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Miami Business & Commercial Law Blog

What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace?

Sexual harassment has made the headlines in plenty of Florida newspapers lately, bringing the topic to the forefront of conversations in the workplace across the state and across the country. While it may initially appear to be a broad topic, The State of Florida helps narrow it down, defining it as behavior of a sexual nature that is unwelcome.

Sexual harassment falls into one of two categories. The first is quid pro quo harassment. This is when it is implied by the person in authority (or flat out stated) that sexual favors can result in additional benefits or privileges such increased pay, better work conditions or even being hired in the first place. If an employee chooses to end a romantic relationship and the person in authority then terminates, disciplines or changes the job expectations, that would fall under this particular type of sexual harassment. If a subordinate refuses sexual advances or makes clear that certain behaviors are unwelcome and then sees a negative change in the workplace environment or expectations, this, too is quid pro quo harassment.

Do not forget to plan for yourself in your estate plans

Many people in Coral Gables do not realize how important estate planning is. They assume it is something they can keep putting off until they feel it is a convenient time for them, not realizing that there is no such thing. You may not enjoy thinking about the end of your life and death, but it is necessary for you to do so to avoid complications that could render your estate plans worthless. 

The sooner you make your estate plans, the better and more prepared you and your loved ones will be. Estate plans are not just so you can specify which brother, sister or cousin receives your vacation home and which of your adult kids get to inherit the family business and your wealth. They are so you can preserve your legacy and ensure that your personal care in the event of a serious illness, retirement or death. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you create your estate plans

Seeking zoning law variances

Most developers understand that if you build anything over two feet tall in the wrong part of Miami, you are likely to have to deal with issues regarding zoning laws. Such ordinances are needed, yet in may cases, some would argue that they are either misguided or outdated. Many clients have come to us here at Welbaum, Guernsey, Hingston, Gregory and Black, LLP frustrated over having zoning laws impede the progress of their projects and wondering what can be done to address them. If you are dealing with a similar conundrum, you will be happy to know that there are avenues that may allow you to complete your development in your desired area. 

The Zoning Code for Miami-Dade County does allow applications to be heard for use and non-use variances of previously zoned lands. A "use variance" is defined as an exception which allows you to use a parcel of land for a purpose other than that prescribed by zoning regulations. With this variance comes an allowed change in the permitted unit density. Conversely, a "non-use variance" addresses exceptions to regulations that have no change of the use over the permitted use of a property. Such regulatory exceptions can include changes to: 

  • Frontage requirements
  • Height limitations
  • Subdivision regulations
  • Lot size restrictions

Intellectual property protections

If you are one of the many entrepreneurs in Florida, you may well end up wanting to secure some type of protection for a variety of intellectual property. This may be in the form of a trademark, service mark, copyright or patent. Understanding the differences between these is important so that you pursue the appropriate ones for you. You should also know that at different times you may want to pursue more than one type of protection.

As explained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a patent grants you some protection or rights to an original invention or way of producing something. Once you are granted this patent, your invention details become public but others are barred from using that information for a set period of time.

Little-thought-about pitfalls of not having an estate plan

One consequence of dying without a will and/or estate plan seems obvious; your assets may not be divided the way you would have preferred. That reason is enough to spur many people to plan in some way for what happens after their deaths.

However, there are other pitfalls of not having a plan that can be just as scary. Here is a look at several.

My vendor overseas has breached our contract. Do I have recourse?

If you as a Florida company did business with a foreign company, such as a seller of a product that you retail here in the United States, and that company breached the contract, you will want to receive compensation or some other remedy for that breach. Perhaps the foreign seller sent you defective goods that you now cannot sell in your business.

With regard to whether you have recourse, the quick answer is “maybe.” Maybe you will be able to take legal action. Your contract will be very controlling here, so you need to read it carefully.

Understanding and identifying intellectual property infringement

The many companies operating in Miami hold many assets outside of their revenue and property holdings. The intangible assets that give them their unique identities and help establish them in their respective markets are just as valuable. These things comprise a company's intellectual property. According to the Cornell University Law School, any intellectual product that is protected by law from the unauthorized use of others meets the definition of being intellectual property. Common examples include patents, trademarks, copyrighted content and trade secrets. 

The misuse of an organization's intellectual property by a competing company can be extremely damaging to both its brand and its reputation. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers defines intellectual property infringement as the use of protected material without the IP owner's permission. This can include the direct reproduction of content, or the use of derivative materials close enough in appearance and/or meaning so as to create brand confusion amongst consumers. It does not necessarily need to be done for monetary gain in order to qualify as infringement; rather, it simply needs to involve unauthorized use. 

I am thinking of buying a franchise – how do I start?

If you are considering buying a franchise in Florida, it is an exciting time for you. The first thing you will need to do once you have a particular business in mind, is to contact the franchisor to start your investigation.

According to Franchising.com, you will want to evaluate the franchisor’s behavior towards you at every turn. Often the response to your initial outreach is indicative of how that franchisor will treat you once you are in its program.

What does "termination for convenience" mean?

As a contractor in Miami, you rely heavily on the promise that your clients will fulfill their financial obligations to you upon the completion of your services. Your contractual agreements with them provide you with the protection and security of knowing that as long as you fulfill your duties, they are legally bound to complete theirs. Yet what if one simply shows up amid the project and tells you that it is cancelling your contract? Can a client legally do that? 

The answer depends on the specific language of your contract. The scenario described above is known as cancelling a contract "for convenience." It basically implies that your client simply felt it was convenient to walk away from your agreement. Yet according to the American Bar Association, it can only do so if a termination for convenience clause is was included in the contract. Such a clause empowers one side to end an agreement with or without cause. 

Why might you want to have employees sign a noncompete?

Competition is a normal part of the trade for your business and other Florida companies. When you are thinking about including a noncompete clause in your potential employees’ contracts, it is not to limit their ability to work in the future. The purpose of a noncompete is mainly to protect your company’s secrets and business operations, as well as to keep an oversaturation of competition from weakening your brand.

Many employees, and some employers, believe noncompete clauses are unfair or unnecessary. If you own a restaurant and have your servers sign a contract prohibiting them from serving at other restaurants for several years after leaving your company, this might be the case. Your former employees could have reason to challenge the clause, saying it prevents them from getting a job. However, you might be able to include such a clause among your cooks, if you have a secret recipe they make from scratch and you do not want it replicated anywhere else. For example, your noncompete clause could state that former cooks will not open a competing restaurant within 10 miles of yours for five years after working for you.

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