What Florida Employers Need to Know About the Title VII Ruling

What Florida Employers Need to Know About the Title VII Ruling

On Monday, June 15, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision that protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) extend to protect gay and transgender employees from discrimination. The decision—Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia—is a consolidation of three cases in which employees were terminated by their employers on the basis of their sexual orientation or transgender stereotyping. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. However, what constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex has been strenuously debated in courts nationwide, with lower courts regularly holding that Title VII’s protections did not extend to individuals who experienced adverse employment action merely because they were gay or transgender. Courts are now faced with a new Title VII frontier.

In the opinion written by Justice Gorsuch, the Supreme Court held that Title VII is violated by firing an individual for being homosexual or transgender. Justice Gorsuch, who is widely known for his textualist approach in statutory interpretation, wrote: “when an employer fires a person for traits or actions that the employer would not have questioned in members of a different sex, then sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, which is exactly what Title VII forbids.” He further wrote that it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex. Notably, Title VII maintains a statutory “but for” cause standard. Thus, if a plaintiff can show that but for their gender identity or sexual orientation they would not have been fired, they have a valid claim under the extension of the statute.

The Court reached its decision by a margin of 6-3, with Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts, two conservative members, siding with the four liberal members of the Court. The two dissenting opinions, written by Justice Alito and Justice Kavanaugh, argued that the textual reasoning was misapplied and that drafters of Title VII did not contemplate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, making the extension of Title VII to cover these individuals a job better suited for the legislation.

Prior to this decision, half of the States—including Florida—did not have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, Orlando is one of the few municipalities with ordinances that already made it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employer for sexual orientation and gender identity. See Section 57.14 of the City Code of Ordinances. Thus, Orlando employers could already face claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under these ordinances. With the Supreme Court’s decision, federal law has caught up to Orlando’s ordinances and Title VII expanded federal protection to these employees as well. Although this decision is narrowly tailored, making it unclear as to how far Title VII will extend in other contexts, many employees across the country are now protected from discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation at the hands of their employers as a result of this decision.

The impact of the Bostock decision has broad implications for employers. Although many Florida employers already have policies in place that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, there is no longer any doubt that private employers with more than 15 employees may face legal liability under Title VII if an employee is subjected to harassment or discrimination due to the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Employers should revise and expand their policies, handbooks, and training programs to incorporate specific provisions prohibiting discrimination and harassment against gay and transgender employees.

If you would like to confirm your organization’s policies comply with Title VII’s newly expanded protections or would like assistance in forming and implementing new Title VII training programs, please contact Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson, P.A., for your labor & employment law needs.

Two ShuffieldLowman Partners Named 2020 Legal Elite

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Two ShuffieldLowman partners were recently selected as 2020 Legal Elite attorneys by Florida Trend magazine. The “Legal Elite” designation represents fewer than 1.2% of the active Florida Bar members who practice in the state. The ShuffieldLowman partners honored are Alexander “Alex” S. Douglas II and Heidi W. Isenhart.

Florida Trend magazine collects ballots from Florida Bar members, asking lawyers to name attorneys whom they hold in the highest regard and would recommend to others. The results of the annual survey are published in Florida Trend magazine.

Douglas practices in the area of fiduciary litigation, with extensive experience in trust, probate and guardianship litigation.

Isenhart practices in the areas of elder law, Medicaid planning, guardianship, probate and trust administration, estate planning and special needs trusts.

ShuffieldLowman’s four offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand and Port Orange. The firm is a 45 attorney, full-service 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, and mediation.

Clay Roesch and Alex Douglas Presenting at Florida Law Update 2020

Clay Roesch and Alex Douglas Presenting at Florida Law Update 2020

On June 18, 2020, ShuffieldLowman attorneys Clay Roesch and Alex Douglas will be presenting webinars as a part of the Florida Law Update 2020 live audio webcast. This seminar will provide 2020 updates for following topics: Business and Litigation Law, Labor and Employment Law, Animal Law, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Family Law, Criminal Law and Real Property Law.

Clay will be presenting a Business & Litigation Law Update, and Alex will be co-presenting on two topics, Elder Law and Estate Planning Updates. This webcast is a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course for the Florida Bar and will take place from 8:00 AM to 4:25 PM. There is a $240 registration fee for the course, which provides 8 CLE credits. For further information and registration details, visit: bit.ly/FL_LawUpdate_20.

PPPFA Signed Into Law: What Does it Mean for PPP Loan Forgiveness?

PPPFA Signed Into Law: What Does it Mean for PPP Loan Forgiveness?

Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 on June 3, 2020, and President Trump signed it into law on June 5, 2020. The Act made some key revisions to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as well as provided further clarity for issues surrounding the forgiveness portion of the loan. Below are some of the significant amendments that businesses who applied and received PPP loans should now review and take into consideration.

1. While the CARES Act originally granted borrowers only eight weeks to spend the PPP Loan money, this new Act now gives borrowers 24 weeks from when the loan proceeds are received to use the funds and still qualify for forgiveness.

2. The CARES Act originally mandated that at least 75% of the PPP loan funds had to be used towards employee payroll in order for the loan to be forgiven. This new Act has reduced that to 60%. This means that businesses can now use 40% of the loan towards non-payroll expenses and still be eligible for forgiveness. This change was perhaps the most significant as it will make many more businesses (especially those who have not yet been able to hire back employees) eligible for loan forgiveness. Keep in mind, this means that businesses will now have 24 weeks to spend the funds on qualifying rent, utilities and mortgage payments on up to 40% of their PPP loan.

3. For loans that are not forgiven, borrowers now have a minimum of five years to repay the loan – up from the previous two years.

4. Borrowers now have until December 31, 2020 to get their “full-time equivalent” (FTE) employee count back to what it was in the reference period in order to avoid a reduction in the amount of the loan being forgiven. The original deadline was June 30, 2020.

5. The Act allows for two new exceptions for borrowers to achieve full PPP loan forgiveness even if they don’t fully restore their workforce. Borrowers were already allowed to exclude employees who turned down good-faith offers to be rehired at the same hours and wages as before the pandemic. The PPPFA adds that an employer can be exempt from the loan forgiveness reduction related to workforce restaffing if they can document that they:

  • Are unable to find and hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions on or before December 31, 2020; or
  • Are unable to restore business operations to the levels they were at on Feb. 15, 2020, due to COVID-19-related operating restrictions.

6. Under the new law, businesses can defer payment of the employer portion of the Social Security taxes until 2022 (50 percent to be paid in 2021 and the remainder in 2022), regardless of when the loan is forgiven.

7. Payments under the previous guidelines were set to be due after 6 months. Now payments are no longer due until the forgiveness amount is determined and remitted to the lender.

Although many of these changes eased some of the burdens borrowers felt, there are also some major issues that are awaiting clarification. These include:

  • Forgiveness Calculation: Will businesses still be eligible for loan forgiveness if their payroll costs fall under 60% of the loan? Under the previous rule, if a company’s payroll expenses were less than 75% of the loan, they could still receive loan forgiveness, but the amount forgiven would be prorated. The way the new law is written, it is unclear whether loan forgiveness would be available for anyone whose payroll costs fall below 60% of the total loan.
  • Compensation Limitations: Under the previous law, there was a cap for compensation for any employee making over $100,000. (The cap was $15,384 for the 8-week covered period). The question now is if the provision that increases the covered period to 24 weeks also allows for the salary of employees over $100,000 to be calculated at the 24-week period as well.

ShuffieldLowman’s Corporate Law and Banking & Finance teams are continuing to monitor the changes to the Paycheck Protection Program, and how these new laws will affect Central Florida businesses, banks, and lenders. To speak to an attorney, fill out our contact form.

Four ShuffieldLowman Partners Named 2020 Super Lawyers and One Partner Named Rising Star

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – William “Bill” R. Lowman, Jr., Heidi W. Isenhart, Alexander “Alex” S. Douglas, II, and Stephanie L. Cook, all partners with the law firm of ShuffieldLowman, have been selected as 2020 Florida Super Lawyers. Partner, Daniel Harris, has been named a 2020 Rising Star.

Super Lawyers, owned by Thomson Reuters, recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their legal practice.  The selection process is multi-phased and rigorous.  Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third-party research and validation of the attorney’s professional accomplishments.  The final published list represents five percent of the total lawyers in the state of Florida.

A founding partner of the firm, Lowman’s practice areas include corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, estate planning, high net worth family planning, intellectual property, securities, tax advice, and non-profit law.

Isenhart practices in the areas of elder law, Medicaid planning, guardianship, probate and trust administration, estate planning and special needs trusts.

Douglas and Cook both practice in the area of fiduciary litigation, with extensive experience in trust, probate and guardianship litigation.

Rising Star, Daniel Harris, practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, tax law, high net worth family planning, corporate law and non-profit law.

ShuffieldLowman’s four offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand and Port Orange. The firm is a 45 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, and mediation.