Henderson Franklin’s legal team returns to Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa on Friday, February 25, 2022 with a new twist. The main room will offer the firm’s most popular workshop, HR Law & Solutions.

New for 2022, attendees will have the option to attend breakout sessions focusing on niche corporate matters and contracts, family businesses, startups and how to make informed real estate decisions. Click here to download the brochure.

Topics and speakers

General Session #1, Lingering Effects of COVID on Florida Employers, presented by Scott Atwood, Esq.

From business shutdowns and PPP loans to vaccinations, COVID has presented unique challenges to Florida businesses. Henderson Franklin’s employment group chair Scott Atwood will address the multi-faceted employment issues that employers may face, including: current obligations over masks and mandatory vaccinations; how to deal with possible long-term disability claims and leave issues arising from COVID; increased union activity; and the pros and cons of a remote/hybrid workforce.

General Session #2, Saving a Buck can Cost you a Million. Update on Recent Employment Cases and Mistakes that Employers Keep Making, presented by Scott Atwood, Esq. and Robert Shearman, Esq.

Continue Reading Registration is Open: Southwest Florida Legal Summit

COVID LawAfter a protracted battle in the Courts, on January 13, 2022, the U.S Supreme Court effectively ended the Biden Administration’s efforts to mandate widespread COVID vaccinations for large employers. That day, the Court issued a stay of an OSHA emergency temporary regulation that required all employers nationwide that had 100 or more employees, regardless of industry, to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for their employees and verify that the employees were vaccinated.

The practical effect is that there will be no federal mandatory vaccination requirements for employers except for employers in the healthcare industry who receive Medicare/Medicaid funds.

What does this mean for health care providers?

healthcareFor those health care providers who receive Medicare/Medicaid funds, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court upheld (by refusing to issue a stay) a separate regulation that requires mandatory vaccinations for employees in that industry by February 28, 2022. Conservative Justices Roberts and Cavanaugh sided with the liberal Justices. They found that the rule was more focused since it was limited to the more traditionally regulated health care industry and thus was not the same expansive use of agency authority. Moreover, the limitation of the rule to providers that received federal funds was deemed relevant because the courts have been more relaxed in enforcing rules that basically are a condition of receipt of the government money.

Finally, there is some question whether some states (such as Florida) who generally enforce these regulations will enforce the rule. Politics, however, deem it unlikely that the Biden administration would give up enforcement if certain states don’t enforce the rule. In such cases, Florida health care providers should be cautious when making a decision to ignore the new rule.

The OSHA “Stay” Explained

Continue Reading What does the Supreme Court’s Order rejecting the OSHA Rule mean for employers?

new businessWhat if I were to tell you, you could be both an LLC and an S-corporation and still be considered one single business entity?

An S-corporation is not a state law entity designation, similar to a Florida corporation or a Florida limited liability company. However, an S-corporation is merely a federal income tax classification made on a specific Internal Revenue Service form (Form 2553). Thus, one can form a Florida limited liability company (“LLC”) and elect to be an S-corporation for federal income tax purposes with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”).

Who is eligible to make the election?

Generally, the entity wishing to make the election needs to be a domestic corporation or an LLC. However, certain types of businesses are ineligible to make the election, such as insurance companies or financial institutions. In addition, the entity must have eligible shareholders, meaning the owners of the entity must meet specific requirements of the Tax Code.

Who can be an eligible shareholder?

shareholderAn eligible shareholder can be an individual (other than non-resident alien), estates, certain trusts, certain qualified retirement trusts, or charitable organizations. More specifically:

  • So long as the individual is not a non-resident alien, individuals are eligible S-corporation shareholders. Individuals may co-own an S-corporation with other individuals, such as husband and wife, as joint tenants by the entirety.
  • If an individual shareholder declares bankruptcy, the bankruptcy estate is a permissible S-corporation shareholder. If an individual shareholder passes away, their estate is an eligible S-corporation shareholder, as well.
  • Testamentary Trusts. These trusts become effective upon the death of a shareholder and hence become eligible to be an S-corporation shareholder.
  • Voting Trusts. Shareholders may create these trusts to temporarily transfer their shares to the trustee to combine their voting power. Voting trusts are eligible to be S-corporation shareholders.
  • Qualified Subchapter S Trust (“QSST”). A QSST is an eligible S-Corporation shareholder if it meets specific rigid requirements.
  • Small Business Trust (“ESBT”). An ESBT is a trust for beneficiaries that are all eligible s-corporation shareholders that acquired their trust interest by lifetime gifts or upon the death of an owner. These are more flexible trusts than the QSST described above.

Coming back to the opening question of an LLC or an S-corporation, so long as the individuals forming the LLC are eligible shareholders described above, the LLC can make the election treated as an S-corporation.

When to make the election?

Continue Reading Should I start my new business as an LLC or S-Corporation?

401KEmployers who sponsor retirement plans for their employees must periodically restate the plans for changes in applicable laws to maintain the plans’ favorable tax status. The Internal Revenue Service generally requires that plans be restated on a six-year cycle, the last of which concluded in 2016.

The current cycle is the third since the six-year cyclical program of plan restatements was implemented. Cycle 3 restatements of pre-approved defined contribution plans, including most 401(k) and profit sharing plans, must be adopted by no later than July 31, 2022.

The Appeal of Pre-Approved Retirement Plans

Pre-approved plans are retirement plans offered by a document provider (such as a financial institution or benefits practitioner) for adoption by employers. The plan document typically includes a variety of elective provisions from which an employer may choose and effectively customize the plan to best serve the needs of the organization and its employees.

Before making the plan document available for adoption by employers, the document provider will have obtained IRS approval of the plan as meeting the requirements applicable to tax-qualified retirement plans under the Internal Revenue Code.

Continue Reading The retirement plan for your employees may need a fresh look – soon

Health-related apps are widely available for smartphones and watches. There is no shortage of connected health-monitoring devices such as personal glucose and heart rate monitors.

These apps and devices read, track and record both health-related information and, by signing up for or registering the app or device, information that identifies the particular person using the app or device. Some of these apps and devices even interface with other apps or devices; for instance, syncing the calendar apps records histories like sleep cycles, heart rate or glucose levels or to forecast such as fertility cycles. The question then arises:

What protection do consumers have over the health and personal data generated by these relatively new apps and connected devices?”

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently issued a policy statement addressing this issue and protection of the information gathered by these relatively new technologies.

Existing Framework

Privacy of health-related information gathered by providers of healthcare services or supplies — such as physician offices and pharmacies — has long been protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). HIPAA also contains provisions requiring healthcare providers to notify impacted individuals when HIPAA-protected data is breached or compromised and the FTC enforces those provisions.

Continue Reading FTC Addresses Privacy Concerns over Data Collected by Health-related Apps and Devices

Intellectual PropertyAfter months (or, perhaps, years) of diligent legal work, your business has finally secured its intellectual property rights through a patent, a trademark registration, a copyright registration or some combination thereof. Finally, you breathe a sigh of relief, put your legal paperwork in a file cabinet and get back to running your business. Years later, you find that a competitor is infringing your rights. After blowing the dust off your paperwork you discover, to your dismay, that your intellectual property rights were not properly maintained and have expired. What happened and what do you do now?

Unfortunately, many clients fail to realize that most intellectual property rights carry maintenance obligations until it is too late. That being said, these are pitfalls which can be easily avoided, and clients often have tools they can use to “backfill” rights if a deadline is inadvertently missed.

Patent Maintenance

patent lawU.S. Patents are subject to periodic maintenance fee payments. The motivation behind this is the anti-competitive effect patents have on the market. Congress decided that there should be some affirmative, monetary obligation of patent owners to maintain patent rights as a means of culling unused patents which might otherwise be preventing competition. Such patent maintenance fees are due at the 3½, 7½ and 11½ year marks. These fees follow the following schedule:

  • 3½ year maintenance fees can be paid between 3 and 3½ years after the patent issuance date;
  • 7½ year maintenance fees can be paid between 7 and 7½ years after the patent issuance date; and
  • 11½ year maintenance fees can be paid between 11 and 11½ years after the patent issuance date.

Additionally, each of these fees can be paid within a six-month grace period (for an additional fee).

If these fees are not timely paid, then the underlying patent lapses and is no longer enforceable. This can be an enormous problem. Many clients either forget or are not told about patent maintenance obligations. The result can be a loss of rights and the inability to stop knock-off products. There are certain procedures to try to reinstate a patent which was unintentionally abandoned in this way, but the costs can be high and the probability of success can vary. This can also open the door to intervening rights by certain competitors. The best thing to do is to carefully calendar maintenance fee deadlines ahead of time and engage counsel to help you.

Trademark Maintenance

Continue Reading IP Maintenance 101: Keeping Your Intellectual Property Rights Alive

Vaccine PassportAt the start of summer, Governor Ron DeSantis declared that Florida is “no longer in a state of emergency.” This statement preceded a bill banning vaccine passports, and two executive orders suspending local government COVID-19 restrictions.

For employers, this doesn’t mean you should rush to discard your face marks requirement, nor should it impact your decision to mandate vaccines. Employers remain free to implement safety features they feel needed.

New York vs. Florida

Many Northeastern states have begun experimenting with COVID passports. For instance, New York City now requires at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for entry to indoor dining, gyms, and entertainment performances. For better or worse, Florida has gone in the opposite direction. Florida law now prohibits businesses from implementing these measures with respect to customers. Specifically, the new law says that “business entities,” including for-profit and not-for-profit entities, cannot require that patrons or customers provide documentation certifying that they received the COVID-19 vaccine or certifying that they have recovered from the virus to enter or receive a service from the business.

EEOC’s View

Continue Reading What Florida employers need to know about the vaccine passport ban

Launching your own business is a huge decision, one not to take lightly. From developing your product or service and getting funding to taking measures to protect your business, entrepreneurs must do their homework. As a business and tax attorney, one question I often hear is:

What is the best way to set up a new business?”

While the answer varies depending on the goals of each client, an LLC is often chosen.

What is an LLC?

An LLC, or limited liability company, is a U.S. business structure that combines the simplicity, flexibility, and tax advantages of a partnership with the personal liability protection of a corporation. The owners of LLCs are called members. An LLC can have one or many members. Members can be individuals or other businesses, and there is no limit to the number of members an LLC can have. With an LLC structure, members’ personal assets are protected from the LLC’s creditors. LLCs are more cost effective and simpler to form than a corporation. This, in addition to the discussion below, has led to LLCs becoming the ‘go-to’ business structure to form.

Who should form an LLC?

Continue Reading What is an LLC and why do I need one?

Maritime GPSA group of charter boat captains are making waves by challenging NOAA Fisheries plan to monitor charter boats in the Gulf of Mexico. Last July, NOAA Fisheries issued a mandate requiring charter boats to allow federal agencies to monitor 24-hour GPS devices on their boats. The rule, which has since been delayed would affect an estimated 1,700 charter boat captains, including many in Lee County.

NOAA New Rule

The new rule requires charter boat captains to submit an electronic fishing report (or logbook) using federally approved hardware and software with GPS location capabilities. Along with the transmission of fish-related information, captains are “required to report certain business data: charter fee, fuel usages, fuel price, number of passengers, and crew size.” Prior to departing for any trip, charter boat captains must declare the type of trip, whether for-hire or not, and details of the expected completion. NOAA states the new rule is intended to

improve the best scientific information available for regulatory decisionmaking; increase the accuracy of economic impacts and value estimates specific to the for-hire industry; and will support further value-added research efforts and programs aimed at increasing net benefits to fishery stakeholders and the U.S. economy.”

Captains’ Concerns

Continue Reading Mandated Monitoring Attempts to “Hook” Charter Boat Captains 24/7

Data privacyCurrently, there is no broad, generally applicable federal law or regulations concerning data privacy, the collection and use of data or consumers’ rights regarding same. Instead, the matter has been left to the individual states to address. California has led the charge and its data privacy laws are generally regarded as the strongest and most consumer-friendly.

2021 Florida Legislative Session

Earlier this year, the Florida legislature took up the question of online privacy and considered HB 969, the Florida Consumer Data Privacy Act. Modeled after similar legislation in California, HB 969 contained provisions that, among other things, imposed requirements on businesses that collect information from consumers via websites or apps. Specifically, such businesses would be required to inform consumers exactly what data they collect and how they use that data. Consumers would then have the opportunity to grant or deny authorization to collect and/or use that data. HB 969 also contained a provision that would have allowed consumers to sue businesses that used information without authorization.

Because of the parallels to California privacy law and the rights it would give consumers, HB 969 was a landmark piece of legislation that, in terms of data privacy, would rank Florida among the most protective states in the Union. However, HB 969 was heavily lobbied and debated as business interests did not like the potential exposure to suits from consumers relating to the use of personal data. While there was broad, bipartisan support for the bill, the Legislature could not compromise and HB 969 died on the floor on the final day of the legislative session.

Where does Florida rank?

Continue Reading Data Privacy in the USA: Where does Florida rank? Where are we heading?