Tag Archives: employment

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.

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main: (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466

Email: EML@assoulineberlowe.com

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com/

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

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Litigation, Corporate Law, Labor & Employment, labor and employment law

Ellen M. Leibovitch is a 2015 Finalist for Leaders in Law!

Leaders in LawAssouline & Berlowe, P.A. is proud to announce that Boca Raton Partner Ellen M. Leibovitch has been nominated for the 2015 Leaders in Law Award in Labor and Employment Law.  The South Florida Business & Wealth Leaders in Law Awards, created by Lifestyle Media Group, honors lawyers, law firms, and corporate counsel that promote excellence in their field of law, maintain the highest level of ethics, are committed to their community, and are proven leaders in their field.

Candidates for the Leaders  in Law Award are judged on outstanding litigation, advocacy, counseling, and advancements to the legal profession, along with contributions to the advancement of the bar, including public service, bar association activities, and pro bono activities.

The South Florida’s Leaders in Law April 29, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. at The Gallery of Amazing Things, 481 South Federal Highway, Dania Beach, FL 33004.  To purchased tickets to the event, click here.

Ms. Leibovitch is proud to be nominated as a finalist for such a prestigious award.  As part of her labor and employment law practice, Ms. Leibovitch routinely counsel clients on employee handbooks, training, and audits.  Employers receive training on topics such as, recognizing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Managers also need to know the dos and don’ts in hiring decisions, employee complaints, and complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Also, some employers use the same employment applications, handbooks, and other forms for years without updating these forms with changes in the law.

Assouline & Berlowe is available to review employer policies, procedures, systems and documentation to ensure compliance with all applicable local, state and federal employment laws.  These preventative exercises will help all employers reduce the costs of non-compliance and avoid litigation in the future.  The often used maxim, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is highly applicable for these type of employment matters.

For a thorough review of your employer policies and procedures, or for any questions about the Leaders in Law award, please contact Ellen M. Leibovitch below.

Ellen M. Leibovitch

Florida Board Certified Labor and Employment Attorney

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main:  (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466

Email: EML@assoulineberlowe.com

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com/

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

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Litigation, Corporate Law, labor and employment law

Breaking News! Federal Court Puts Home Health Care Rule Changes on Hold!

laborAssouline & Berlowe, P.A. Board Certified Partner Ellen Leibovitch recently spoke at a seminary regarding important changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that were set to take effect on January 1, 2015.  These changes are relevant to third party agencies who employ companions and live-in domestic service employees.

After this seminar, on December 22, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia – in Home Care Association of America v. Weil, 1:14-cv-00967-RJL – struck down significant portions of the new rules which were set to go into effect on January 1, 2015.  As Mrs. Leibovitch spoke about at the seminar , the new regulations would have made the long-standing exemptions to the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements for companions and live-in domestic employees inapplicable to third-party employers (like home health care agencies).  The federal court determined that the Department of Labor (DOL) exceeded its authority and improperly sought to impose obligations on employers in violation of the plain language of the FLSA.

What does this mean to you and your businesses?  While the decision was a victory for many in the home health care industry, the court did not strike down the entire regulation, including the new definition of “companionship.”  What is clear from the decision is that the new rules will NOT be applied to live-in domestic care workers who reside in the private household where they are employed.  These workers will NOT, as the DOL had planned, be protected by the FLSA’s  overtime requirements, although the minimum wage requirements and the record-keeping requirements will remain enforceable as of January 1, 2015.

As for companions (not live-ins), the rules are still somewhat unclear.  It may take days or weeks to get a better handle on the situation, so please be on alert for further developments.  While it would appear that the rush to comply with the new rules has come to a grinding halt, everyone should remain proactive and ready for what happens next.  Mrs. Leibovitch will attempt to stay on the forefront and provide information as gathered.

Ellen M. Leibovitch is a Florida Bar Board Certified Labor & Employment lawyer and head of the firm’s labor and employment practice.  If Mrs. Leibovitch can be of any assistance to you regarding these rule changes, please do not hesitate to contact her using the information below.

Ellen M. Leibovitch

Florida Board Certified Labor and Employment Attorney

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main:  (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466

Email: EML@assoulineberlowe.com

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com/

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

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Litigation, Corporate Law, Labor & Employment

The Boca Raton office of Assouline & Berlowe has moved!

Assouline & Berlowe’s Boca Raton, Florida office has recently moved to 1801 N. Military Trail (Suite 160), Boca Raton, Florida 33431.  Our Boca Raton office includes Partner Peter Koziol, head of the Intellectual Property Litigation practice, and Partner Ellen Leibovitch, Florida Board Certified and head of the Labor & Employment Law practice.

Mr. Koziol frequently counsels clients regarding their intellectual property needs.  Whether you need advice on protecting your inventions and intellectual property, or if you have recently been sued for infringement, Mr. Koziol is well versed to assess the situation and recommend the best course of action.  In today’s legal climate, patent assertion entities, or patent trolls as they are commonly referred to, are actively enforcing their IP portfolio against alleged infringers.  If you or your company need help defending an infringement lawsuit, contact Peter Koziol.

Ms. Leibovitch focuses her law practice on labor and employment counseling and litigation, in addition to commercial and business litigation.  If you are starting a new position and need an attorney to draft or review an employment agreement, call Ellen Leibovitch to make sure your rights are protected.  Or, if your company is setting up or modifying internal employee handbooks, non-compete agreements, or other employee-related agreements, Ellen can provide you the appropriate counseling to ensure applicable state and federal laws are followed.

Again, please remember that our Boca Raton office has changed physical location, but all our other contact information remains the same.

For more information on your business needs, call the attorneys at ASSOULINE & BERLOWE – The BUSINESS LAW Firm

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com

Miami (305) 567-5576

Ft. Lauderdale (954) 929-1899

Boca Raton (561) 361-6566

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, and Corporate Law

Miami · Ft. Lauderdale · Boca Raton

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Litigation, Corporate Law, Intellectual Property, IP Litigation, Labor & Employment, Patent Prosecution

LABOR LAW Update – 11th Circuit Clarifies Liquidated Damages Awards in FLSA Cases

11th Circuit Seal

In the case of Davila v. Menendez, decided on June 10, 2013, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which controls all federal courts in Florida, clarified the respective roles of the jury and the district court in deciding issues relevant to claims arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claims.

In the Davila case, the trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of the defendant employer on the issue of intentional, reckless or willful behavior, thus precluding an award of liquidated (double compensatory) damages.  The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the jury was first required to decide whether the defendant willfully violated the FLSA before the court could rule on liquidated damages.

The Eleventh Circuit agreed and held that the district court erred when it entered judgment as a matter of law that the defendant did not violate FLSA.  The appellate court clarified that the district court was required to await the finding of the jury as to whether the defendant willfully or in good faith violated the law before assessing liquidated damages.  The court further noted that a jury’s finding of willfulness will establish both the period of limitations (willful violations of FLSA allow for a three-year look back period whereas non-willful violations allow only a two-year look back) and the propriety of liquidated damages.  A jury’s finding of willfulness mandates liquidated damages whereas a non-willful finding leaves the question of liquidated damages to the district court’s discretion.

Davila v. Menendez, __ F.3d __, 2013 WL 2460199 (C.A.11 (Fla.)).

For more information on any labor or employment issues, please call

Labor & Employment Partner Ellen Leibovitch.

For more information on Mrs. Leibovitch’s practice, go to: http://www.assoulineberlowe.com/Ellen_Leibovitch.asp or you can contact her by e-mail at eml@assoulineberlowe.com

Assouline & Berlowe is a full service business law firm with offices in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Boca Raton.

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

Miami: 305-567-5576

Ft. Lauderdale: 965-929-1899

Boca Raton: 561-361-6566

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Labor & Employment