Saturday, February 26, 2011

Republicans Trying To Cut Unemployment Benefits In Florida

Florida HB 7005 again won support, this time in the Economic Affairs Committee on Friday  morning. The vote was 12 to 5, with Republicans in the majority.

Democratic challenges and amendments, primarily from representatives from South Florida and Orlando, failed as the Republican-controlled committee voted to advance the bill.

Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, succeeded also with an amendment adding a clause to the bill that would retain other elements of the bill should it be challenged in court or by federal regulators. Ultimately, the U.S. Labor Department must certify any state's law that changes unemployment compensation.

Opponents to the bill also raised constitutionality issues, but mainly asked legislators not to deny six weeks of benefits and make it more difficult for Florida's unemployed to qualify for benefits.

Karen Woodall, an advocate for the unemployed through the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, urged the committee not to address business climate issues "on the backs of the unemployed." She said reducing state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 was "unconscionable."

Holder argued that the bill would improve Florida's business climate to attract new business because employers would have to pay fewer weeks of unemployment. He said the goal was to replenish the state's broke unemployment insurance trust fund.

Rep. James Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, questioned how the bill would replenish the trust fund, saying figures in the bill showed that even with the changes the trust fund would ramain at a zero balance through 2020. Holder responded that employers would pay about $18 less an employee for unemployment insurance through the bill.

Randall Webster, who said he was unemployed after a career working in affordable housing and related work, also urged the committe not pass the bill. Webster testified that he and about 25 friends also without jobs have been "diligently trying to find work, but "the jobs are not out there." 

The bill now heads to the floor of the Florida House where it will be heard during the upcoming 2011 Legislative Session. A similar bill -- but one that doesn't reduced the weeks of benefits, is being considered in Florida's Senate.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Age Discrimination is Getting "Old"

Age discrimination is a growing problem in the hospitality and restaurant business throughout Florida and the U.S. If you’re a male bartender over forty (40) your chance of getting a job started decreasing as soon as you turned thirty, or maybe even before if you were applying on South Beach. If you are a woman over forty (40) your chances of moving up or even staying at the same level is getting harder, while the younger cute girls are taking your prime shifts. It seems many restaurant and bar owners, including corporations, think they need to have young cute girls and boys behind the bar to maximize profits.

Let’s take for example two restaurant chains that my firm has recently filed EEOC complaints against; Matteo's and Seasons 52.

I have been a big fan of Seasons 52 ever since they opened their store in Coral Gables. However, I have noticed that EVERY server is under 30. How on earth can that be? Well, after speaking with several very qualified over forty servers who have filled out applications and were interviewed, I can say that in my opinion, Seasons 52 discriminates against over forty (40) server applicants. Why, I can only guess because they want to keep the staff young. Why do they need a young staff? To make people feel “good” about eating at Seasons 52; “You don’t want some old person serving you, do you?” A few of the significant monetary benefits to the company might be:

1.      Lower health  and Workers’ Compensation insurance rates;
2.      Server staff is easier to control;
3.      Fewer employee lawsuits.

Remember, when you run a large corporation, the bottom line is what keeps you employed at the top.

If you would like more information about age discrimination, contact us. We are always available to answer questions to help keep you informed. If you have specific knowledge about any restaurant that refuse to hire over 40 staff  or Seasons 52 we would like to speak with you too. Remember, we are all getting older and having the safety net of working in the restaurant business is nice; if you can get hired when you are over 40!

Some of our other age discrimination cases:

Wowies Sports Bar and Grill
Tarpon Bend Coral Gables
Matteo’s Restaurant - UPDATE - The EEOC has found cause for our clients' age and sex discrimination claims - Two experienced male bartenders were replaced with under forty (40) female bartenders with less experience. Restaurant stated they "wanted to move in a different direction."