November 2021: Florida Bans Vaccine Mandate

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Florida.

What happened?
On November 18, 2021, the Florida legislature passed House Bill 1-B (HB 1-B), banning private employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines unless several exemptions are offered to employees.

What are the details?
Effective immediately, an employer must allow employees to opt-out of the vaccine mandate if the employee makes a statement for refusing the vaccine for the following reasons below:

  • Medical Reasons.
    This includes reasons of pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy. To receive a medical exemption, an employee must submit a signed statement by a physician or physician assistant that vaccination is not in the best interest of the employee. While not addressed in the legislation, we suspect that this exemption will function similarly to those provided for disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Religious Reasons.
    An employee must present a statement that they decline the vaccine because of a “sincerely held religious belief.” Although that term is undefined, it likely refers to sincerely held religious beliefs as understood under federal law.
  • COVID-19 “Immunity.”
    An employee must show “competent medical evidence” that they have immunity to COVID-19, which is documented by the results of laboratory testing on the employee. The law does not state what “immunity” is but directs the Department of Health to establish a standard for determining that immunity.
  • Periodic Testing.
    An employee must provide a statement indicating that they will comply with the employer’s requirement to submit to regular testing. Although “regular testing” is not defined, the law directs the Department of Health to adopt emergency rules specifying requirements for frequency of testing. Importantly, any testing must be at no cost to the employee.
  • Agreement to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
    An employee must present a statement that they agree to comply with the employer’s reasonable written requirement to use employer-provided personal protective equipment when around others. “Personal protective equipment” is not defined. It is unclear whether the use of the term would implicate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations or Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on “personal protective equipment.”

This law will be enforced by the Department of Legal Affairs in the Attorney General’s office. Employees can file complaints that an exemption was not offered or was improperly applied or denied, which will then be investigated.

If the Department finds that an employee was improperly terminated and the employer does not restore the employee to their position with back pay, then the Department may fine the employer up to $50,000, depending on employer size and other factors. Employees who are wrongfully terminated may also be entitled to unemployment benefits.

For more information, please see the links below:

House Bill (HB 1-B)

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and make adjustments to their COVID-19 vaccination policies.

October 2021 Florida HR Legal Updates

Florida Expands Requirement for Reporting New Hires, Independent Contractors to Department of Revenue

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Florida.

What happened?
On October 1, 2021, the Florida Statute 409.2576 was amended to now apply to all employers and adds new reporting requirements.

What are the details?
Effective immediately, employers in the state of Florida are required to report all newly hired employees to the Directory of New Hires within 20 days of their dates of hire. The amendment also requires businesses to report service independent contractors who are paid $600 or more in a calendar year within 20 days of the start of the contractual relationship or the first payment, whichever occurs first.
 
When reporting an independent contractor, a company must provide the individual’s name, address, Social Security number (or other identifying number assigned under Section 6109 of the Internal Revenue Code), the date services for payment were first performed by the individual, and the name, address, and employer identification number of the service recipient. When submitting the information, the company should use the Florida New Hire Reporting Center website established for employers.

For more information, please see the links provided below:

New Hire Reporting Center

Florida Statute § 409.2576

Article 1

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links above and ensure their new hiring process complies with the above amendments.

October 2021: New Florida Requirement on Reporting Independent Contractors

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Florida with independent contractor workers.

What happened?
On June 16, 2021, Governor DeSantis signed SB 1532 into law, which provided updates to state family law.

What are the details?
The law, effective October 1, 2021, implements a new reporting requirement for a service recipient to report to the Florida Department of Revenue’s State Directory of New Hires any newly engaged non-employee to whom the service recipient pays more than $600 in a calendar year for services performed by the individual in the course of the service recipient’s trade or business.

The required information must be submitted within 20 days after the first payment to the independent contractor or on the date the business and independent contractor entered into the contract, whichever is earlier.

The law can be read here.

An article on the law can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law and their current employee reporting procedures to make any applicable changes to stay in compliance with the new requirement of reporting their independent contractors.

July 2021: Florida Requires Trafficking Training for Hospitality Industry

Update Applicable to:
Employers operating in the hospitality industry.

What happened?
In 2019 Governor De Santis Signed HB 851, creating a requirement for hospitality businesses to provide training to their employees.

What are the details?
Public lodging establishments will be required to train their employees, as well as post a human trafficking public awareness sign in a conspicuous location in the establishment which is accessible to employees, at least 11 inches by 15 inches in size.

The training requirement may be satisfied by conducting the training in person, or online. The content must be certified by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The department requires training to cover the following topics:

1) The definition of human trafficking and the difference between the two forms of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

2) Guidance specific to the public lodging sector concerning how to identify individuals who may be victims of human trafficking.

3) Guidance concerning the role of the employees of a public lodging establishment in reporting and responding to suspected human trafficking.

The training is provided by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association free of charge, in conjunction with the State, here.

If a business wishes to submit a new curriculum to DBPR for review and approval, send the curriculum as an email attachment to DHR.Info@myfloridalicense.com, along with a brief statement requesting a review of the curriculum. Alternatively, businesses may present the training curriculum to a representative of the Division during an inspection visit to the establishment, providing the option for the curriculum to be reviewed during the inspection.

The bill can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the above information and update their training policies. The state has provided the following link to help satisfy the sign requirement, here.

 

July 2021: Florida Passes Amendments to Telemarketing Laws

Update Applicable to:
All employers who use telemarketing in Florida.

What happened?
On June 29, 2021, Governor DeSantis signed CS for SB 1120 into law. 

What are the details?
The bill, effective July 1, 2021, expands the preexisting telemarketing (call, text, or voicemail) restrictions in Florida while also removing certain exceptions for communications that were previously lawful as well as permitting called parties to seek statutory damages via private litigation.

The bill removes exceptions to autodialer/recorded message restrictions which include:

  • calls made in response to calls initiated by the called party;
  • calls made to numbers screened for unlisted numbers and against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services “no sales solicitation calls” list; and
  • calls concerning goods or services previously purchased by the called party.

Communications like the above may only be made with “the prior express written consent of the called party” confirmed with a signed (electronically or physically) form that complies with the new statute.

Additional changes that occur due to the bill include the reduction of permitted telemarketing hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and prohibiting a telemarketer from calling a given consumer on the same subject matter more than three times in a 24-hour period. It is also unlawful to use technology that deliberately displays a different caller identification number. These restrictions apply even without the use of an autodialer or recorded message, but do not carry the same private right of action as the following.

The enforcement of the provisions is expanded and creates a private right to action that allows a “called party aggrieved by a violation” to recover $500 in statutory damages (up to $1,500 for willful or knowing violations) and possibly attorneys’ fees. The private right of action is not limited to autodialer and recorded messages claims, it also applies to other violations including preexisting restrictions on calls to persons who either registered their phone number on the state’s do-not-call list or made a do-not-call request directly to the caller; calls disguising the caller’s voice; and calls that fail to transmit the caller’s or seller’s originating and redialable telephone number.

The bill can be read here.

An article on the bill can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers who use telemarketing should read the bill and information above to update their policies as needed.

April 2021 Florida HR Legal Updates

Florida Employers Prohibited from Requiring Vaccine Passport   

Update Applicable to:
All businesses operating within Florida.

What happened?
On April 2, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 21-81. The executive order prohibits businesses from requiring that patrons and customers show proof of vaccination to enter or receive service from a business.

What are the details?
The order does not, however, prohibit businesses from instituting other COVID-19 screening protocols to protect public health. State agencies will work to ensure that businesses comply with the mandate, and businesses that do not comply will be ineligible for contracts or grants funded through state revenue. The order is intended to remain in place for the duration of the COVID-19 Florida State of Emergency.

Notably, the order does not prohibit businesses from requiring their employees from showing proof of vaccination.

The executive order can be found here.

An article going over these changes can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers operating in Florida should ensure their workplace practices do not require COVID-19 Vaccine Passports from customers or patrons before serving them, to remain in compliance with the order.

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Florida Implements COVID-19 Liability Shield for Employers        

Update Applicable to:
All businesses operating within Florida.

What happened?
On March 29, 2021, Florida Governor DeSantis signed into law SB 72, a bill granting liability protection to businesses against COVID-19-related injury and death lawsuits.

What are the details?
The new law requires that plaintiffs meet the standard for gross negligence and plead any allegations claiming a COVID-19 legal violation “with particularity.” This means that a plaintiff cannot generally point the finger and claim they experienced some COVID-19 injury while working, visiting, or performing some task at or with a covered establishment. From now on, a plaintiff will have to allege facts that identify the who, what, when, where, and how the injury happened in specific detail or their case will be bounced from the court.

Additionally, the law requires that a plaintiff show on the face of the complaint that the defendant deliberately ignored COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Further, they will need to submit into evidence a signed affidavit from a doctor stating with reasonable medical certainty that an injury or death caused by COVID-19 was a result of the defendant’s actions. If a court determines that the plaintiff has not met their duty, the case will be dismissed and can only to refiled if the plaintiff complies with this provision.

As a result of the new law, if a plaintiff can survive the statutory immunity, they must still show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was at least grossly negligent and that the defendant’s gross negligence was the proximate cause of their alleged COVID-19-related injury, which is not an easy showing. Prior to the new law, proof of liability for COVID-19 claims could have already been challenging largely due to the difficulty of proving causation.

An article going over the legislation can be found here.

The legislation can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in Florida should continue to adhere to local and federal guidelines related to COVID-19. Doing so will allow the employer to fully take advantage of the protection afforded by the legislation.

February 2021 Florida HR Legal Updates

New Effective I-9 and E-Verify Requirements

Update Applicable to:
All Florida employers.

What happened?
A new law in Florida has updated how businesses, both private and public, must handle their I-9 verification process and the storage of related documents.

What are the details?
Public Employers: Beginning January 1, 2021, every public employer, contractor, and subcontractor in Florida must register with and use the E-Verify system to verify the work authorization status of all newly hired employees. No public contract may be entered into unless each party to the contract registers with and uses the E-Verify system.

Private Employers: Beginning January 1, 2021, a private employer must, after making an offer of employment that has been accepted by a person, verify the person’s employment eligibility by either using the E-Verify system or requiring the person to provide the same documentation that is required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on its Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Private employers utilizing the I-9 documentation option must maintain a copy of the documentation provided for at least three years after the person’s initial date of employment.

An article covering this law can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Florida employers should look to update their documentation storage process to ensure the ability to properly store documents for the required amount of time. Additionally, public employers, contractors, and subcontractors should update their I-9 verification process and immediately move to using E-Verify, when possible.

November 2020 Florida HR Legal Updates

Florida Voters Pass Minimum Wage Increases

What happened?
Voters in Florida passed Amendment 2, which will increase the state’s minimum wage over the next several years until it eventually hits $15 an hour.

What are the details?
Amendment 2 will increase Florida’s minimum wage to $10.00 effective September 30, 2021. The minimum wage of Florida will still increase from $8.56 per hour to $8.65 per hour, effective January 1, 2021. After the minimum wage hits $10.00, the minimum wage will climb by $1.00, until it reaches $15.00 an hour on September 30, 2026. At that time, Agency for Workforce Innovation will regain control of managing minimum wage increases. The Florida minimum wage applies to any employees who are covered by the federal minimum wage.

Employers who must pay their employee’s the Florida minimum wage must also post a notice of the state minimum wage.

The notice’s may be found here.

Amendment 2’s full text may be found here.

An article going over Amendment 2 in more detail can found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in Florida should keep this increase in mind and contact their Payroll specialist if they have any questions.

October 2020 Florida HR Legal Updates

Florida Minimum Wage Poster Available Now

What happened?
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has posted their new required minimum wage poster.

What are the details?
Florida’s minimum wage will be growing to $8.65 an hour effective January 1, 2021.

The official Notice to Employees can be found on the DEO’s website, here.

What do employers need to do?
Florida employers should post the new Notice to Employees before the January 1, 2021 effective date to remain in compliance with state laws.

June 2020 Florida HR Legal Updates

Florida Emergency Order Restricts Sale of Alcohol for On-Site Consumption

What happened?
The Secretary of Florida’s Department and Professional Regulation has passed an emergency order restricting the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption.

What are the details?
An emergency executive order was signed on June 26, 2020, that limited the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption. If a vendor is licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on-site, and they make more than 50% of their gross revenue from those sales, the vendor may no longer sell alcohol for consumption on-site. The vendor can still sell for pick up/consumption elsewhere.

Restaurants may continue to provide on-premises consumption of alcohol if they make 50% or less gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages that are consumed on-site. They must also still comply with Executive Order 20-139, which mandates they stay at 50% capacity indoors and outdoor dining must still practice social distancing measures.

The emergency executive order can be found here.

Executive Order 20-139 can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Vendors in Florida that make over 50% of their revenue from selling alcohol for on-site consumption should adjust their business practices to accommodate pick up/takeout orders. Restaurants should keep an eye on how much revenue they are generating through alcohol sales and continue complying with the capacity reduction and social distancing measures enforced by Executive Order 20-139.

Summary of State Laws (Q1 &Q2 2020)

Pinellas County Wage Theft Notice
Effective February 7, 2020, employers must provide written notice to employees at the time of hire and to all employees who work for the employer as of the date of the ordinance and in the future, containing:

  • The rate or rates of pay and basis thereof, whether paid by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or otherwise, including any rates for overtime, as applicable
  • Allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage, including meal or lodging allowances
  • The regular payday designated by the employer
  • The name of the employer, including any “doing business as” names used by the employer
  • The physical address of the employer’s main office or principal place of business, and a mailing address, if different
  • The employer’s telephone number

 Employers must also provide the written notice to an employee whenever anything in the original written notice changes within seven calendar days after the time of the changes.