Hospitality Reopening. The FRLA, with input from its restaurant subject matter expert team, developed the guidance in order to safely and expediently reopen restaurants to combat the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With over 60 percent of Florida’s COVID-19 cases identified in southern Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis passed new measures in an effort to limit the continued spread of the virus. On March 30, 2020, Governor DeSantis passed Executive Order (EO) No. 2020-89, restricting public access in Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach and Broward Counties to businesses and facilities deemed non-essential. The March 30, 2020, order also prohibits counties from instituting curfews restricting travel to and from the essential establishments.
On March 17 and 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Orders 20-68 and 20-71, announcing unprecedented state-wide closures of bars and nightclubs, restaurants for on-site dining, and stand-alone gyms. Since then, additional counties and municipalities in Florida have enacted more stringent measures attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19.
On March 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a series of executive orders in response to the growing and evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Orders 2020-69 through 2020-72 expand the scope of Executive Order (EO) No. 2020-68, which limited the operation of bars, pubs, and nightclubs, as well as restricted gatherings at restaurants and beaches.
In 2015, the City of St. Petersburg, Florida, approved an ordinance prohibiting wage theft in the city. The Wage Theft Ordinance (WTO) “aims to eliminate the underpayment or nonpayment of wages” by giving private employees within the city’s limits an administrative process for seeking back wages, liquidated damages, and costs and attorney’s fees. Pinellas County maintains a similar, though not identical, wage theft ordinance.
In Allen v. Ambu-Stat, LLC, No. 18-10640 (January 16, 2020), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a Georgia district court’s dismissal of a former employee’s sexual harassment claim and delivered a strong rebuke to a plaintiff seeking to temporarily enjoin the district court’s use of summary judgment in Title VII claims. The decision may provide guidance for employers as to what behavior constitutes pervasive harassment in the workplace.
Florida’s 2020 legislative session convened today in Tallahassee. This session will be one to watch, as over 20 workplace-related bills have already been filed, covering such topics as discrimination and retaliation, minimum wage and overtime pay, pre-employment verification and background screening, reemployment assistance, tax credits and refunds, job relocation, job protections for medical marijuana users, paid family leave, and heat illness prevention.
In 2020, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase. The following chart lists the states’ (and certain major localities’) minimum wage increases for 2020—and future years if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees. The federal minimum wage will remain at $7.25 per
On November 22, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the court with jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, handed down a decision that invalidates certain provisions in arbitration agreements in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) wage and hour cases.
The Florida Minimum Wage Act, which applies to all employees in Florida covered by the federal minimum wage, requires the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity to calculate a new minimum wage rate each year on September 30. The wage rate is based on the percentage increase in the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers in the South Region for the 12-month period prior to September 1. Florida’s minimum wage is currently $8.46 per hour. According to state government officials, beginning January 1, 2020, Florida’s minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $8.56 per hour, which is a $0.10, or 1.12 percent increase, due to the change in the CPI.
The Florida legislature recently amended the “Indoor Air: Tobacco Smoke” Act, §386.202 of the Florida Statutes, to restrict indoor vaping in addition to tobacco smoking in enclosed spaces. The amended act is now known as the “Indoor Air: Smoking and Vaping” Act. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2019.
The Florida Legislature concluded its annual legislative session on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Over 20 employment-related bills were introduced, covering subjects such as E-Verify, criminal background screening, discrimination and harassment, sexual misconduct reporting in health care, local regulation of employment conditions, minimum wage, vaping, paid leave, internship tax credits, restraints of trade or commerce (noncompete agreements), drug-free workplaces, and unemployment compensation claims. Although only two of these bills survived, many of the bills that did not pass could resurface and impact employers in the near future.
On March 21, 2019, finding in favor of an employer seeking summary judgment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Lewis v. City of Union City, clarified the definition of “similarly situated” comparators for claims of intentional discrimination, jettisoning the commonly cited “nearly identical” and “same or similar” standards in favor of a test asking whether comparators are “similarly situated in all material respects.”
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.
The Florida Minimum Wage Act, which applies to all employees in Florida covered by the federal minimum wage, requires the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity to calculate a new minimum wage rate each year on September 30.