Category Archives: Labor & Employment

ASU CARES – Reading to the Kids – A Great Way to Give Back and to be Inspired


Arizona State University alumni volunteers pictured, in back row from Right to Left: Stephanie Silverman House, of Goodman Jewish Family Services; Eric N. Assouline, Esq., of Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.; Gregory Haile, Esq., General Counsel and Vice President of Public Affairs, at Broward College; and, Chae Haile, President and Grant Writer at Funded

On Friday, March 2, 2018, Litigation Partner Eric Assouline, of Assouline & Berlowe, through his alumni’s program ASU Cares, and Arizona State University, had the great pleasure of reading Dr. Seuss books to a kindergarten class at Jack & Jill Children’s Center, in Fort Lauderdale.

I have driven past Jack & Jill for years and never knew about the magic that is going on inside.

To start, every Friday, the first thing that the kids do is of course, say the pledge of allegiance.  Very nice.  Then, God Bless America.  Very nice.  I like that.

Then, the fun starts, time to turn up the music and start DANCING!!!

Dancing at Jack & Jill

What a better way to start off a Friday, than dancing!  It puts everyone in such a great mood!

Then the four volunteers from Arizona State University each started reading Dr. Seuss books to the kids.  The kids seemed to really like having guests in their classrooms reading to them.  It is was so nice to be around all these beautiful children.  Being surrounded by innocence reminds us how precious our children are, especially at this fragile time in our Broward County community still reeling from recent tragic events.


Eric N. Assouline reading “Oh the Places You’ll Go” and getting a good laugh at the line “Scare you Right out of Your Pants!”

We all took a tour of the facilities and saw their playground, vegetable garden (that they use to make meals at the facility), and parent media center to help parents continue to improve their financial positions.

What an eye opening experience.  It was a truly great way to start the end of the week.

Thank you Arizona State University Alumni Association for making this happen, Jack & Jill Children’s Center for inviting us into your wonderful and impactful facility, and Happy 114th Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Eric N. Assouline, Esq.

Litigation Partner


213 East Sheridan Street, Suite 3

Dania Beach, Florida  33004

Main: 954.929.1899

Fax: 954.922.6662

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Employment Law 101: Critical Issues to Know

Assouline Berlowe Employment

Whether you are an employer or an employee, you form a part of the workforce. Therefore, you should understand some laws and rules applicable to different employment situations.

First, as an employee without an employment contract, you should know that you can be fired for any reason at all, so long as the reason is not discriminatory or retaliatory. Discrimination does not mean you were simply treated unfairly, or differently than others. A discrimination claim arises if you were treated differently because of your age, race, sex, disability, national origin, or other protected class.  In short, you cannot be fired simply because you are older, African-American, a woman, or disabled. However, you can be fired if your boss believes you are performing poorly, even if you disagree.

You also cannot be fired for retaliation, which occurs when you suffer an adverse employment action – such as termination, demotion, suspension, etc. – as a result of complaining about a violation of the law. Therefore, if you complain about something that is not a violation of the law and you are fired, you are not protected. If you complain about your boss being rude, you can be fired; but if you complain your boss is stealing money, that could rise to retaliation. Unless you have been discriminated or retaliated against, you do not have a claim for “wrongful termination” and, in fact, there is really no such thing as wrongful termination because Florida is an at-will state. You can quit or be fired for any reason or no reason at all.

Furthermore, if you are fired, you do not have to be given a letter of termination, you do not have to be given an explanation, and you are not entitled to severance. You may be entitled to unemployment compensation unless you have committed “misconduct connected with your work.” This is a fairly high standard; but some actions that are considered misconduct include excessive absenteeism, insubordination, not following employer’s rules, etc.

Also, if you quit your job because you are working for a jerk who treats you badly, you cannot claim you were harassed and think you will prevail in a lawsuit. Harassment has to be based on you being a protected status (age, race, gender, national origin), so being berated or treated badly is not harassment; and if you quit – unless you are forced to do so because your employer has made your life miserable – you cannot collect unemployment.

Now, let’s turn to employers. Employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must comply with the overtime, minimum wage and child labor laws. Non-exempt employees must be paid overtime and must keep track of all hours worked per week. But what does this mean – exempt or non-exempt from what? An exempt employee is not entitled to be paid overtime, such as a partner at a law firm. Conversely, a non-exempt employee, like a paralegal, must be paid for working over 40 hours in a work week.

So how do you know if your employee is exempt? Well, this will depend on what the employee does, not their title. For example, if you employ an “office manager” who does not actually manage people or have the ability to exercise independent judgement and discretion, that person may not be exempt. Also, keep in mind that paying an employee a salary does not mean that the employee is non-exempt or not entitled to overtime. Non-exempt employees must be paid overtime regardless of the fact that they are paid a salary or not.

Many employers believe that their business does not have enough employees to be covered by the FLSA, but this could not be further from the truth. The FLSA does not contain a “minimum number of employees” requirement. However, the act does require gross revenues of $500,000 and the element of interstate commerce. Therefore, except for very small businesses and those specifically exempted from the FLSA, your business may well be subject to the FLSA’s requirements.

Many private employers also believe that they can ask an employee to waive their right to be paid overtime and that the employee can agree to do so. This is wrong. The right to overtime cannot be waived under any circumstances. A non-exempt employee MUST be paid for all hours worked and, if that employee works over 40 hours in a work week, she must be paid overtime. Remember that the hours worked are measured per week; so if your payroll covers two weeks and the employee works 50 hours in week one and 30 hours in week two, that employee must be paid for 10 hours of overtime for week one.

Finally, a word about independent contractors. Whether you have been hired as an independent contractor or whether you have hired someone to work with you as an independent contractor, you must be certain that a contractor relationship – not an employment relationship – has been established. The key to the inquiry is control. Actually, the IRS has a list of 20 factors which determine if a person should be classified as an independent contractor or an employee, but the level of control is the overriding concern. The reason why it is important to distinguish one from another is that the laws apply differently to independent contractors than to employees.

For example, for independent contractors, no taxes are deducted, the FLSA overtime rules do not apply, discrimination and harassment laws generally are not applicable, and there is no unemployment compensation. If you are hired for a job as an independent contractor or if you hire someone to work for you as one, be certain that a true independent contractor relationship is in place. If you get it wrong, there can be significant tax and wage implications. Make sure you have an independent contractor agreement in place to define duties and pay and define the relationship. Though this may not control, it will help. And, of course, if you have any questions or find yourself in need of advice regarding these topics, please contact a labor and employment attorney.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Ellen is a Florida Board Certified Labor and Employment Attorney with Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.


1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main: (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466


Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, International Dispute Resolution, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, Real Estate, and Corporate Law

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton


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EMPLOYERS: New Tax Law Makes CONFIDENTIAL Sexual Harassment Settlements NOT DEDUCTIBLE


The new tax law disallows tax-paying entities from taking a deduction for sexual harassment settlements that are subject to non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements.  In other words, if a company wants a confidential settlement, the company has to pay taxes on the settlement, fines and other expenses incurred.  Conversely, the only way such settlements can be written off and not taxed is if they are not confidential and, therefore, discoverable.

The relevant portion of the new law reads as follows:

No deduction shall be allowed under this chapter for – (1) any settlement or payment related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse if such settlement or payment is subject to a nondisclosure agreement, or (2) attorney’s fees related to such settlement or payment.

Under the law as written, no taxpayer (neither the complaining party nor the respondent) can write off the settlement reached in a sexual harassment case if the settlement is confidential.  Previously, the party sued (employer) could write off the settlement amount regardless of the confidential nature of same.  Now, the party paying the settlement cannot deduct the settlement if confidentiality is required.

The idea behind the change was that companies should not be able to keep a settlement confidential (perpetrating a culture where claims of sexual harassment are quietly settled and swept under the rug) and benefit from a tax deduction.  Still, the reality is that most companies will forego the deduction to ensure confidentiality.  Employers are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of employment law and tax counsel to properly document such settlements.

As an aside, note that settlements of claims against members of Congress will not be subject to this provision since the US government is not a taxpayer.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.  Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!

Ellen is a Florida Board Certified Labor and Employment Attorney with Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.


1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main: (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466


Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, International Dispute Resolution, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, Real Estate, and Corporate Law

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton


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When You Go to Court, all that Matters is “THE LAW” (and Reality)


Clients often ask attorneys, “what are my chances of winning?”  It sounds like a reasonable question.  But what clients do not seem to understand is that there is “the law” and there is “reality.”  All a good lawyer can tell you is: here is what I think is good about your case and here is what I see as the weaknesses, and here is the law “as I see it”.   Huh?

I was preparing for a hearing in Broward Circuit Court, on an Order to Show Cause why the other party’s entire case against my client and several others should not be dismissed.  I had case law precedent from both the Supreme Court of Florida and the District Court that binds the Judge hearing the case to support my client’s position.  I provided a copy of these cases to opposing counsel as we waited for our turn.

Before our case was heard, opposing counsel came over to me and advised that he agreed to dismiss my client as defendant from the case (leaving other defendants still in the case).  I thought this was great news, because the client would be very happy.

I still had to wait my turn for the hearing, because I wanted to make sure that the Judge’s order clearly reflected that my client was now out of the case.

I waited and waited and then I heard the calendar begin on the next round of hearings.  I asked the Clerk what happened since my case from the earlier round had still not been called.  The Clerk advised that I should notify the Judge that my case was not yet called.  the Judge asked me for the name of the case and I told him.  The Judge then blurted out “I find that cause was shown why the case should not be dismissed.”  As I said, luckily, opposing counsel and I had already agreed that my client was being dismissed from the case.  Opposing counsel so notified the Judge and he was ok with the dismissal of my client.

But what would have happened if we did not work it out?  What would have happened if I did not give opposing counsel a copy of the cases that supported our position?  Instead of going into the hearing with “the law on my side”, I would be going into this hearing with a Judge who had already made up his mind.  Perhaps I could have changed the Judge’s mind.  But I cannot count on that.

Instead, my client would be stuck in this case for who knows how long.  Could we appeal the Judge’s finding of cause to not dismiss the case, maybe.  Courts of appeal do not let you appeal every ruling as soon as it is made.  We could try, but it is likely it would not be heard until the case is over.

Maybe we would win the case in the end.  But maybe not.  And, if we did not win, could we appeal and argue that that the plaintiff’s case should have been dismissed at the Order to Show stage.  Probably.  Would we get the entire proceeding thrown out for failing to follow the correct procedure, maybe.

So many “maybes”.  Hmmm.  Sounds like there is “the law” and there is “reality”. 

Eric N. Assouline, Esq., Litigation Partner, Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.


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Attorneys: Thanks-for-Giving Back to the Community

Legal Aid Picture of Litigation Attorney Eric N. Assouline

Happy Birthday Eric N. Assouline, and thank you for your Pro Bono work at the Legal Aid Service of Broward County!

At a time when the front page article of the Daily Business Review is reporting on an $18M legal fee being imposed upon a public company for unnecessarily fighting about every legal issue in a drawn out commercial dispute, and lead counsel’s normal hourly rate of $1,200 an hour being cut down to $675 an hour by a Federal Magistrate to be more in line with prevailing community rates, it is very humbling to discuss “real life” legal problems ordinary people deal with every day.   

I spent part of my 49th Birthday at the Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s offices in Fort Lauderdale speaking to individuals who called Legal Aid for assistance with their legal problems.

I learned long ago, from my former boss Hank Adorno, who taught all the associates at Adorno & Zeder, that it was the culture of the firm to give back to the community.  Going back to the Adorno days, we were paid by the firm to help those that were less fortunate, including reading to elementary school children and participating in Hands On Miami. 

Keeping up with that tradition, Litigation Partner Eric Assouline is seen here speaking to a group of young men and women about how hard work pays off.  Attorney Assouline also received a FLITE Program framed certificate as a thank you for his time.


Giving back time to the community has been part of the culture at Assouline & Berlowe.  As mentioned on the Community Service page of the Firm’s website:  The Firm has been involved in giving back to the community, in the form of time, money, and energy in order to support those who are less fortunate as well as in support of other important causes.

Examples of how the firm has been involved in philanthropic commitments are many. As early as in 2004, when the Firm was just a year old, the Firm sponsored a mayoral debate for Miami-Dade County.

In 2005, the Firm sponsored the Beauty and the Best Fund Raising Program for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


In 2006, the Firm sponsored Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Walk-a-Thon in Sunrise, Florida.  In 2014, the firm again returned to support JDRF when the Firm sponsored a charity golf tournament in support of JDRF.

In 2008, during the economic crises, as the headlines were filled with news about Americans losing their jobs, the Firm did not feel it appropriate to have a year end holiday “party” for its staff.  Instead of celebrating another successful year, the Firm made a donation to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for the support, care and treatment of children at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.

The donation is commemorated by an inscribed brick to be placed next to the statute of Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio at the hospital.


Joe DiMaggio Paver

Brick Paver at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, in Hollywood, Florida


In Miami, the Firm donated to the Miami Children’s Hospital, and was recognized with another inscribed brick at the Fountain.

The Firm has also been involved in several directorships for non-profit organizations. For example, Eric Assouline serves as a director for both the B’Nai Brith Justice Unit and Jewish National Fund. Ellen Leibovitch is a director with the South Palm Beach County Bar Association. Mr. Assouline and Ms. Leibovitch have also been involved in supporting the Florida Bar as members of the Florida Bar Grievance Committees in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

On this Thanksgiving Holiday, on behalf of my firm and all those attorneys that Give Back to the community, I want to say Thank you.

Happy Holidays.

Eric N. Assouline, Esq.

Managing Partner, Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.

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Protecting Employers from Sexual Harassment Claims

sexual harassment


As all of you know, today’s headlines have been dominated by stories of sexual harassment.  Last year, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump got most of the press, as did the decades-old charges against Bill Clinton.  This year, we have heard about complaints made against Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Roy Moore and others.  The list grows day by day.

Not all of these claims took place in a workplace setting, but many of them did.  Some of you may remember back in 1991 when sexual harassment in the workplace first became mainstream news.  I can still recall when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas, her former boss (and nominee to the United States Supreme Court), of sexually harassing her while the two worked together:  asking her out on dates even after she repeatedly refused, discussing sex in the work place, commenting on his own sexual prowess, etc.  After the hearings on Justice Thomas’ confirmation, lawyers like me first began seeing a slew of sexual harassment lawsuits brought against our employer clients.  In fact, I eventually became an employment lawyer exclusively because I had to learn how to defend these lawsuits, which had never before been handled by any of the lawyers in the large, litigation-driven firm where I was then working.

Over the years, employers – especially those who were sued and paid big-time attorneys’ fees and settlements – got smarter.  They developed anti-harassment policies, they trained their managers and employees, they hired sophisticated human resources managers to nip these claims in the bud and some even procured employer practices liability insurance (EPLI) coverage.  These actions, as well as the Supreme Court’s holding in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton case (which limited an employer’s liability for a supervisor who engages in sexual harassment at work), have made lawsuits for sexual harassment a rarity these days.

Although these lawsuits no longer dominate my case load, the tide could easily change with the new wave of sexual harassment claims in today’s headlines.  It will not be long before the person behind the “Me Too” post on Facebook brings a sexual harassment claim against her employer (note that individual harassers are not personally liable under applicable employment laws such as the Florida and federal civil rights acts; the employer bears sole responsibility).  Accordingly, my advice to smart employers is to be proactive today, and I have two key recommendations for how to do so:

First, all employers need to review their existing sexual harassment policies (or, heaven forbid, hire an employment attorney to draft one if you do not have a policy).  Make sure the policy clearly defines and prohibits any form of sexual harassment in the work place and describes a procedure for making complaints of harassment, including designating alternate persons to whom such complaints can be reported.  Although it should go without saying, the policy must be followed by the employer and must not be pure window dressing: complaints should be taken seriously, investigated and resolved and, if the complaint has merit, the offending employee should be disciplined.

Second, all employers should train managers AND employees on the policy.  Many employers have new hires simultaneously sign off on receipt of their handbook and sexual harassment policy without specifically training employees about recognizing, addressing and reporting sexual harassment in the work place.  And other employers wrongly assume that managers should know what to do if they see or are presented with a harassment complaint.  Employment attorneys and human resources consultants offer such training services, as do employee leasing companies; some EPLI providers may offer these services as well.  An investment in training goes a long way in establishing an harassment-free work place, and the costs of training are far less than those that may be incurred defending a lawsuit.

The old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If your business is ever forced to defend a sexual harassment claim, you will be in a better position to defend such claim by following the guidance above.  If I can assist you in any way, please call or email.

Ellen is a Florida Board Certified Labor and Employment Attorney with Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.


1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main: (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466


Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, International Dispute Resolution, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, Real Estate, and Corporate Law

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton



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Ethical Training in the Military – JNF Speaker Series


Assouline & Berlowe, P.A., Litigation Partner, Eric N. Assouline, Esq., had the pleasure of introducing Lt. Col. Zohar Vloski, of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and JNF Israel Emissary for Florida, when he spoke at the Lawyers for Israel Speaker Series in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Zohar Vloski, has been a senior educator for three decades and an expert in the area of the State of Israel’s focus on leadership, values, Jewish identity, Zionist identity, and Israeli identity.   Until recently, Zohar served as the Executive Director of JNF’s Education Division for nearly three years.

Prior to his JNF educational position, Zohar was an educational entrepreneur in innovation in education and led projects and educational programs in Israel and abroad, including American-Israelis in North America, and he also led many delegations to Poland.

Zohar has served in the IDF for 25 years as a commander of Education units & Education Officer and he previously played a key role in a series of senior IDF’s educational system, including the command of the IDF’s educational Midrashot, and management of all an educational ground forces.  During Zohar’s army service he led some projects connecting Taglit birthright to the army soldiers, “Witnesses in Uniform” IDF officers in Poland, Jerusalem tour for every IDF soldier, and Shabbat in Jerusalem for every IDF officer.   Zohar retired from IDF as a lieutenant colonel.

Zohar holds a master’s degree in law (LL.M) from Bar Ilan University as well as a bachelor degree in law (LL.B) from Shaarei Mishpat College, and he also has a graduate degree in the Land of Israel Studies (B. A) at Bar Ilan University.  Zohar  is also certified as an Israeli tour guide by the Ministry of Tourism, and as a senior educator and Poland guide Zohar graduate from Yad V’Shem and the ministry of Education and a graduate of Command and staff College of the IDF.

During Zohar’s presentation, he spoke of the IDF’s ethical training provided to its military forces and the need to balance the needs of its mission with the rights of those involved and affected by the mission.


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