HIPAA Fines – Not Just for Hospitals and Health Insurers

In a statement released on April 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), has shown that it expects covered entities of all sizes to adhere to the HIPAA privacy and security rules. While many of the fines levied by OCR in the past have involved large covered entities such as hospitals and health plans, OCR’s most recent enforcement action resulted in a $400,000 settlement to be paid by a federally qualified health center in Colorado. Continue Reading →

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District

On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a much-anticipated opinion regarding the appropriate standard to be used to determine whether a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) has been provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. §1400, et. seq.). This decision is of extreme importance to both school districts and the parents of children with disabilities, as it will significantly impact the provision of special education and related services to children with disabilities. Continue Reading →

Court Determines Title IX Applies to Residency Program at a Private Hospital

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided a case brought against a private hospital by a female participant in the hospital’s medical residency program that may have important implications for residency programs. The plaintiff alleged that the hospital was liable under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 for creating a hostile work environment, retaliation, and quid pro quo harassment, along with several state-law claims. The plaintiff claimed that the director of her radiology residency program sexually harassed her over the course of several months. After she complained about the director’s behavior, she was dismissed from the residency program. Continue Reading →

IMMIGRATION NEWS FLASH: President Trump’s Executive Orders: What Employers Need to Know

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Immigration is one of President Trump’s signature issues that he campaigned on in the 2016 election. In attempting to fulfill his campaign promises, during his first week in office, President Trump issued three (3) Executive Orders. It is the 3rd Executive Order that is currently having the greatest impact on affected foreign national employees in the workplace. Continue Reading →

Amendment 7 and the Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act – Charles v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc.

On January 31, 2017, the Supreme Court of Florida issued an opinion regarding the interplay of Amendment 7 (Art. X, § 25, Fla. Const.) and the Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 299b-21 to 26) (“FPSQIA”). This decision is of extreme importance to the health care industry in Florida as it will significantly impact the peer review activities of hospitals and other health care providers within the state. Continue Reading →

IMMIGRATION NEWS FLASH: USCIS Filing Fees Increased Significantly on December 23, 2016!

image On December 23, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) significantly raised filing fees for over three (3) dozen types of petitions and applications filed to seek immigration benefits. The last filing fee increase was in November 2010. Continue Reading →

The New I-9 Form And Increased Employer Fines For Violations

On November 14, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released a new I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form. (All employers are required to complete an I-9 Form for each new employee to document the verification of the employee’s identity and authorization to work). The new I-9 Form is effective January 22, 2017, employers should start using the new I-9 Form immediately for all new hires and reverifications. The prior version, which has been in effect since 2013 is now obsolete. The new I-9 Form can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9. Continue Reading →

New Overtime Rules Have Far-Reaching Effects

This week the Obama Administration released a final rule, effective December 1, 2016, which significantly raises the salary threshold for workers to qualify for overtime. Previously, many employees who earned to $23,660 were entitled to overtime pay at time-and-a-half compensation for any hours worked in excess of forty during the week. Under the new rule, the threshold is now at $47,476, meaning that many employees who make up to $913 per week are entitled to time-and-a-half compensation if they work over 40 hours per week. In addition to raising the threshold for exempt employees, the Rule also raises the threshold to be considered a “highly compensated employee” under the Fair Labor Standards Act from $100,000 to $134,004 annually. Continue Reading →

PUBLIC RECORDS LITIGATION: Condition Precedent for Seeking Attorneys’ Fees Against the State

In a recent case – State of Florida, Department of Economic Opportunity v. Consumer Rights, LLC – the First District of Appeal reversed the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees under Florida’s public records law, because the party seeking the public records failed to give notice of the claim for attorney’s fees to the Department of Financial Service at the time it filed the complaint pursuant to Section 284.30, Florida Statutes.

Section 284.30, Florida Statutes, provides as follows:

State Risk Management Trust Fund; coverages to be provided.—A state self-insurance fund, designated as the “State Risk Management Trust Fund,” is created to be set up by the Department of Financial Services and administered with a program of risk management, which fund is to provide insurance, as authorized by s. 284.33, for workers’ compensation, general liability, fleet automotive liability, federal civil rights actions under 42 U.S.C. s. 1983 or similar federal statutes, and court-awarded attorney’s fees in other proceedings against the state except for such awards in eminent domain or for inverse condemnation or for awards by the Public Employees Relations Commission. A party to a suit in any court, to be entitled to have his or her attorney’s fees paid by the state or any of its agencies, must serve a copy of the pleading claiming the fees on the Department of Financial Services; and thereafter the department shall be entitled to participate with the agency in the defense of the suit and any appeal thereof with respect to such fees. (Emphasis added.)

In its opinion, the Court noted that “[t]he statute explicitly excludes eminent domain, inverse condemnation, or Public Employees Relations Commission suits from this statute’s requirements. If the Legislature sought to exclude public records cases from these requirements, it would have listed it with the other exclusions. As such, the plain language of the statute shows that the Legislature intended to include public records cases within its purview.”

Accordingly, the Court concluded that the notice requirement of Section 284.30 was a condition precedent to the award of attorney’s fees and reversed the award of fees in this case, despite a finding by the trial court that the agency had “unjustifiably delayed in producing the records” in violation of Chapter 119, Florida Statutes.
A motion for rehearing has been filed with the Court.

For more information regarding this issue or other open government issues, contact Mark Herron at mherron@lawfla.com

EDUCATION LAW – Federal Court holds that commercial banner hung on school fence is not entitled to any First Amendment free-speech protection

School boards often have programs allowing private businesses or organizations to hang banners on school property in return for donations to support school activities. The banners are a way of saying “thank you” to these businesses and organizations for their financial support. These banner programs raise a host of liability issues for school boards under the First Amendment – depending upon whether the banners are considered “private speech” or “government speech.”
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