August Newsletter from Pleat & Perry, P.A.
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|Volume Four - August 2010|
Letter to Walton County EDC
July 27, 2010
Walton County Economic Development Alliance
Dear Sir or Madam:
There is a burgeoning new economy growing in this Country and around the World that provides a perfect opportunity for Walton County and the surrounding region to develop jobs and new business. On June 28, I attended the Florida Clean Energy Congress held in the Capital (Tallahassee) House Chambers. The Clean Energy Congress (“CEC”) was enlightening, invigorating and energizing (no pun intended). The CEC galvanized, in my mind, what I had already learned, studied and been made aware of: That we have the technology right now to turn to clean and renewable energy sources to create jobs, enhance our economy and make for a better and cleaner World. There is nothing but an upside to changing the paradigm from dependence on fossil fuels to the ever growing clean and green energy industry. While we are working for a cleaner World, providing for less dependence on fossil fuels and foreign imports and making our Country and State more self sufficient, we will be creating jobs and opportunities for those areas that are taking advantage of this new economy.
The topics discussed at the CEC included growing economies within the clean energy industry, Florida’s potential for clean energy, economics proving that clean energy is cost effective now, and how local governments can lead the way in this energy shift.
Let me give you an example, I had the pleasure of meeting Pegeen Hanrahan, former Mayor of Gainesville, who spoke about the development of a bio-fuel energy plant in the Gainesville area. The bio-fuel energy plant is a great example of how public and private sectors can join together to create a new power plant that is fueled by the leftover area timber industry debris and byproduct (pine needles, saw dust, branches, etc.). Instead of the lumber companies burning the byproduct in the field without any pollution control, the byproduct is now transported to the power plant, which was developed by a private developer with the cooperation of the City of Gainesville, and ninety-five percent (95%) of the pollutants are now captured in the process of using the fuel to provide energy in the Gainesville area.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Shelton Stone and James Sumpter from Energy Farm, a renewable energy company that is based in Seaside, Florida. Energy Farm is working with local power companies in Walton County to develop Walton County’s first solar energy plant. It is my understanding that much progress has been made in this regard, and I am hopeful that this solar energy plant will take off in the future. We also have living in Walton County John and Shirley Leeper who have a net zero home in Blue Mountain Beach which produces more energy than is used in the home. The excess energy is sold back to Chelco and put back on the grid, resulting in a credit to the Leepers. Solar energy, as explained by Dr. James Fenton, from Florida’s Solar Energy Center, has an energy return on investment (“EROI”) that makes it economically competitive with fossil fuels.
Currently, we spend sixty billion dollars a year in Florida importing coal for our power plants. We export, in essence, our money. Every time we shift our power source to solar or other renewable energy sources, we reduce our dependence on coal imports and, ultimately, create energy self-sufficiency for this State and enormous savings over time because we reduce our need for coal to power our fuel plants Walton County, and our surrounding region have many resources that make it a viable and attractive alternative for the alternative, renewable and green energy industry that include:
Jerry Miller again selected to teach lawyers how to practice law
J. Jerome Miller, Of Counsel to the firm of Pleat & Perry, P.A. Attorneys at Law, is a selected lecturer at the Florida Municipal Attorneys Association Annual Conference in July at the association’s annual meeting.
Jerry will present regarding the proper conduct of public meetings. It is high professional complement to be requested to teach one’s peers. Jerry is the City Attorney of the City of Destin, with 35 years municipal law and land use experience. He is a graduate of the Florida State University where he received both his bachelors and law degrees. He is AV rated by Martindale Hubble Law Directory, by peer rating, the highest rating available for both legal acumen and ethics.
Jerry is a past President of the Florida Municipal Attorneys Association (200-01) and recipient of The Paul Buchman Award as Florida’s Outstanding Municipal Attorney of the Year (2004-05). Jerry also has an active, 40 years, estate planning, probate and guardianship practice and served as President of the Estate Planning Council of Northwest Florida in 1992.
Fair Labor Standards Act Amended: Employers Must Now Provide Breaks and Private Space for Nursing Mothers
by Elizabeth V. LaFollette, Esq.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) has been amended to provide new rights for nursing mothers through a surprising means–the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The new protections for nursing mothers apply to virtually all employers and are effective immediately.
The new rules apply to all employees who are required to be paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Under the new rules, employers must provide a “reasonable break time” for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child is born. A break must be provided “each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
Employers also must provide a place for an employee to express breast milk “that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.” Merely providing access to a bathroom is insufficient.
Employers are not required to compensate employees during breaks used to express breast milk.
Also, the amendments to the FLSA make clear that they do not displace any state laws that may provide more generous protections for nursing mothers.
The law does provide an exception for small employers who can establish an undue hardship: employers who have fewer than 50 employees are not required to comply if the requirements would impose an “undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” No further guidance is provided regarding how this exception will be applied. Note that no exception exists for employers who have 50 or more employees, even if the employees are dispersed among several small offices.
Practical Effects for Employers
The law now protects some nursing mothers more than other employees. Although employees generally are not entitled to breaks of any frequency or duration, with the new rules, nursing mothers who are eligible for overtime must be allowed to take breaks and they cannot be penalized for taking them. Similarly, employers generally are not required to provide any particular space for employee breaks, nor are they required to insure that breaks go uninterrupted. The rules are now different for some nursing mothers–they must be given a private space to take a break, and presumably, they should not be interrupted while the break is taken. In short, the law has now created a new class of protected employees: mothers who are breastfeeding.
Employers may be wondering, “How long is a reasonable break time?” and “How often will the employee need to take breaks?” The law provides no specific answer to these questions, requiring only that breaks be “reasonable” and taken when there is a “need.”
As a practical matter, mothers who are breastfeeding may need to express breast milk as frequently as every three to four hours. Also, each break to express milk probably will last between fifteen and thirty minutes. As the employee’s baby ages, the employee may need to take fewer breaks (because the child will begin to eat more solid food and will rely less on breast milk).
As mentioned above, the new provisions only apply to employees who are required to receive overtime pay (this is because of the manner in which the FLSA was amended). The new rules do not apply to employees who are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements, such as employees employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity. This discrepancy presents an interesting issue because in some respects, hourly employees are being given more extensive rights than exempt employees (such as a private place to express breast milk). This discrepancy could present workplace morale issues.
The new rules also do not require employers to pay employees for break time used to express breast milk. This aspect of the new rules raises another interesting issue. Normally, employers are required to pay employees during breaks that last less than thirty minutes. If employers normally allow employees to take several breaks per day (for which they are paid), it seems inconsistent with the spirit of the law’s new provisions to penalize breastfeeding mothers by requiring their breaks to go unpaid.
Employers also should be wary of the potential for retaliation claims stemming from the new rules. The FLSA prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who assert claims or cooperate in investigations under the Act. Now, some breastfeeding mothers are protected under the FLSA, so the retaliation protections are accordingly expanded to include them.
Similarly, employers should be aware that the new FLSA rights could be used to bolster claims of sex discrimination and/or pregnancy discrimination. Women of childbearing age may have several children in a relatively short period of years. These women may use time off during their pregnancies and after their children are born. Now, some mothers also will be able to have more frequent breaks after they return to work for up to a year after each child is born. The potential exists for employers to become frustrated with what they view as an endless cycle of time off, leave, and special privileges. Employers who have this mind set, however, will find themselves facing claims of unlawful discrimination. Consequently, employers should be sensitive to these issues.
Separately, small employers should not assume that they will qualify for the “undue hardship” exception explained above. If small employers can comply with some of the new requirements but not all of them (for example, can provide breaks but cannot supply a non-bathroom space), the prudent course is to comply fully with as many of the new requirements as possible.
Contact the law firm of Pleat & Perry, P.A. for all of your legal needs.
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