DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – The law firm of ShuffieldLowman recently announced that attorney Maia R. Albrecht was elected by the membership to the Board of Directors of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce for 2018. Active in the Chamber for several years, Albrecht is also a 2016 graduate of the organization’s Daytona Leadership program.
Albrecht, working out of the firm’s Port Orange and Orlando offices, concentrates her practice in the areas of estate planning, commercial real estate transactions, lender representation, commercial leasing and secured transactions, including extensive experience in the acquisition, development and financing of commercial properties. She is a member of The Florida Bar and of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar. She’s also a magna cum laude graduate of Washburn University School of Law. Community and professional involvements includes Vice President of the Real Property Council of Volusia County, Inc. and membership in the Volusia/Flagler Association of Women Lawyers and the Central Florida Real Estate Attorneys’ Council.
ShuffieldLowman’s five offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand and Port Orange. The firm is a 40 attorney, full service, business law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, estate planning, real estate and litigation. Specific areas include, tax law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, estate planning and probate, planning for families with closely held businesses, guardianship and elder law, tax controversy – Federal and State, non-profit organization law, banking and finance, land use and government law, commercial and civil litigation, fiduciary litigation, construction law, association law, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, labor and employment, environmental law and mediation.
ShuffieldLowman attorney, Dana Crosby-Collier, has been recently selected to serve as general counsel to the 2017-2018 Seminole County Charter Review Commission.
The Seminole County Board of County Commissioners approved the contract earlier this week naming her general counsel. The Seminole County CRC is a 15 member board that is appointed every six years to review the County’s Home Rule Charter and propose any amendments or revisions which may be advisable for placement on the general election ballot. The CRC meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at the Seminole County Services Building in Sanford, Florida and will conclude their work in the summer of 2018. Learn more about the Seminole County Charter Review Commission online at:
The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson, has just released the 2017 Annual Report to Congress, an annual report that sets forth problems in the IRS and challenges for the IRS to improve its service to the American taxpayer. This year it contains what is called “The Purple Book,” which presents 50 proposed legislative changes intended to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.
One of the areas discussed is so-called “unreal” tax audits versus “real” tax audits. In “real” tax audits, taxpayers have significant procedural rights to challenge the IRS’ proposed audit increases in taxes, penalties and other changes to a return. But, the IRS is increasingly using other methods of advising taxpayers that they owe taxes other than through traditional audits. To a taxpayer, these feel like audits as they usually require the taxpayer to accept the changes or provide documentation or other information to contest it. However, the protections that apply in “real” audits do not apply in these cases. These “unreal audits” include proposed changes based on math error authority, the Automated Underreporter document-matching program, and the Automated Substitute for Return program. In the 2016 fiscal year, the number of returns audited under “real” audits was only 0.7 percent. However, when “unreal” audits are included, the audit rate jumps to 6.2 percent. This is a significant difference. Important rights not available in these “unreal” audits include the opportunity to pursue relief from the auditor’s conclusions in an administrative appeal to the IRS Office of Appeals. A taxpayer who fails to timely respond to a math error notice loses the opportunity to pursue the matter in the United States Tax Court, which is important since it is the only chance to obtain judicial review without first paying the proposed increases in tax and penalties.
Because the IRS is increasingly using these “unreal” audits, the taxpayer protections provided by Congress are being circumvented. Further, the Taxpayer Advocate contends that IRS compliance activity statistics based on “real” audits are misleading because the overwhelming majority of tax adjustments are being made through “unreal” audits. The Advocate also claims that the IRS intends to increase “unreal” audits pursuant to its “Future State” plan. Accordingly, the Advocate is recommending that the IRS revise its definition of an audit and expand the application of taxpayer protections provided under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to these “unreal” audits.
With the ringing in of 2018 comes an opportunity to do away with the bad habits and start good ones. Here are a few pointers to help keep your business in compliance with labor and employment laws all year long.
Pay the New Minimum Wage in Florida
Effective January 1, 2018, Florida’s minimum wage for non-tipped employees increases from $8.10 to $8.25 per hour, and for tipped employees, increases from $5.08 to $5.23 per hour. Ensure that your current payroll practices have accounted for these increases, and that your business has also posted somewhere conspicuous and accessible in the workplace a copy of the 2018 Florida Minimum Wage Poster. A free download of the poster in the English, Spanish, and Creole languages is available from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity at www.floridajobs.org.
Revisit that Old and Dusty Employer Handbook
With the #MeToo movement and the recent wave of sexual harassment claims sweeping across the county, employers should take a close look at their current anti-harassment policies and procedures to ensure that they are adequate. A common policy drafting mistake is to provide for only one avenue of reporting – that all complaints must be reported to a direct supervisor. But, what if the employee’s direct supervisor is the harasser? Make sure that your employees have multiple outlets for reporting, and that those to whom claims of harassment may be reported are prepared to listen and take appropriate action. Employers should also strongly consider providing appropriate harassment prevention training even if the training will just be a refresher.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently revisited the applicable standard in determining whether an employer’s policies unlawfully limit employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity. Previously, an employer’s policy was subject to violating the National Labor Relations Act if it could be “reasonably construed” to limit an employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activity such as, for example, discussing the terms and conditions of employment with other employees. Now, the analysis is whether an employer has a “legitimate justification” for the policy in question. While this change is considered more employer-friendly, businesses should still revisit their current policies regulating workplace conduct standards and determine what legitimate justifications exist for those policies.
Consider whether your company has become subject to the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). Even a company with less than 50 employees may nonetheless be subject to the requirements of the FMLA if it had hired at least 50 employees for 20 or more calendar work weeks in the prior or current calendar year. Any employer subject to the FMLA must make certain disclosures to employees of their rights under the FMLA, in addition to providing and administering leave in accordance with the Act.
Medical marijuana continues to be a rapidly-evolving area of the law, with a broad diversity among states regarding its use. While Florida employers are not currently required to permit on-duty medical marijuana use, or permit their employees to report to work under its influence, Florida employers should consider whether their current policies reflect their attitude towards its use. For example, if an employee tests positive on a drug screen, will the employer permit the employee to furnish a registration card/prescription to explain the result, so long as there are assurances that the employee will not work in an impaired state? Or, alternatively, if the employer adopts a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace prohibiting “illegal drugs,” does the policy reflect that “illegal drugs” are any such drugs currently deemed illegal under either state or federal law?
Revisit Whether Your Workers are Appropriately Classified as Independent Contractors or Employees
Businesses should consider revisiting whether its workers are appropriately classified as either employees or independent contractors. Misclassification can lead to hefty liability such as civil and monetary penalties, reimbursement of back wages (including overtime pay and work-related expenses), and tax obligations. Don’t make the mistake of relying solely on a Form 1099 and a position title in making the determination. The analysis required for the determination is much broader. Consider factors such as whether the worker is integral to the company’s business, the degree of control maintained over the worker, and the term of the worker’s engagement. Generally, the more integral the worker is to the company’s business, the more control the company maintains over the employee, and the longer the engagement, the more likely it is the worker should be classified as an employee.