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Fort Lauderdale Business and Commercial Law Blog

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Floridian residents like you work hard every day at your jobs. However, there are some unavoidable situations in which it becomes temporarily impossible for you to continue working. This is where the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, comes into play. But just what is this act?

Findlaw explains everything you need to know about the FMLA. Essentially, this act guarantees employees up to 12 unpaid working weeks of leave per year, with no threat to their position within the company. Additionally, you're still able to maintain your healthcare benefits during this period, even if you won't be paid.

What is reasonable accommodation for disabled workers?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that protects Florida’s disabled workers by requiring employers to make “reasonable” accommodations for them. That word can be subjective to varying degrees, as is the term “disabled.”

Many companies hire specialists or train Human Resources personnel to ensure they comply with ADA standards. Those with disabilities can access these human and legal resources too, should they need a better understanding of their rights.

What challenges do employees face during a company merger?

Mergers and acquisitions are widely considered to be a healthy part of the corporate world, opening doors for competition and innovation. However, as you are aware, few mergers in Florida and elsewhere go perfectly smoothly. Most newly-merged entities experience a few bumps in the road during the first few weeks and months after the change. Indeed, it can take some businesses a couple of years to acclimate to what may feel to employees and customers as a completely new company.

Employees may be among those to take a merge the hardest, according to Forbes. Your staff may have been loyal and comfortable with a smaller, cozier workplace environment. It is not unreasonable to expect some employees to fear the culture they love is about to change and possibly become sterile and impersonal. Your employees may at first be awkward or clash with the employees being brought in from the merging company. Others may fear their jobs are about to be downsized or their positions will change significantly.

Are arbitration clauses good for businesses?

Like most Florida businesses, you have contracts for your employees and clients, as well as terms of service for your customers to read and agree to before doing business. You may be aware that many companies include arbitration clauses in their terms of service, and you might be considering adding that to your own policies.

As Consumer Reports explains, arbitration usually works out in the best interest of companies. A clause enforcing mandatory arbitration in a dispute waives a customer’s right to sue. As you can imagine, this might save your company a great deal of money and wasted time. You would usually pick the arbitrator, the results of the dispute would remain private and consumers are restricted in their ability to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. A win for your company, right?

Protecting products with patents

When Florida residents form their own business, they may sometimes realize they need to protect their idea. In this situation, it is important for people to understand what exactly can be patented and what they can do to protect this idea. 

While some people may think they can patent any idea which is unique to their company, this is not necessarily the case. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, people usually cannot get a patent for their business idea. Instead, people can patent a machine they have invented or the way their product is manufactured. This means that someone can get a patent on the ingredients they put in a product and the step-by-step process for making the product. Sometimes a company's timeline is an important factor. If a company is already selling their product when they apply for a patent or if they have described the product in a magazine or trade journal, they may not be able to receive a patent.

Judge sides with naughty puppets in movie lawsuit

Intellectual property is a complex area of law. Some entrepreneurs may not realize they are committing copyright infringement if they create a logo or catchphrase that closely resembles another company’s protected trademark. Others may use intellectual property in the form of music lyrics, novel excerpts and phrases without the original owner’s permission. Florida business owners should understand that copyright infringement can have a detrimental impact against the copyright owner if it deceives consumers into thinking the infringing company is affiliated with the original company or that its products are the genuine thing.

This can be especially irksome if the alleged infringement shines a bad light on the company holding the trademark or unfairly lures business elsewhere. According to Fortune, the former point was the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Sesame Workshop against the makers of the upcoming Melissa McCarthy movie “The Happytime Murders.” The focus of the suit alleged infringement against the children’s show “Sesame Street” in the movie’s tagline, “No Sesame. All Street.” The plaintiffs were concerned that parents would think Sesame Street creators were affiliated or in support of the R-rated movie.

Helping first time business owners succeed

When Florida residents decide to start their own business, they may focus most on finding the perfect location and identifying their niche in the market. Running a business can be complicated, though, and it is important for first time business owners to consider all of the details.

Some people may think that the location of their business is key to its success. According to Forbes, sometimes it may be best if people do not have an office space initially. This is because keeping the costs down can help a business succeed through the first year. People may want to sit down and make a list of the items their business actually needs so they can spend money on these aspects.

Fast food workers file EEOC complaints

People in Florida who work for other individuals or company likely know that there are laws designed to ensure that everyone is able to do their jobs in a safe environment. This does not only mean that hazards that may result in physical accidents are addressed but it also means that people should be able to go to work every day and be treated with respect by their colleagues and their superiors. 

Unfortunately, this does not always happen making it important that there is a means for addressing potential issues of harassment, discrimination or other illegal activities in the workplace even though the laws clearly indicate that these things are illegal.

How do you smoothly navigate a business merger?

When you decide to merge your Florida business with another company, this time can be hectic for both companies. However, there are many things you can do to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.

One of the things that can help a merger is effective leadership. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, it is important to put together a team of transition leaders. This team should usually include people from both companies who are knowledgeable about the company culture and the employees at both businesses. These leaders can help set the tone for the merger so both companies can proceed positively. Additionally, it is important to understand your goals for the merger. It is a good idea to carefully consider how a merger will help your business succeed. If you know that you want to remove competition or enter a new market, you can craft a strategy that will let you focus on these aspects.

How do employers pay tipped workers in Florida?

If you are one of the many establishments in Florida whose employees rely on regular tips as part of their wages, minimum wage laws apply differently to you. Restaurant servers, bartenders, parking valets and others in professions that traditionally receive tips can be subject to a tip credit. This means you can pay your employees less than the usual minimum wage of $8.25, although you will need to be careful to follow the rule to the letter, or you may face wage violation accusations.

According to the United States Department of Labor, employers can take a tip credit of $3.02, meaning you can pay your tipped employees as little as $5.23 an hour. There is a caveat to this: You must ensure that your employees are paid at least the state minimum wage after tips. If, by the end of the pay period, an employee did not receive enough tips to meet the minimum wage, you are required to make up the difference.

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