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October 2011
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10/27/11
Fla. Minimum Wage Increases for 2012
Filed under: General
Posted by: RPLaw Firm @ 9:40 am

Great news has been released for working Floridians.  The
minimum wage in Florida will increase from $7.31 per hour to $7.67 per
hour effective January 1, 2012. The minimum wage for tipped employees
will also increase on January 1, 2012 to $4.65 per hour.

A
voter-approved constitutional amendment established a Florida minimum
wage and provided for an annual adjustment to reflect increases in
consumer prices (inflation). The annual calculation is based on the
percentage increase in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage
Earners and Clerical Workers in the South Region for the 12-month period
prior to September 1, 2011.

This the second announcement of an increase for Florida’s minimum wage in 2011. 

Employers especially need to take notice of the increase since there has been a rise in unpaid wages cases in Florida courts. Failure to pay minimum wage could result in an employer paying the unpaid wages, interest, liquidated damages (if applicable) attorney’s fees and cost if an employee has to take court action for the violation.

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10/25/11
Overtime for GED Training?
Filed under: General
Posted by: RPLaw Firm @ 6:40 am

Employers need to review their handbooks, policies and procedures when it comes to training.  Several businesses are under the impression that they can require an employee to mandatory training and not have to pay them.  The key word is mandatory.  Most activities especially training that primarily benefits the employer is considered compensable time and even overtime if the hours require the employee to work over 40 hours in a workweek.

Employers should review the statute to determine if they are violating the Fair Labor Standards Act with their training.  Pursuant to the rules: “Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar
activities need not be counted as working time if the following four
criteria are met:

(a) Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;

(b) Attendance is in fact voluntary;

(c) The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and

(d) The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.”29 C.F.R. § 785.27.

The question that has hit the courts lately is when the needed training is because employees lack basic academic skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. The FLSA creates an exception designed for this type of training since it primarily benefits the employee with life skills. Section 7(q) of the FLSA, 
provides an exemption from the overtime pay requirements for time spent
by certain employees who are receiving remedial education. It allows
any employer to require that an employee spend up to 10 hours in the
aggregate in any workweek in remedial education without payment of
overtime compensation provided that the employee lacks a high school
diploma or educational attainment at the eighth-grade level; the
remedial education is designed to provide reading and other basic skills
at an eighth-grade level or below, or to fulfill the requirements for a
high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED)
certificate; and the remedial education does not include job-specific
training. Employees must be compensated at their regular rate of pay for
the time spent receiving such remedial education. The employer must
maintain a record of the hours that an employee is engaged each workday
and each workweek in receiving remedial education, and the compensation
paid each pay period for the time so engaged, as described in 29 CFR
516.34. 

Employers and trainers should carefully read section 7(q) when designing any type of training to qualify for this section.  All should also review the criteria to make sure that it does not interfere with any other overtime and wage laws.

For more details contact Danialle Riggins, Esq. Riggins Law Firm- 352-433-2400. www.RigginsLawFirm.com

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10/17/11
Federal Unemployment Benefits Extension in the Works?
Filed under: General
Posted by: RPLaw Firm @ 3:43 pm

While Florida drastically changed the terms and length of unemployment benefits, non-working Floridians will need to depend on the kindness of Congress to grant federal extension as it has done in the past.  It appears that this series of debates are not over if they want to but over how much and how and when to pay for the benefits being dispersed.  The representatives seem to agree to cover the $44 billion cost of a one-year extension of unemployment benefits.  This issue stems from when to address and handle the financial offsets of paying for the benefits.  The current program awarding the extensions ends this year.  The budget arguments between the parties are that Republicans and Democrats will have to compromise to create on concrete terms — what offsets and when they go into effect.
Previously, Democrats have argued that cost should not be covered because
it negates the economic effects — in this case about $88 billion in
spending, double the amount put into the program. Republicans have been insistent, especially as budgetary issues rose to the forefront, on paying for any extensions.
With two more months left in the year and for the current extension program, approximately 2 million unemployment recipients are depending on the parties to stop playing politics and think about reality.
If you are unemployed or know someone getting unemployment benefits, contact your congressional representative and explain that it is not time to play politics or jockey for campaign slogans.  There are people who need to pay bills and have gas money to search for their next job.

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Immigration laws in the workplace
Filed under: General
Posted by: RPLaw Firm @ 3:20 pm

Businesses’ dirty little secrets of employment undocumented workers have exposed over and over again. However, in a time when jobs are few, the public has determined that we need new laws against the workers while there have been federal laws against the employers for years.  These laws include but civil and criminal punishment.  Now Alabama’s controversial immigration law allows employers to break employment contracts with undocumented persons without a forum to pursue any rights that the two persons/entities originally agreed upon.  This was the ruling  from the 11th Circuit of Appeal on October 14, 2011. “The court let stand a prohibition against state courts enforcing
employment contracts in which the hiring party had “direct or
constructive” knowledge that the employee was in the country unlawfully.
It also upheld a section making it a felony for illegal immigrants to
enter into a “business transaction” in the state, including applying for
a driver’s or business license.” (Penton Media.)

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