Employees & Volunteering – Is It Work Time?

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By Bari Goldstein

It is becoming increasingly popular nowadays for companies to support charitable organizations and causes through sponsorships, events, and employee volunteer programs. This may contribute positively to the workplace culture and even be considered a perk for some employees…but what is the law in terms of wages for volunteer time?  Laws will vary depending on whether you work in the public or nonprofit sector vs the for-profit, private sector.

In a recently released Department of Labor (DOL) Opinion Letter [FLSA2019-2], the DOL tackled the issue of whether an employee’s time spent participating in an employer’s optional volunteer program, which awarded certain bonuses for participation, was considered hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  This is an important issue for those employers who want their employees to “volunteer” for or at charitable events, but who don’t want to run afoul of an employer’s obligations to compensate non-exempt employees for “all hours worked.”

In this particular situation, the Company (the Opinion Letter did not disclose whether it was a private or public entity) had an optional volunteer program that awarded a monetary bonus to the team with the most community impact.  Specifically: Continue reading

Alimony Reform Fails Yet Again in Florida…What’s the Solution?

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By Eddie Stephens, B.C.S.

In 2019, the Florida Legislature attempted for a FOURTH time to pass alimony reform legislation.  The previous three versions passed the legislation, but were vetoed by former Governor Rick Scott.

On March 1, 2019, SB 1596 was filed in the Florida Senate.  The bill eliminated permanent alimony, changed the definition of a long-term marriage, and capped alimony awards.  SB 1596 also contained a provision that would create a presumption for equal time-sharing (custody) for parents…assuming that 50/50 time-sharing between the child and his/her two divorced parents is in the child’s best interest…which has nothing to do with alimony!

Governor Scott explained in the past that the presumption for equal time-sharing is a reason he vetoed the bill in the past as this provision would severely limit the ability of courts to create parenting plans that meet the individual needs of a family. Continue reading

Unintended Consequences – Hospital Drug Theft Leads to Class Action Privacy Suit

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By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

It is a good rule of thumb for businesses to always expect their actions to be reported on page one, above the fold, of the local newspaper.  If you are fine with that, then go ahead with the action.  If not, well that is something to think about.

A recent lawsuit alleges Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego used hidden cameras to secretly record procedure room contacts with 1,800 patients at a women’s health center in El Cajon, California, including hysterectomies, sterilizations and caesarean births.  The cameras also allegedly recorded women undressing.  Lincoln et al., v. Sharp Healthcare, Sup. Ct., San Diego, CA.

How could this happen?  Well, a legitimate underlying concern existed for the hospital.  A listed anesthesia drug, propofol, repeatedly was being stolen from medication carts.  This is a serious problem indeed.  The solution?  The hospital allegedly installed motion-activated cameras as part of an investigation into whether an employee was stealing the anesthesia drug from drug carts in the operating rooms. Continue reading

How Tax Changes to Alimony Could Affect You

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By Dane Leitner

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Act”) signed by President Trump on December 22, 2017 made many significant changes to the tax code.  One of the significant changes made was to the deductibility of spousal support, otherwise known as alimony.  Alimony payments used to be deductible; however, as of January 1, 2019, alimony payments are no longer deductible to the payor.   Further, the alimony received by the recipient is no longer considered income, thus it is not taxable to the recipient.  Any divorce decrees entered prior to December 31, 2018 are grandfathered.

So how does this affect a new divorce case?  It will likely result in less money for the divided family, and more money to the IRS.

Previously, the payor could deduct the alimony, and the recipient would pay taxes on the alimony received.  Generally, the payor is in a higher tax bracket than the receiving ex-spouse. So the prior law resulted in the payor’s shifting of income to a lower tax bracket, thereby resulting in a reduction in the amount of taxes paid on the amount of alimony.

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Suspicionless Drug Tests of Personnel in Schools After Parkland: MSD Strong…er Than the 4th Amendment?

By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

Does the safety of our children prevail over the privacy rights of their substitute teachers? The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that public schools may require urine tests for all applicants to substitute teaching positions—even without any unique reason or particular suspicion that would necessitate a drug test.

Judge Stanley Marcus, writing for the Eleventh Circuit panel, shares his official opinion on the matter succinctly and engagingly:

“A suspicionless search by the government is presumptively unconstitutional. So goes the basic hornbook law of the Fourth Amendment. The details are a bit more complex. Suspicionless searches are permissible in a narrow band of cases where they serve sufficiently powerful and unique public needs. The force of these needs depends heavily on the context in which the search takes place.

At issue today is a matter of first impression—whether a county school board may require all applicants for substitute teacher positions to submit to and pass a drug test as a condition of employment. That is, to put it more directly, whether the Palm Beach County School Board (the “School Board”) may, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, collect and search—by testing—the urine of all prospective substitute teachers. We think that the School Board has a sufficiently compelling interest in screening its prospective teachers to justify this invasion of the privacy rights of job applicants, and thus conclude that the School Board has not violated the constitutional mandate barring unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Friedenberg v. School Board of Palm Beach County, — F.3d —, 2018 WL 6694799 (11 Cir. December 20, 2018)

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