A Broward County tax return preparer pleaded guilty recently to conspiring to file and filing fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

According to documents filed with the court, the 41-year-old man owned two tax preparation businesses in Lauderhill with two other men.

From approximately 2010 through 2016, the three men apparently filed fraudulent returns for their clients seeking refunds to which the clients were not entitled, by reporting fictitious business income, fraudulent education and fuel tax credits and claiming deceased individuals as dependents. They also filed returns in the names of individuals whose identities had been stolen. The man apparently admitted to causing a tax loss of more than $550,000.

The man is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 6. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy count and a maximum sentence of three years in prison on the false return count. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.

The other two men involved are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 22.

The Tax fraud involved in the above discussed scheme involve some sort of data breach to gain access to employee’s W-2’s. There are several simple things you can do to avoid being victimized and protect your employees’ data, including::

  • Control access to payroll data and other sensitive information. Make sure that only people who really need sensitive data information have access to it. Limiting who can see this information, can eliminate any breaches.
  • Consider requiring a second step to authenticate requests for sensitive data before it can be released. A lot of these breaches happen when employees divulge other employees’ W-2 information to criminals. Should someone request W-2 information, it is beneficial to implement protocol that that employee speak to the person requesting the information before releasing it.
  • Make employees aware of various scams circulating regarding data security. Arm your employees with any “red flag” information so that they know when something seems odd. Always encourage them to ask questions or get help if something does not seem right.

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A former employee has filed a lawsuit against his former South Florida employer, citing alleged unpaid wages.

The man filed a complaint on June 16 in the Broward County Circuit Court, alleging that his former employer failed its duty to pay employees for all hours they worked at the correct rate.

According to the complaint, the man alleges that he and other similarly situated employees have suffered loss of earnings for working additional hours in excess of 40 per week without being compensated at the statutory rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly rate.

The man holds his former employer responsible for allegedly failing to properly compensate their employees for overtime work.

Powerful and clear labor laws are in place to protect employees’ rights to receive poper pay for all work performed, which includes overtime. Our Fort Lauderdale Unpaid Overtime Lawyers at Whittel & Melton help people working in a broad range of positions throughout Broward County and the surrounding communities. You deserve your full pay for hours worked and for commission, vacation pay and sick time earned. We know what your wage and hour law rights are and we can help you fight for what is owed to you.

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A Pinellas County woman alleges that she suffered discrimination and harassment because of her gender while working for her former employer.

According to the woman’s complaint, she alleges she was employed as a buyer and produce manager from January 2014 until her forced resignation/constructive discharge on Jan. 7, 2016. She alleges that a co-worker attempt to grope her on Jan. 7, 2016, and that the co-worker was not reprimanded or investigated.

She is seeking reinstatement, unpaid wages, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs of this action.

While some people claim to be “huggers” or “touchy-feely,” please understand that no one has a right to hug or touch you if you are not OK with it. Unwelcome touching of a sexual nature is classified as sexual harassment under the law.

If you have been subjected to inappropriate touching in the workplace, our Pinellas County Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you take action to make it stop and hold the responsible party accountable. We will help you assert your right and seek financial damages for the personal trauma as well as financial impact the sexual harassment endured has placed on you.

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A jury has awarded $4.5 million to a former employee who sued an Iowa hospital for age bias and retaliation.

The jury’s July 24 decision came after a 10-day trial of Grinnell Regional Medical Center and two administrators. The lawsuit states that the hospital fired the man in June 2015 from his post as lab director while in remission from breast cancer and hired a younger replacement.

It is believed that the man was targeted because he’d declined an order to retire following his initial diagnosis in November 2013.

The hospital’s attorneys deny the firing and subsequent hiring of a new director had anything to do with the man’s age or cancer diagnosis. A hospital spokeswoman says the hospital intends to appeal.

Discrimination in the workplace is not only unfair, but also illegal. There are several different federal laws that offer protection from discrimination based on disability, race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Age discrimination has its own unique set of laws called the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Job applicants and employees who are over the age of 40 are usually covered by the ADEA.

Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person over 40 because of their age when it comes to:  

  • hiring
  • firing
  • promotion
  • layoff
  • compensation
  • benefits
  • job assignments
  • training

Moreover, employees who speak out against age discrimination have legal protection from retaliation.

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An overtime lawsuit by hourly night-shift employees of a Chipotle restaurant in Minnesota who allegedly worked without pay while closing the restaurant can proceed as a collective action, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled.

Chipotle operates more than 2,100 restaurants in 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as internationally. In 2014, four hourly employees of a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. in Crystal, Minn., filed a lawsuit in the District of Minnesota against Chipotle on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA).

They claimed that Chipotle has a companywide unwritten policy of requiring hourly paid employees to work off the clock and without pay, and they sought to recover allegedly unpaid overtime compensation and other wages.

Each Chipotle is also managed by a general manager, one or more “apprentice managers” who serve as assistant managers, one or more service managers, and one or more kitchen managers, and has 15 to 50 crew members.

A Crystal Chipotle apprentice manager from April 2012 to October 2013, filed a declaration in a related lawsuit against Chipotle in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado that his superiors knew that the general managers and apprentice managers in the 50-store area required hourly employees to work off the clock to meet Chipotle’s requirement that they keep labor costs down. He stated that he was directed to clock out hourly night-shift crew members before 12:30 a.m. and require them to keep working after they clocked out.

Chipotle argued to have the case decertified, but ultimately, the court denied Chipotle’s motion to decertify the collective action.

You can read more about the case here.

It is illegal to force hourly employees to work off the clock. When a group of employees are seeking damages for unpaid overtime or minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act, they can file together in what is called a collective action lawsuit. Collective action lawsuits have many advantages over filing alone. These lawsuits work to increase the efficiency of the legal process and lower legal costs for all parties by grouping the plaintiffs together.

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A judge has ordered Google to hand over salary records to the government in an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused Google of discriminating against women.

Google must provide the federal government with a 2014 snapshot of the data, along with contact information for thousands of employees for possible interviews, according to a ruling made public on Sunday.

Judge Steve Berlin also denied part of the government’s request for records and partially sided with Google, which had argued the department’s demands were overly broad and could violate employee privacy.

The limited records Google must release could help the DoL build a formal pay discrimination case against the company. The department argued that additional records would help explain the “extreme” gender pay gap it uncovered in an initial audit.

The DoL first publicly accused Google of “systemic compensation disparities” in April, testifying in a hearing that its preliminary investigation found that women across a wide range of positions at the Mountain View campus were paid less than men.

Google has vehemently denied that it discriminates against women, publicly claiming it has closed its gender pay gap globally. In a Sunday blog post, Google said it was “pleased” with the decision and would comply with the order, providing the “much more limited data set of information”.

discrimination and sexism in recent months, including Tesla, Palantir, Oracle and smaller startups across Silicon Valley.

Employment law covers many aspects of an employee’s relationship with an employer. Employment laws exist to protect employees from being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace. Our Florida Employment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you determine if you have a legal claim against your employer and walk you through the proper steps to take.

Every employment law case is different and involves a unique set of facts. The laws are complicated, requiring a careful in-depth review to determine if you have a valid claim.

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On Friday the U.S. Labor Department defended its authority to use salary levels to decide who was eligible for overtime pay.

Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the Labor Department has continued to fight a challenge to an Obama administration-era rule to raise the pay threshold for overtime eligibility.

The Labor Department told a federal appeals court on Friday it had the power to use salaries to set thresholds for mandatory overtime pay, without advocating for the $47,500 maximum salary level set by the department under Obama.

The Labor Department is challenging a November decision from a federal judge in Texas that blocked the Obama rule, a decision that the department said could prevent it from setting a new threshold below that set by the Obama administration.

The Obama rule was expected to extend overtime pay eligibility to more than 4 million salaried workers. Nevada and 20 other states sued last year to block the rule.

Business groups criticized the increase as too drastic and costly, potentially forcing employers to convert salaried workers to hourly wages.

Trump’s Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta said during his confirmation hearing in March that the correct threshold might be around $33,000. The Labor Department took initial steps earlier this week to begin developing a new threshold.

In its Friday brief to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, the Labor Department made it clear it did not support the salary threshold developed under Obama. The department then told the court it was “reluctant” to move forward with the rulemaking necessary to set a new threshold as long as its authority was in question.

Nevada and the other states have said that the use of a salary threshold to determine overtime eligibility has been controversial for decades, but appeals courts allowed it because it had been set low enough to exempt management workers.

According to the states,  the Obama administration rule is far more drastic, expanding overtime pay to tens of thousands of state employees.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most employees must be paid at least minimum wage for regular work hours and receive overtime pay when total weekly hours reach more than 40. The state of Florida follows the overtime rules of the FLSA, time and one half regular pay rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a regular work week. Overtime can be calculated by taking your regular rate of pay and multiplying it by 1.5.

As it stands currently, job titles do not determine eligibility for overtime pay. Wages, duties and occupations decipher whether one can be paid overtime. Right now, any employee that makes a yearly salary of less than $23,600 can be awarded overtime pay. Non-management employees performing manual labor or repair, secretarial, kitchen or clerical work are usually entitled to collecting overtime pay. With several exceptions, all hourly paid employees should be entitled to overtime. Most commission-based workers can be awarded overtime as well. Salaried employees that earn less than $455 per week are entitled to overtime. Salaried employees that earn more than $455 per workweek can receive overtime unless their job duties earn them exemption like executive, professional, administrative, outside sales or computer-related occupations.

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A Hallandale Beach man alleges he was not paid a bonus upon a completion of a project as promised.

The man filed a complaint on June 13 in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida – Broward County against the construction company alleging breach of contract.

According to the complaint, the man worked for the construction company from January to December 2016. The suit states he was assigned to a project in Jensen Beach and was promised a 20 percent bonus of his salary upon its completion, or $19,000.

The man holds the construction company responsible because they allegedly failed to honor their obligation and pay for the extra compensation upon completion of the project.

The man is seeking damages and unpaid wages, plus costs of suit, attorney’s fees and further relief as the court may deem just.

Florida employers often promise their employees a bonus as a way of motivating them to work harder or to create additional incentives that benefit the employer.

There are two types of bonuses: discretionary and non-discretionary. A discretionary bonus is basically a gift, where the employee’s performance is not a factor. A common example of this is a Christmas bonus. In most cases, an employee has no legal right to recover a discretionary bonus.

A non-discretionary bonus is tied to an employee’s performance, and once that condition is met or satisfied, the employee is entitled to that bonus. If you have been denied a non-discretionary bonus, and you have satisfied the terms, you may have a legal right to take action against your employer.

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A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The lawsuit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

The lawsuit was among a spate of legal actions in recent years accusing NFL teams of failing to pay cheerleaders for hours they spent practicing and making public appearances.

California legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago requires cheerleaders receive at least minimum wage and overtime and sick leave if they work for professional sports teams based in California.

The lawsuit before Alsup claimed that cheerleaders received only a flat, per-game fee. It also said the NFL and its teams conspired to prohibit cheerleaders from seeking employment with other professional cheerleading teams and from discussing their earnings with each other.

Alsup said he would expect at least some evidence to support a conspiracy on the scale alleged in the lawsuit — possibly a former NFL employee coming forward to “provide the details of ‘who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when’ regarding some actual conspiratorial meeting, communication or agreement.”

The lawsuit, instead, alleges similar policies for cheerleaders among NFL teams, Alsup said. The judge said those policies could just as easily have been implemented by each team independently.

This case is certainly interesting. The cheerleaders allegedly only made about $100 per game and, in many cases, were not paid for mandatory public events or rehearsal time. In stark contrast, NFL players collectively earned $6.4 billion last year while NFL team mascots annually make between $25,000 and $60,000, often with benefits.

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A $7.5 million class action settlement between Wal-Mart and a former employee who challenged the retail chain’s lack of health insurance benefits for her same-sex spouse was approved by a federal judge on Monday.

The settlement will pay for claims by current and former Wal-Mart associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that they were unable to obtain health insurance for their same-sex spouses from 2011 to 2013. About 380 claims have been submitted.

U.S. District Judge William Young approved the settlement after a brief hearing in federal court in Boston.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by a Wal-Mart associate from Massachusetts who said the company denied medical insurance for her wife. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began offering benefits for same-sex spouses in 2014.

The female associate, whose wife died of ovarian cancer in 2016, said she was pleased Walmart was willing to resolve the issue for her and other associates who are married to someone of the same sex.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, age, sex, religion, and/or national origin. For this specific case, attorneys argued that Wal-Mart violated Title VII when they refused to offer spousal health benefits because the associate and her spouse were of the same sex.  

Our Florida Discrimination Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are strong advocates for LGBT employees. We firmly believe that all employees should be treated fairly in the workplace. We are committed to making sure justice is obtained when any employee’s rights are violated.

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