Archive for December, 2008

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8 Ways Employers Bend The Florida Overtime Wage Laws

December 30, 2008

The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) requires employees who work overtime to be paid for the additional work they have done beyond the standard 40 hour work week. Even though this law is supposed to make things standard across the country so all employees are treated fairly, some employers routinely "cheat" their employees out of overtime pay, even if they do it unintentionally. Because the law is confusing and complex, it is easy for employers to either misinterpret the FSLA or to "bend" the law to avoid paying their employees fair compensation for time worked.

In order to decide if you are owed an overtime wage in Florida, you need to consult with an attorney who is familiar with the law in your state. Even though the FLSA standardizes the wage laws, states have certain variations of the law, but the following represent some job categories that typically don’t pay overtime, even though the employee may really be entitled to it:

  1. Putting in hours "off the clock" – does your employer require you to perform duties before or after your work day starts or ends? An example would be a dental office employee who is required to turn on equipment before clocking in for the morning, or to close down the equipment before leaving for the day and after clocking out.
  2. Unpaid breaks or working through lunch – you may be owed an overtime wage if your Florida employer does not pay you for breaks of more than 5 minutes and less than 20 minutes or if you are required to clock out for lunch, but must complete work-related duties during your lunch break.
  3. Taking home work – if you take work home with you, generally the employer must pay you for that additional work time.
  4. Meetings or training – are you are required to attend a meeting or do some training outside of work hours? An example would be a morning "briefing" before clocking in.
  5. Pre-approval of overtime – do you need to get pre-approval before working overtime? If your employer will not pay for unapproved overtime even if you work extra hours, talk to a Florida attorney about that overtime wage!
  6. Combining work weeks – if you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should be paid for overtime that week even if your employer combines two or more weeks on a paycheck. For example, some employees get paid bi-weekly or semi-monthly which means an employer may refuse to pay overtime for the first week at, say, 45 hours when the second week is less than 40 hours because they’ll combine the two to get a total of 80 hours or less.
  7. On call – if you are required to be ‘on call’ and must report to work on short notice, you may be entitled to overtime pay.
  8. Fancy job title – you may have a snappy job title that makes you feel important (and means the employer thinks he can get away with not paying you overtime). For example, if you are a "supervisor" but don’t actually supervise anything, see a lawyer about those Florida overtime wage laws!

If you are reading this and you’ve worked more than 40 hours a week more often than you’d like to think about, consider that you might be able to collect an overtime wage in Florida. Florida attorney Joseph M. Maus says "Don’t wait too long to consult with an attorney. The FLSA only permits an employee to recover up to two years (sometimes three years if the employer’s violation is found to have been willfull) of unpaid back-wages. With every day that passes, you lose valuable time in which to recover your overtime".

If you have a question or need information on Florida overtime wage claims, contact Florida overtime attorney Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today. The Law Office of Joseph M. Maus and Associates has handled some of the largest Florida overtime wage claims. Attorneys in their offices were recently appointed in Federal

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How To Prevent Drowning In Florida Boating Accidents

December 26, 2008

It’s a typically beautiful Saturday in South Florida and you and your family are taking advantage of the sunshine by basking on your boat. The cooler is filled with refreshing drinks and tempting snacks, everyone has been lathered with sunscreen, and you’re heading out on the water, well-prepared for a day of fun. But, are you truly prepared? Is everyone aboard wearing a life jacket or are you afraid wearing one will give you those funny-looking tan lines? Well, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently released information that should give anyone going out on a boat in Florida something to think about.  There have been 49 deaths in 2008 alone arising out of boating accidents in Florida.  Of those 49 deaths, more than 70 percent resulted from drowning.  And, after reviewing each accident, it was concluded that most of those deaths could have been prevented had the victim been wearing a life jacket.

Both Florida and Federal laws require the operator of a boat to have one Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on the boat.  In years past, life jackets were bulky and uncomfortable, causing some people to refuse to wear them.  However, recently redesigned life jackets which wrap around a boater’s waist like a belt pack, or strap around the shoulders like suspenders, have improved the overall comfort level of wearing a life jacket.

Joseph M. Maus, an AV-rated South Florida attorney specializing in Florida boating accidents, says it’s a no-brainer to wear a life jacket when boating in South Florida.  “The waterways of South Florida are no different than its highways – you can be the safest driver around, but you can’t control what some other boat driver is going to do”, Maus says.  He believes “wearing a life jacket on a boat is the equivalent of wearing a seat belt in a car – everybody should do it.”

The statistics for Florida boating accidents are similar to those on a national level.  According to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association, 70 percent of all boating deaths nationally are the result of drowning.  Most of these deaths were considered preventable if the victims had been wearing a life jacket.

Maus also says that a boat operator’s failure to provide life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFD’s) as required by the Coast Guard, can subject a boat owner and operator to liability if one of the passengers goes overboard.   Maus says the Coast Guard requires:

  1. Each PFD be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible;
  2. Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.);
  3. PFD’s should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them;
  4. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one Type IV USCG-approved PFD on board and immediately available ( a type IV PFD is one that can be thrown to a person in the water);
  5. Children under 6 years of age must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD at all times while on any vessel less than 26 feet in length that is underway upon Florida waters;
  6. Each person on board a Personal Water Craft (PWC), and anyone being towed behind a vessel, must wear a USCG-approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not to be worn on PWC’s or while water-skiing. 

So, the next time you head out on your boat to enjoy the day, make sure everyone on board buckles up – in their life jacket. Don’t let them become another Florida boating accidents statistic!

For more information about boating accidents in Florida, contact Florida boating accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 for a free, no-obligation consultation, or email him today.

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Personal Watercraft Accidents in Florida

December 20, 2008

With thousands of miles of shoreline and inland waterways, Florida is the boating capital of the United States.  Along with operators of conventional boats in Florida, thousands take to the water each day on personal water craft (PWC), commonly known as Jet Skis or Waverunners. If you don’t own one, stop in any town along the coast and you will not have any difficulty finding a business that will rent you one.  Waverunners and Jetskis are fast and fun, but also extremely dangerous unless operated by an experienced person and more than one show-off has been at the wrong end of personal watercraft accidents in Florida.

A PWC operates much like a motorcycle.  They’re small, maneuverable, fast, and seemingly simple to use. You just climb aboard, start it, and twist the throttle. The next thing you know you’re flying across the water throwing spray every time you shift your body.   We have all seen them off the coast of Florida, spinning endless 360 degree turns at high rates of speed.  Even though they operate on the water, PWC’s are ever bit as dangerous as a motorcycle when operated improperly, and probably more dangerous than a normal boat. The danger that comes with a PWC is caused by two things: operator inexperience and a small, extremely fast vessel that can turn on a dime, and accelerate like a motorcycle to speeds exceeding 65 miles per hour.  Many cities have attempted to ban or severely restrict the use the PWC’s, not only because of the noise they cause, but because of the danger they create to those around them.

A recent University of Florida study showed that PWC accidents cause far greater injuries than other boating mishaps.  The study found that riders involved in personal watercraft accidents in Florida sustain more closed-head injuries, more trauma to the chest and abdomen, and more broken bones than compared to riders in a boat.   Because there are no seatbelts or anything else to hold down the rider, riders are usually ejected from the vehicle during a collision, going airborne into the next stationary object, whether it is the water, a steel channel marker, or another boat.

Joseph M. Maus, a Pompano Beach attorney who specializes in boating accidents and personal watercraft accidents in Florida says the two most common causes of PWC accidents is operator inexperience, and high rates of speed.  “You have to understand that just about anybody can buy or rent a boat, jetski or waverunner capable of doing 50-60 miles per hour with literally no training on how to operate it, no knowledge of navigational markers, or how to handle the tides and seas.  When you add in the fact that these waverunners and jetskis are being operated near crowded beach areas, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.”

Maus recommends several safety tips to avoid becoming a statistic for personal watercraft accidents in Florida:
1  Start with reading owner’s manual so you understand the controls and features of your personal water craft.
2.  Wear the proper safety equipment. An approved PFD life jacket Type I or Type II which will keep your head afloat in the event of an accident is a must.
3.  Attach a whistle to your life jacket in case you need to summon help, and to alert other boat traffic.
4.  Never operate your personal water craft without the safety lanyard attached to you. The lanyard cuts the engine if you fall, and could save a long swim home.
5.  Never operate at night – its against the law.
6.  Keep a lookout for other boats and water craft, especially sail boats. Stay at least 100 feet away.
7.  Do not operate your water craft after you’ve been drinking. Just like operating a car while impaired, drinking while boating has caused many boating and personal watercraft accidents in Florida.
8.  Know the water you’re operating in so you can avoid weeds, rocks, and sandbars.
9.  Florida law requires that anyone under the age of 16 needs a boating safety certificate obtained by successful completion of a boating safety course, or be accompanied by someone over age 18.

For more information about personal watercraft accidents in Florida, contact Florida boating accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today.

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6 Reasons You May Be Owed An Overtime Wage In Florida

December 11, 2008

Most employees go to work, put in their forty hours, and collect their wages a couple of times a month. Occasionally an employer will ask workers to stay late or come in early if workloads are heavier than expected. Usually these workers are paid overtime for the extra hours they put in. However some employees may be working overtime routinely for no additional compensation even if they are entitled to it. You are qualified to collect an overtime wage in Florida if you work more than forty hours in a week, even if:

  • You are paid a salary
  • You are a tipped employee
  • Your job title is manager, but you do very little managerial work
  • You are paid on a piece work or per trip basis
  • You are not a U.S. Citizen
  • You don’t have records of all the hours you worked

Many jobs seem to feel that employees "belong" to the company even after their regular workday has ended. Workers can’t seem to escape the office, especially now, when cell phones, Blackberries and other devices can keep them on an electronic leash. We’ve all seen the harried worker pacing the sidewalk outside a restaurant, cell phone glued to his ear, while his family eats dinner without him. Or the Mom who sneaks out during her daughter’s school play because the office is on the phone. Most of the time, this extra duty is given to the employer without compensation in return. But, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires workers to be paid overtime after 40 hours of work in a week, so should these employees be paid overtime?

In general, the Department of Labor says a company that has $500,000 or more in annual sales needs to pay it’s employees an overtime wage in Florida. And hospitals, businesses providing medical or nursing care for residents, schools and preschools, and government agencies must pay overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act (see http://www.dol.gov) also covers "individual workers who are ‘engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.’ Examples of employees who are involved in interstate commerce include those who: produce goods (such as a worker assembling components in a factory or a secretary typing letters in an office) that will be sent out of state, regularly make telephone calls to persons located in other States, handle records of interstate transactions, travel to other States on their jobs, and do janitorial work in buildings where goods are produced for shipment outside the State" and they all must be paid an overtime wage in Florida. In addition, the FLSA says "domestic service workers (such as housekeepers, full-time babysitters, and cooks) are normally covered by the law". So, even if you work for a local company that has no connections to another state, you are probably still covered by the FLSA.

The Fair Labor Standards Act says it "requires overtime pay for covered, non-exempt employees at a rate of not less than one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek. Some exceptions to the 40 hours per week standard apply under special circumstances to police officers and firefighters employed by public agencies and to employees of hospitals and nursing homes. Some states also have enacted overtime laws."

So, you’ve worked more than 40 hours a week more often than you’d like to think about and now you’re questioning whether you might be able to collect an overtime wage in Florida. "Don’t wait too long", says Florida attorney Joseph M. Maus. "The FLSA only permits an employee to recover up to two years (sometimes three years if the employer’s violation is found to have been willfull) of unpaid back-wages. With every day that passes, you lose valuable time in which to recover your overtime".

In Florida, an overtime wage must be paid to most workers if they have worked overtime hours. This is equal to time-and-a-half or 150% of their normal pay rate. There are exceptions to this rule, but they can be confusing. Your job duties, the Federal FLSA, and the number of hours worked all come into play when determining whether an employee is eligible for overtime pay. It is best to consult an attorney who is experienced in Florida overtime wage law to find out if you are due more pay for the hours you have worked.

If you have a question or need information on Florida overtime wage claims, contact Florida overtime attorney Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today. The Law Office of Joseph M. Maus and Associates has handled some of the largest Florida overtime wage claims. Attorneys in their office were recently appointed in Federal Court as lead counsel in an Overtime Class Action against a large Fortune 500 Company. Call their offices today for a free consultation or to obtain more information on Florida overtime wage claims.

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Facts About Worker’s Compensation – The Pain and Suffering of Florida’s Worker’s Compensation Laws

December 4, 2008

If you are amongst the unfortunate thousands of individuals injured on the job in Florida every year, you probably already know some of the difficulties you will encounter.  Florida’s worker’s compensation system provides medical care for injuries suffered on the job, and wage benefits for the time period your workers compensation doctor says you cannot work, but one of the sad facts about worker’s compensation is that it provides nothing to remedy the pain, suffering, and aggravation you will go through on your road back into the work force.

Florida’s worker’s compensation laws are set out in Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes.   In its simplest form, workers compensation will allow you treat with a doctor that is authorized by the worker’s compensation insurance company.  What you don’t know is that you don’t get to control the decisions being made about your medical care.  An insurance company adjustor usually located hundreds of miles away will choose which doctor you go to, when you go to see them, and many times, arbitrarily decide whether you get the medical care the doctor prescribes for you.

One of the other worker’s compensation facts is that it provides a wage benefit.  The problem is that it only provides you 66 2/3% of your average week’s wages during the 13 week period before your accident.  For example, if you were making $500 per week before your accident, you would receive only $333 per week while on worker’s compensation.  With today’s economy, if you were having trouble paying your bills before you got injured, wait until you start to receive your worker’s compensation checks.

Most Florida worker’s compensation lawyers will agree: most of their new clients contact them because of the frustration and aggravation of dealing with the facts of the Florida worker’s compensation system.  “I once had a client blow out his knee on the job, I mean swelling like a grapefruit, and he was told he couldn’t have the MRI that his doctor prescribed for him because it was too soon after the accident date” says Florida worker’s compensation attorney Joseph M. Maus.  Maus says you will come across good adjustors that truly want to help the injured worker get back to work as soon as possible, and others that seem determined to delay providing any benefits at all, hoping the injured worker will just go away.

Many of Florida’s worker’s compensation cases will settle for a lump sum of money after the worker has received medical care.  While some of these injured workers have completed their care, Maus says many of the people settling their claims are just too frustrated and aggravated to stay in the system.  “They would rather take control of their own lives than have some adjustor that doesn’t even know them making decisions that can drastically affect their quality of life”.  Maus recommends contacting an experienced Florida lawyer who knows the facts about worker’s compensation to discuss your options at the beginning of your claim.  Even if you don’t retain the attorney, you can gain valuable information about what rights you do have through worker’s compensation.

Maus says most Florida worker’s compensation lawyers will handle cases on a contingent basis, meaning you don’t pay anything unless your case gets settled.  He says to look out for the attorneys that want to take a percentage of your weekly wage checks, in addition to a percentage of any settlement you may obtain.  “The facts are that worker’s compensation checks are already small enough (remember 66 2/3%) without the attorney taking a percentage of the check.”  With all the obstacles you face in Florida’s worker’s compensation laws, you need an attorney that is going to look out for your best interests.

For more information about worker’s compensation facts, contact Florida work accident compensation lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today.

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