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?

sailboats in a marinaHurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. We are currently in the peak of hurricane season, as most storms occur in August and September, and the next major storm could be right around the corner.

High winds, storm surge, rising sea levels, and increased tides are just some of the concerns boaters must consider during hurricane season, and preparing your boat is one of the most important ways you can protect your asset.

In advance

  • Check your personal dockage, or speak to your marina regarding storm preparations and securing your vessel;
  • Many marinas will offer emergency mooring or dry dock provided you have contacted them well in advance — in fact, reserve now for next season — to secure space during an emergency;
  • Update your boat inventory and supply lists, photograph the vessel and all important equipment and inventory; and,
  • Copy and protect your boat insurance policy, registration and documentation, any lease agreements with marinas or storage facilities, photos, and inventory lists and store them in a safe location.

When a storm is imminent

Continue Reading Preparing and protecting your boat for a hurricane

trade secretWhen many entrepreneurs think of trade secrets, they think of high-tech companies or large manufacturers. For example, software architecture and source code are generally protected using trade secrets. Another example of businesses that have many trade secrets is legacy manufacturers which need to protect how products are made, what products are made out of, etc. Famous examples of trade secrets from these industries range from Google’s® search algorithms to KFC’s® “11 secret herbs and spices.”

But all businesses – even the most “simple” – have trade secrets. At the very least, all businesses have customer lists, vendor lists, profitability/pricing information, etc. – with many businesses having much more. The best way to evaluate whether certain information might be a trade secret is to think about real-world business consequences. I often ask my clients,

If one of your best employees left for a competitor and took certain business information with them, would that be upsetting?”

If the answer is “yes,” then that information needs to be evaluated for potential trade secret protection. That can run the gamut from customer lists to the “secret sauce” that makes a business successful.

Whether your business is large or small, below are five important tools that can be used to protect trade secrets.

Legal Tools to Maintain Secrecy

Continue Reading 5 Tools Small Businesses Can Use to Protect Their Trade Secrets

Waitress in a maskIn keeping with his candidate promises, President Biden’s new appointees issued new COVID-19 regulations. Under the prior administration, the EEOC concluded an employer could require an employee to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. While subject to certain limitations, such as accommodations for medical conditions and religious objections, this was a significant win for employers as they tried to return to normalcy.

Lack of consistency among government agencies

The EEOC’s pronouncement was seen as giving employers the approval to encourage vaccination. BJ Zarvis of Pewter Mug restaurant, “I saw this information as a way to give me, my employees, and my customers some comfort knowing that they were coming to a safe place.”

But then OSHA, under the new Biden administration, announced that any employer that created a mandatory vaccination plan would be subject to OSHA reporting rules if there were any adverse effects from the vaccination. Any lost days would be reportable, which potentially subjects the employer to higher insurance rates and fines. “When I heard about OSHA’s position,” said Zarvis, “I decided it wasn’t worth it to make it mandatory.”

Luckily, OSHA’s position took considerable heat from the public, across the political spectrum, such that it finally announced it was rolling back its position and not making adverse effects from a mandatory vaccination program reportable. So employers like Zarvis can again consider the pros and cons of making vaccinations mandatory.

What is keeping employers from mandating vaccinations?

Continue Reading How are Florida employers keeping up with ever-changing vaccine requirements?

CryptocurrencyOver the last several months, there have been dozens of news stories about cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, and the related technologies they have created. One item, in particular, has received an incredible amount of press—the NFT. Who has not heard of the $69 million price tag on Everydays – the First 5000 Days and other outlandish prices for digital art. This article will try to explain just what an NFT is and, because of their relationship to the creative arts, some of the intellectual property issues surrounding them.

It all starts with Blockchain

Blockchain is a technology that has emerged as an innovative, record-keeping technology that authenticates transactions. It is essentially a transaction ledger that is open and decentralized, so anyone, with proper access credentials, can view the ledger to the authenticity of whatever is being transferred and the chain of ownership. Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin and ensures that the cryptocurrencies being transferred in a transaction are authentic.

What is the difference between “fungible” and “non-fungible”?

Continue Reading NFTs and Intellectual Property

Wine GlassesOn May 13, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 148, which allows restaurants or other alcohol beverage vendors to sell alcoholic drinks to-go.  No, this does not mean that Florida is an open container state; possession of an open alcoholic container in Florida is still illegal under Florida Statutes, section 316.1936 and 856.011. However, customers who want to order take-out from their favorite restaurant can now also bring home their favorite cocktail, providing the restaurant meets certain requirements.

The alcoholic drinks to-go initially started through one of DeSantis’s emergency orders as a way for struggling restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase their sales. “Alcoholic drinks to-go became an important source of revenue for restaurants that were trying to survive during the pandemic,” DeSantis noted. Throughout the pandemic, restaurants were some of Florida’s businesses that were most affected. Florida Representative Josie Tomkow stated, however, that the new law

allows for restaurants to continue to offer alcohol-to-go as an option. This pro-consumer, business-friendly bill will help support our restaurant industry and its tens of thousands of employees.”

Requirements

Continue Reading I’ll Take it To-Go: New Florida Law Makes To-Go Alcohol Sales Permanent Effective July 1

There is no such thing as an unimportant Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) opinion. As someone who vigorously defends the media in First Amendment cases, I eagerly awaited the SCOTUS opinion in Maloney Area School District v B.L. The opinion was rendered on June 23, 2021, and I quickly read it looking for nuggets I could use in the representation of my clients. Although the case did not involve media, the 8-1 (Justice Thomas dissenting) decision importantly upheld First Amendment protections.

Defenders of the First Amendment will hail the decision as another important victory for free speech and will no doubt cite to the opinion authored by Justice Breyer and the significant statements concerning the importance of the First Amendment:

  • “America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy. Our representative democracy only works if we protect ‘the marketplace of ideas.’ That marketplace must include the protection of unpopular ideas, for popular ideas have less need for protection.”
  • “The First Amendment protects ‘even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.’”

Take-Away

Continue Reading SCOTUS Decision on First Amendment Rights: Who Really Won?

COVID-19 vaccineOn June 12, 2021, a federal judge entered an Order dismissing a hospital employee’s lawsuit attempting to block a hospital policy requiring employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Houston Methodist Hospital announced a policy on April 1, 2021, mandating that all employees receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines. The hospital eventually suspended 178 employees without pay for their refusal to get vaccinated. Jessica Bridges, along with 116 other hospital employees, brought suit to block the vaccine requirement and to overturn their suspensions and possible terminations.

At the beginning of 2021, there was much speculation throughout the country regarding whether or not employers could require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In a previous article, Can Employers Require Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?, I indicated that the answer appeared to be yes, with some exceptions. Now U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes appears to have confirmed this through his dismissal of Bridge’s lawsuit.

Plaintiff’s argument opposing COVID-19 vaccine

Continue Reading Federal judge upholds employer’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement

health insuranceSponsors of group health plans have new responsibilities following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) on March 11, 2021. Under ARPA, certain participants and beneficiaries of employer-sponsored health plans are eligible for a federal subsidy, which will cover for a limited period 100% of the premium for COBRA continuation coverage. The subsidy is also available in the case of plans covered by Florida’s mini-COBRA law, which applies to group health plans of employers having fewer than 20 employees.

The Importance of Being an “Assistance Eligible Individual”

Federally subsidized COBRA coverage is available only to a person who is an Assistance Eligible Individual (“AEI”) under ARPA. This term comprehends an employee or former employee, and any dependent, losing group health plan coverage as a result of an employee’s reduction in work hours or involuntary termination.

Persons losing coverage because of an employee’s voluntary retirement are not AEIs. Nor is anyone who is eligible for coverage under another group health plan, such as through a spouse’s employment, or for Medicare, an AEI, even though they don’t enroll in the alternative coverage. These individuals may be eligible to elect COBRA, but they will generally have to pay for the coverage themselves.

ARPA Subsidy Availability

The COBRA subsidy first became available on April 1, 2021, but can be retroactively effective to that date for AEIs having COBRA coverage at the time, who may be reimbursed for premiums they paid or receive a credit against future premiums.

In many cases, an AEI who was not already covered by COBRA at the beginning of the subsidy period will be able to elect COBRA continuation coverage retroactive to April 1, 2021, and have the cost of the coverage completely paid by the federal government, regardless of its cost or the individual’s income level.

The longest period any AEI can qualify for a subsidy is six months, and no AEI can receive a subsidy for a coverage period extending beyond September 30, 2021.

Employer Role in Payment Process

Continue Reading Employer Responsibilities under the Temporary Federal COBRA Subsidy