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GunterFirm obtains $1 Million sexual harassment settlement for restaurant server – victim refuses to sign NDA

By 05/07/2018 Posted in News, GunterFirm News, Sexual Harassment Law

In October 2015, Whitney began working part-time as restaurant server to supplement her family’s income. In February 2016, she was the victim of severe sexual harassment by a supervisor who, unknown to her, had a history of sexually harassing female servers. In September 2016, attorneys Jason Gunter and Conor Foley filed a lawsuit against the employer for sexual harassment and negligent retention. The defense in a sexual harassment case is frequently to blame the victim and this case was no exception. Our firm prepared Whitney for this defense and she had the courage to engage in litigation. Over the next year, the defendant employer sought invasive discovery including more than three years of Facebook and other social media posts, text messages, and photographs of the victim. The employer also contended that it had a sexual harassment policy in place to prevent harassment and that it had acted reasonably. Attorney Gunter went on the offensive and took numerous depositions of employees and management, and subpoenaed personnel files and emails. It was discovered that the harasser had previously harassed other female servers who had complained to management. A jury trial was set for July 2018. Shortly before trial, the employer agreed to a settlement of $1 Million rather than face the risk of a jury trial. Whitney refused to sign a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) so that her story could be shared with the hope that other sexual harassment victims will have the courage to come forward. Jason Gunter, Esq. Conor Foley, Esq.

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Hurricane Irma: What’s legal isn’t always good for business

By 08/09/2017 Posted in News, Labor Law

  GunterFirm has received several calls from individuals, companies and the media regarding employee rights if terminated as a result of an absence while preparing for Hurricane Irma. Under Florida law, there is no “legal” claim for “wrongful termination” if an employee is terminated for failing to report to work during the hurricane. There is no exception to Florida’s “employment at will” doctrine for terminating an employee who does not report to work before, during, or after a hurricane or any other natural disaster. This includes terminations that occur during a state of emergency, a voluntary evacuation or even a mandatory evacuation. This applies to public sector employees as well as private sector employees. All emergency personnel and healthcare providers at hospitals are generally under an affirmative duty to report, and plans for emergency personnel and healthcare providers are generally known and made in advance. GunterFirm is advising our clients not to terminate employees or take other adverse actions due to hurricane related absences. Although legally permissible, such terminations are perceived as morally reprehensible and can cause serious harm to the company’s image. These terminations may result in immediate negative media exposure, including negative social media campaigns and negative online reviews. Both employers and employees should take a deep breath and take into consideration each other’s needs. Employers who provide nonessential services to the public should exercise great caution before putting profits above employee safety and well-being. Likewise, employees should make all efforts to cooperate with employers to ensure that […]

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Linda McMahon to head SBA

By 12/12/2016 Posted in News, Labor Law, Small business

President Elect Trump made several news-worthy selections to head governmental agencies over the past week. One selection in particular should stand out to Southwest Florida employers and entrepreneurs. That is, the selection of Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration (“SBA”). The SBA was founded in 1953 and provides small business loans, loan guarantees, and small business counseling to help bolster small businesses, including those throughout Florida. If you own your own business in Fort Myers or Naples, or if you are an entrepreneur that has sought funding to launch your new idea, it is likely you are well aware of the useful resources the SBA provides. McMahon is the co-founder and former CEO of the well-known wrestling behemoth, WWE. This appointment shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to those who are familiar with McMahon’s history and political aspirations. She previously ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for US Senate in 2010. Additionally, President-Elect Trump’s ties to the WWE are also well noted. In fact, Trump made regular appearances on the WWE’s various programs throughout the years, including a few dust ups in the ring. Trump seems to be taking care of those that he has identified as loyal followers, and folks that did not waver in their support during the tumultuous campaign. It has been reported that McMahon donated $7 million, including $1 million in the closing days before the election. McMahon is the third consecutive woman to be nominated to this post following in the footsteps of President Obama’s nominees […]

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Federal Judge Blocks New Overtime Rule

By 23/11/2016 Posted in FLSA, Overtime, Overtime Law, Overtime and Unpaid Wages

In a major (and surprise) ruling, a federal judge in Texas has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016. The new rule would have increased the minimum annual salary requirements for exempt employees will from $455 per week to $913 per week (or from $23,666-$47,476 per year).  Importantly, although 21 states participated in the lawsuit, US District Judge Amos L. Mazzant rejected a request by the Department of Labor to limit the injunction to the states that filed the lawsuit and instead issued an order blocking the new rule nationwide. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS AND WORKERS? For now, employers who rely upon the “white collar exemptions,” referred to as the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions, will be permitted to continue paying the minimum salary requirement of $455 per week.  In order to classify an employee as salaried “exempt,” the employer must satisfy both the salary requirements and the “duties” requirements of the exemptions.  Most overtime claims and overtime liability arise out of an employer’s failure to satisfy the duties requirements for the exemption. For example, the “executive” exemption Employers rely on (sometimes referred to as the “managerial” exemption) requires the employer to demonstrate that the employee’s “primary duty” must be the management of a department or division of the company AND that the employee regularly directs the work of two or more full-time employees (or full-time equivalents) AND that the employee must have the authority […]

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GunterFirm Founds LCBA Solo & Small Firm Practice Section

By 08/01/2016 Posted in GunterFirm News, Labor Law

In conjunction with the Lee County Bar Association, Jason Gunter and Conor Foley founded the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section to provide solo and small firm attorneys with valuable information regarding practice management, technology, and marketing. The Section has garnered a tremendous response, thanks in part to the cover feature in the May 2015 Res Gestae. You can find the entire article with more information on the Section here: http://issuu.com/leecountybar/docs/rg_2015may_lr_final/1 If you are a Lee County, Florida attorney and interested in learning more about the Practice Section, please reach out to Jason Gunter or Conor Foley.

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Whistleblowers Reinstated and Vindicated

By 17/11/2015 Posted in News, Whistleblower Law

Former Lee County Animal Services employees Glenn Johnson and Donna Ward, were reinstated to there job positions with Lee County in a huge victory in their whistleblowers case for wrongful termination. Lee County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Krier ruled in an 8-page Order that both Donna Ward and Glenn Johnson, former animal services employees, were in fact whistleblowers and had engaged in protected activity under Florida’s Public Sector Whistleblower Statute. Specifically, the court found that numerous disclosures to Assistant County Manager Christine Brady could be construed as violations of local, state, or federal laws rules or regulations. The court further found that the employees were terminated only two weeks after sending emails with disclosures to Lee County Commissioners.  Lee County’s attorneys asserted that Ward and Johnson were terminated for reasons unrelated to their whistleblower activities. However, the court rejected these reasons finding that it was not convinced by the county’s alleged reasons for the termination. The legal victory is significant for the Plaintiffs, who will be immediately returned to their positions with the County pending the outcome of trial in the matter. The Court set the stage for a full-blown jury trial where a Lee County jury will ultimately determine the issue. If the plaintiffs prevail, the damages and attorney’s fees will likely be significant. Order Granting Reinstatement <—- Link to Judicial Order  

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What is at-will employment?

By 18/06/2015 Posted in FAQs, FLSA, Labor Law, Retaliation, Whistleblower Law, Workplace Discrimination Law

In Florida, an at-will employee is one whose employment has no specified term and who may be terminated at the will of either party, with or without cause and with or without notice. However, an employer is not permitted to terminate an employee in violation of a state or federal statute, such as: retaliation, discrimination, or whistle blowing.

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Florida Employment Laws

By 04/06/2015 Posted in Labor Law, Whistleblower Law

Florida and federal laws govern the rights and obligations of workers and employers in the state. Several Florida laws codify federal regulations. However, conflicts in the statutes can create confusion about which law applies to a given employment circumstance. When a dispute arises, a litigant may consider whether the state or federal forum is most favorable.

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