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What Does Florida's New Medical Marijuana Law Mean for Your Drug-Free Workplace?Last June, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that explains how patients can receive medical marijuana under Florida’s related amendment from 2016. Amendment 2, Florida’s “medical marijuana law” passed with 71% of the vote and took effect January 3, 2017. The amendment required lawmakers to come up with a description of how patients can qualify and receive medical marijuana by July 3, 2017. As an employer or employee in Florida, here’s what the new marijuana laws mean for you.

Employers still have the right to a Drug-Free Workplace

While court challenges may arise, employers are generally safe since the law doesn’t require accommodation for medical marijuana users.The medical marijuana amendment to Florida’s law still preserves employers’ rights to enforce drug-free workplace policies. Despite patients being able to legally qualify and receive medical marijuana, if their employer enforces a drug-free environment, the patient won’t be able to work. The amendment does not limit an employer’s ability to “establish, continue, or enforce a drug-free policy.” It does not make it mandatory for employers to accommodate patients receiving medical marijuana or working under the influence of marijuana. The section also states that it does not “create a cause of action against an employer for discrimination or wrongful discharge.” Since the passing of the amendment in Florida, employers have worried about what it could mean for drug use in the workplace. Until courts rule otherwise, companies must not tolerate testing positive for marijuana under the drug-free workplace.

Medical marijuana and employee drug testing

According to the new medical marijuana law, patients must have a “qualifying condition” to receive medical marijuana. Conditions include cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and terminal illness. Since the passing of the new law, employers and employees have wondered what it might mean for drug use in the workplace. The answer? Not much, thanks to the section not granting employees the right to use marijuana at work if an employer has a policy against it. If an employee qualifies for legal marijuana use, he or she must still obey an employer’s rules for using drugs at work or having marijuana in the system. If an employer wishes to maintain or implement drug testing rules prior to hiring an employee, he or she has this right.

Under current statutory and case law, an employee that does not pass the drug test, even if they have a prescription for medical marijuana use, does not have a case for discrimination against the employer because the Statute that governs the Florida Drug Free workplace still prohibits use of any drugs scheduled as Class One by the Federal government.. Of course this will be eventually be played out in courts and the possibility remains that the courts could at some time rule in favor of employees – especially as the opioid epidemic worsens and more and more states are looking to medical marijuana as a better alternative to chronic pain relief. Until that time, the statute is clear that marijuana use, medical or otherwise, is not permitted under the Florida Drug Free Workplace rules.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for assistance. We are here to help.

Kim Ovaitte, CPCU, ARM is the Executive Vice President of Marketing & Sales at Gulfshore Insurance.  Also serving as the Construction Practice Leader, Kim works with clients to develop cost effective risk management and claims strategies that dovetail with their insurance program. Comments and questions are welcome at

Employee Benefits The importance of training and developmentTraining is an important component of running an effective business. In order for employees to know how to operate technology, adhere to processes, and expand their knowledge on products or services – training is the primary driver in building these functional competencies for colleagues to succeed in his or her role. By providing formal learning opportunities you invest in the success of your business and show you are committed to developing your staff. Many employers think that offering training or development opportunities will be too expensive. They often turn a blind eye to the organizational and workplace deficiencies that can often be fixed through training solutions. But the reality is they end up spending more money through turnover costs, decreased productivity, and low efficiency rates simply because they refuse to see training’s return on investment potential. Despite the common excuses business leaders like to use as potential drawbacks (time away from work, budgetary restrictions, etc.), training and development provides both the company as a whole and the individual employee with benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment. Here are just a few ways that implementing training and development for your organization can impact your bottom line:

Closing the Gaps

Most employees have opportunities for improvement when it comes to their skill set or competency level. Implementing a specific training program or targeted learning solution allows the employee the chance to strengthen those skills and help close the knowledge gap. Training can bring each employee to a higher level of productivity, pushing their skills and knowledge to equal ground with one another. This helps reduce any weak links and deficiencies within the company, especially when you have to heavily rely on others to complete basic work tasks. Providing necessary training creates an overall knowledgeable staff with employees who can take over for one another as needed, fill in the gap, work on teams or work independently without constant help and supervision.

Continuous Business Improvement

When an employee, who receives the necessary training, is better able to perform her job it builds the employee’s confidence because he or she has a stronger understanding of the industry they are working in and the responsibilities needed to be successful. This confidence ends up driving discretionary performance, which is the willingness to do more because they want to, not because they have to. When we are given the tools to excel, performing harder and faster, we also try and think of ways to do things smarter or better. Continuous training can keep your employees on the cutting edge of industry, technology, and operational developments. Employees who are competent and empowered to help change the status quo, help your company hold a position as a leader and strong competitor within the industry.


Structured training and development programs ensure employees have a consistent experience when it comes to learning about company expectations, services, products, processes, policies, and procedures. This ultimately impacts the consistent experience you most likely are trying to provide your customers. Putting all employees through regular training ensures that all staff members at least have exposure to the information that is critical for your organization’s success. Establishing consistent business and operating norms only strengthens your business’s chances for long term success.

Employee Engagement

Employees who regularly have onsite access to training and development opportunities have an increased advantage over employees who are left to seek training opportunities outside of their business. The investment in training that a company makes shows the employees they are valued and that they believe in his or her success within the organization. Offered training can create a supportive and highly engaged workplace for employees. Research shows that employees who feel appreciated and challenged through training opportunities feel more satisfaction in their jobs. By creating an environment where employees feel appreciated and nurtured, employers reduce the risk of high turnover and typically see higher levels of individual and team productivity.

Ryan Laude is a Client Advisor at Gulfshore Insurance specializing in employee benefits. Ryan works with a wide range of businesses to create the best funding options that fit their needs. Comments and questions are welcome at

The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Labor announced June 30th that penalties for hiring people not authorized to work in the U.S. and discriminating against immigrant workers will be increased to keep up with inflation.

The minimum penalty imposed by the Justice Department for the unlawful employment of immigrant workers will increase from $375 to $539, while the maximum fine will go from $3,200 to $4,313. Violators facing multiple charges will be subject to a new maximum penalty of $21,563.

The most significant increase is for mistakes or omissions on the Form I-9. The new rules raise paperwork violations related to I-9 verification from a maximum of $1,100 to $2,156. The minimum penalty per violation increases from $110 to $216.

It is more important now than ever for companies big and small to make sure they have effective policies and procedures in place for properly ‘I-9ing’ employees during the onboarding process, including a regular review of existing I-9s and training staff.

An initial violation for discriminating against immigrant workers can bring a new top penalty of $3,563 per charge, up from $3,200. The minimum penalty increases from $375 to $445.

Civil penalties related to the H-1B, H-2B and H-2A temporary visa foreign worker programs will be raised depending on the violation and include the following:

  • The maximum penalty for specific violations of the H-1B program, such as misrepresentations on the labor condition application, will be raised to $1,782 per violation. More-serious violations pertaining to wages or working conditions will carry a penalty of up to $7,251 per violation. The maximum penalty for displacing a U.S. worker with an H-1B worker will increase from $35,000 to $50,578 per violation.
  • The maximum penalty for violations of the H-2B program will be raised from $10,000 to $11,940 per violation. Applicable violations include those related to wages, impermissible deductions, prohibited fees and expenses, and improper refusal to employ or hire U.S. workers, among others.
  • A penalty of $1,631 will apply for each violation of an H-2A worker’s contract or of the H-2A program’s statutory or regulatory requirements. Penalties for willful violations of the work contract and the program’s statutory or regulatory requirements will increase to up to $5,491 per violation. For violations related to the housing or transportation safety and health provisions that proximately cause the death or serious injury of any H-2A worker, an employer will be fined up to $54,373 per worker. In the event of willful or repeated violations that result in serious injury or death, an employer will be assessed penalties of up to $108,745 per worker. Failure to cooperate in an investigation could result in a penalty of up to $5,491 per violation. In addition, if an employer lays off, displaces or improperly rejects a U.S. worker for an H-2A worker, the penalty will be raised to up to a maximum of $16,312 per violation per worker.

Summer Internship Gulfshore Insurance2Beginning in May 2016, Gulfshore Insurance will launch the Accelerated Development Program, an internship program which provides current college students with challenging assignments, training, and valuable exposure to our company’s leadership team.

The Accelerated Development Program enables participants to build a strong foundation of diverse skill sets for a successful and fulfilling career in Business and Personal Risk Management through customized rotations.

This tailor-made program provides access to industry knowledge in conjunction with competency-based development to prepare individuals upon graduation for a career at Gulfshore Insurance. As such, we seek the best of the best to become program members.
To be considered for acceptance, you currently must attend college and hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The Accelerated Development Program provides access to:

  • Sales, Marketing, & Risk Management
  • Commercial, Personal, & Employee Benefits Support

This program is completed after an 8-week summer assignment –– with consideration for permanent placement upon graduation and after successful completion of a 4-40 insurance license.

Your experiences in the program will be designed to help you develop a sound foundation in business and personal risk management. It also will provide you quicker opportunities for advancement.

For consideration into the Accelerated Development Program for Summer 2016, please submit your resume to

NAPLES, FL (March 2, 2016) – Gulfshore Insurance, a leading insurance agency, has announced the promotion of Paige Moore, Personal Lines Manager, to Vice President of Personal Services. In her new role, Paige will provide strategic direction for the Personal Lines Service Team and oversee the development of new associates in alignment with the agency’s growth goals.

“We are very excited for Paige’s growth within the company. She is an exceptional member of our team and consistently provides an impeccable experience to our clients,” said Michelle Gleeson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Moore has been with Gulfshore Insurance for a total of 20 years. She began her career with Gulfshore Insurance in 1986 as a Personal Lines Account Executive where she was responsible for servicing over 1,800 personal lines clients. Moore left Gulfshore Insurance in 2001, relocating to New Jersey, and later rejoined the agency in 2011 as the Personal Lines Manager. Moore currently leads a team of 30 employees who are responsible for servicing over 6,500 clients and $4.7 million in revenue.

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