Farah & Farah E-Newsletter: January 2013
In This Issue
Employee Fired for Failing Alcohol Test Can Sue
An employee at Exxon-Mobil had voluntarily disclosed her alcoholism to her employer. This was pursuant to company’s substance abuse policy. She later entered a rehabilitation program and when she returned to work following her hospitalization, was required to submit to random alcohol testing. Exxon-Mobil terminated her when she failed a breathalyzer test ten months after she returned to work. The Plaintiff sued for disability discrimination under New Jersey state law. The Court ruled that Exxon-Mobil’s substance abuse policy constituted evidence of discrimination because the record revealed that the basis for the testing and termination was the employee’s voluntary disclosure that she was an alcoholic and not the result of inadequate job performance. The Court said that the only way this person could be fired was if she was fired regardless of the fact that she had failed the drug test. In other words, they would have to prove inadequate job performance to fire her. And since they could not prove it, her discrimination claim could proceed.
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Florida State Laws on Recording Phone Calls
Under Florida law, it is required that all parties who engaged in a phone conversation consent to the call being recorded. Violators of Florida wiretapping laws are subject to prosecution in criminal court. The injured party may also sue in civil court for damages related to the phone call. A person found in violation of Florida’s wiretapping laws can be ordered to pay civil damages which include lawyer’s fees and costs. A plaintiff has two years from the date of discovery of the crime to file a lawsuit. Florida makes an exception for in-person communication when there is not an expectation of privacy in the conversation such as when there are conversations in a public place where they might be reasonably overheard. Regarding interstate calls, a person recording a phone call may be within the legal limits of one state law, but may be in violation of the other. A case in Florida stated that even though the phone call originated in a state with liberal wiretapping laws, the fact that one of the parties on the line was in Florida subjected the conversation to the stricter Florida law. So even if you are in one state that has a liberal wiretapping statute, it is always safe to assume that the other party is in a state such as Florida which has a very strict wiretapping statute.
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The Automatic Renewal of Contracts
I’m sure we’ve all been parties to contracts that automatically renew. Typically it’s service contracts that automatically renew unless you take some sort of affirmative action to cancel the agreement. These types of automatic renewal contracts are most typically seen when dealing security companies; however, Florida consumers now have some relief pursuant to a law that went into effect May 12, 2010 and that will affect all contracts entered into after July 1, 2010. These automatic renewal contracts must include a clear and conspicuous clause in the contract specifying the terms of the automatic renewal and they must give notice between thirty (30) and sixty (60) days prior to the time it will be self-renewed. The fact that it is now required that you receive notice of the renewal, gives you the opportunity to cancel the contract whereas prior to the statute, these contracts would automatically renew without notice of the upcoming renewal. A lot of times these contracts were for every year or even sometimes for two or three year periods. It was difficult to keep track of what period of time you had to cancel a contract prior to the next renewal period.
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