Daily Business Review: Real Estate Agent Loses Job After Video Shows Her Mocking Gillum Supporters in Election Protest

Kluger Kaplan’s Michael Landen provides employment law insights in today’s Daily Business Review. 

Michael Landen_226 greyA United Realty Group Inc. real estate agent demonstrating with protesters calling for the firing of the Broward election supervisor is out of a job following a high-profile Twitter video.

Liliana Albarino-Olinick was fired Saturday as an independent contractor with Plantation-based United Realty after videos surfaced of her mocking and berating supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

Employment law attorneys said United Realty acted within its rights as an employer dealing with fallout from tight Florida elections that triggered automatic recounts in three statewide races, including Gillum’s run for governor…

Michael Landen, a partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine in Miami, said there’s no reason United Realty couldn’t sever its relationship with the Olinicks since they were independent contractors.

Private employers dealing with contractors have the right to say, “You know what, we are not going to do business with that company. We don’t like what they stand for.”

Click here to read the full article.

Dare to Dodge (and be Victorious)

Kluger Kaplan was proud to join our colleagues in South Florida’s legal community to support the United Way of Miami-Dade County at its annual “Dare to Dodge” Tournament. While we may often face-off in the courtroom, we always find common ground in support of better education, financial stability and health across our most vulnerable communities.

And, we’re proud to say the Kluger Kaplan team took first place in the tournament!

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What Legal Rights Do Employers Have When It Comes to Employee Political Speech?

By Michael T. Landen and Mayda Z. Nahhas

Recent headline events may have some wondering about how far First Amendment rights extend into the workplace. Jerry Jones, owner of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, declared he would bench any player who protested during the national anthem. ESPN suspended anchor Jemele Hill after a retaliatory tweet to Jones’ comments. President Donald Trump has urged the NFL to suspend players who take a knee during the flag salute.

This string of events raises questions about what rights employers, like the NFL, have when employees engage in political expression on company time. While private employers are typically given wide latitude by the courts when it comes to terminating an employee, employers should still proceed with caution when it comes to disciplining an employee for voicing political opinions in the workplace.

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As a starting point, there is a significant difference for public and private employers as it relates to an employee’s exercise of his or her First Amendment rights in the workplace. Public sector employers are generally more constrained to restrict employees’ rights to exercise their First Amendment rights in the workplace. For example, while some states may enact laws protecting political speech, there is no federal law forbidding the firing of an employee based on the employee’s political views in a private setting. For example, in 2009 a public employee was terminated from his job as a deputy sheriff when he Facebook “liked” his employer’s opponent’s political Facebook page around an election period. The judge found that the Facebook “like” didn’t amount to speech protected by the First Amendment and thus the employer was free to fire him. However, a reviewing court found otherwise and held that a Facebook “like” was sufficient speech and therefore the employee was free to sue his employer for retaliation. Had this occurred in a private sector employment setting, the outcome would likely have been different.

These situations demonstrate why it is so important for private employers to set clear policies relating to free speech issues, and to enforce these policies uniformly to all employees regardless of race, gender and religion. Employers who implement and stick to these types of policies are in a much better position to draw the line when employees seek to hold unwelcome political demonstrations in the office space or on company time. Employee handbooks and manuals are the most effective tool for regulating activities in the workplace, including the rights and restrictions governing employee speech and demonstrations.

Therefore, it is important for employers to have clear and consistent policies and guidelines in place to define what is considered acceptable and non-acceptable expression by employees. Having such policies in place before an issue arises helps set clear expectations for employees, and combat accusations of retaliation if an employee violates a policy. For instance, in 2011 the NFL denied Peyton Manning’s request when he asked for permission to wear black high-top shoes as tribute to the former Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas during a game. It is important for a private employer to set clear boundaries in their policies and apply them uniformly to each employee so that they don’t run into discrimination issues under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Employees reserve the right to express themselves as they wish on their own time. It is more difficult for an employer to make a case against an employee expressing his or her political beliefs outside of the office, during personal time, unless such actions infringe on the employee’s ability to carry out work-related responsibilities. The objective of implementing policies relating to workplace speech is not to curb employees from exercising their First Amendment rights, but rather to regulate such activities in order to promote consistent rules and regulations for all employees.

Third DCA Affirms: A Voluntary Dismissal is not a Determination that an Injunction was Wrongfully Entered

By Jeffrey Berman

Last week, Kluger, Kaplan, Katzen and Levine, P.L. obtained a victory for a client when the Third DCA affirmed a ruling from Judge Sarah Zabel denying a motion to seek damages against an injunction bond. Read opinion here.

We obtained an injunction on behalf of our client, Aventura Tennis, LLC after the appellants opened up a competing business in violation of their non-compete agreements.  After the injunction expired on its own terms, we voluntarily dismissed the action.  The Defendants then sought to recover damages against the injunction bond, claiming that the voluntary dismissal operated as determination that they had been wrongfully enjoined.

Both the trial court and the appellate court agreed that based upon the facts of our case and the fact that we only dismissed the action after the injunction expired, the dismissal did not support a finding that the injunction was wrongfully entered and as a result, the Defendants were not entitled to proceed against the bond.

Although there are instances where a voluntary dismissal could result in a finding that a defendant was wrongfully enjoined, it is not automatic.  The courts must look to the facts of the case to determine whether a defendant is allowed to proceed on the bond.

Hobby Lobby Ruling a Potential Slippery Slope

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Inc. case last week, asserting that certain employers with religious objections can deny paying for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

Michael Landen, a partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, shares his thoughts with the Daily Business Review on the ruling, and raises important questions about the full implications of the decision.

He argues the decision is a slippery slope, opening the door for “closely-held” businesses to become involved in private medical issues such as fertility, birth control procedures (such as vasectomy or tubal ligation), psychiatric care and blood transfusions. If a private employer’s religious beliefs can dictate the health care its employers receive, all kinds of health care and medical procedures, some possibly life-saving, may be at risk.

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