President’s Letter



Where has the summer gone? School starts back this week and I’m not ready.

I am excited about our August meeting on how HR can make sure their organization is OSHA compliant. It will be a wealth of information. Please come and join us.

Please help us with our third quarter community cause, Clothes to Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides new and quality used clothing to low-income or in crisis school-age children. We will be collecting clothes for kids at our August and September meetings. If you want to make a cash donation instead, we will have our 50/50 raffle at both meetings. Proceeds will go to Clothes to Kids.

Lastly, mark your calendars for our September meeting on the 11th when our own Bill Grob will be giving us a legislative update. This meeting usually lasts about an hour longer because there is a lot of vital information to review. If you want to be up to date on what’s happening with laws and in legislation, this is a must attend meeting.

As always, we are here for you our members. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or one of our board members. See you Wednesday!

Rich Williams

President, SuncoastHR

SuncoastHR August Meeting



Wednesday, August 14, 2019
8:00am – 9:30am (Registration begins at 7:30am)
Feathersound Country Club
2201 Feather Sound Drive
Clearwater, FL 33762


The HR function is a key player within an organization’s compliance structure, including OSHA. There are numerous laws and regulations that HR professionals must understand and navigate in order to help ensure their organizations avoid costly fines and other penalties.

With the Department of Labor adding 30 additional OSHA inspectors for 2020 and the rise in OSHA fines, it is time that someone breaks down what will happen during an inspection, along with some tips and tricks to help mitigate citations as much as possible.


Michele A. Mathews, founder of Mathews’ HR Consulting Services, will join us this week to talk about some of the important things to know and items to have prepared before an OSHA complaint or inspection lands on your desk. 





Michele Mathews, PHR, SHRM-CP
Mathews’ HR Consulting


Mathews’ HR Consulting Services is currently supporting several clients in General Business, Healthcare, Senior Living, Construction, Manufacturing, and Veterinarian on project based and on-going support with: reviewing, recommending, and assisting in implementing policies, developing and conducting site visit protocols, working with senior management to review data and develop stronger systems, conduct safety walk-throughs, post-accident site walk-throughs, conducting the annual safety and compliance reviews, insure all their written policies and Safety Data Sheets follow OSHA & GHS regulations, conducting new hire and annual employee safety training, and providing CPR/AED/First Aid and OSHA 10-hour/30-hour training on-site.


Michele is an Authorized OSHA General Industry Trainer for both OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour Training. Michele is an Authorized CPR/ AED/ First Aid Trainer for both the American Red Cross and American Safety & Health Institute (ASHI) and has been actively training in OSHA and CPR/AED/First Aid for several years. Michele has been accepted by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) to sit for the upcoming Safety Management Specialist (SMS) exam, with her verified 225 qualified months of Safety Management Experience. Currently enrolled in an M.B.A. program with concentration in Human Resources Management; Michele holds a BA in Human Resources Management, as well as, an AA in Psychology. In addition, Michele is ALF Core Certified, has a Professional Human Resources (PHR) certification and is also a Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP).



This month’s meeting is sponsored by:





Ogletree Deakins represents employers of all sizes and across many industries, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. With one of the largest global client rosters, they provide coverage through 53 offices in 31 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and in Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Their attorneys pledge to provide clients with value, innovation, quality, collaboration, and effective communication.


This quarter’s community cause is all about the kids! At each meeting this quarter we will be collecting kids clothing and cash donations to contribute to a 50/50 raffle. Proceeds will go to Clothes to Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides new and quality used clothing to low-income or in crisis school-age children.
Ticket Prices are:
1 for $2
6 for $10
15 for $20






By: Ogletree Deakins

Employers, you see this movie all too often. You tolerate, and then ultimately discharge, a poor-performing employee who displays a bad attitude. Unfortunately, supervisors have not documented the employee’s prior instances of insubordinate and adversarial behavior. In addition, he hurt himself on the job, filed a workers’ compensation claim, and presented medical restrictions. In his mind, he cannot believe that he was the problem. So he sues, alleging that you failed to accommodate his disability and unlawfully terminated his employment.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Graham v. Arctic Zone Iceplex, LLC, just gave one employer’s familiar story a Hollywood ending. Although the case seems routine and does not break new ground in the law, it is a good example for employers of how to manage problem employees properly and avoid liability. The ultimate lesson: anyone can claim discrimination, but employers can win these cases even if they have not always followed best practices in documenting prior instances of an employee’s bad conduct. Making the best choice for the business sometimes means discharging a problem employee, even if there is no real paper trail presenting the history of the problems.

The Facts of Graham v. Arctic Zone Iceplex, LLC
Arctic Zone employed Graham at its ice rink facility as a Zamboni operator. (A Zamboni is a vehicle driven around an ice rink that resurfaces the ice.) Graham’s work history at Arctic Zone was poor. Customers and fellow Arctic Zone employees witnessed Graham’s attitude problems, resistance to directions, and difficulty with completing tasks on time. Despite his performance deficiencies and unsatisfactory behaviors, Arctic Zone never wrote Graham up for insubordination nor took other disciplinary action against him.

Just two months into his employment, in February 2015, Graham injured himself on the job. Graham returned to work with medical restrictions, including restrictions requiring him to sit to work. Arctic Zone accommodated this by assigning him the task of skate sharpening—a task Arctic Zone said could be completed from a seated position. Graham later alleged that the work required standing, but never informed Arctic Zone of his belief. When Graham transitioned back to full-time work, Arctic Zone assigned him to work in the evenings. Arctic Zone attributed the shift change from day work to evening work to the business’s “seasonal need,” but Graham characterized the shift as a demotion.

Just a few months later, Graham crashed a Zamboni into the ice rink’s wall. The accident resulted in more than two feet of jagged plastic protruding from the rink wall and onto the rink, which Arctic Zone considered to be a hazard to its customers. Arctic Zone fired Graham, stating the following reasons, as summarized by the court of appeals: “(1) poor attitude about his change in position; (2) poor attitude toward customers (citing customer complaints); (3) lack of timeliness in completing his duties; (4) insubordination with management; and (5) the Zamboni accident, which put customers in danger and caused Arctic Zone to lose revenue while the rink was being repaired.”

Graham’s ADA Lawsuit
Graham sued Arctic Zone for discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that Arctic Zone failed to reasonably accommodate his disability and that it terminated his employment because of his disability. The district court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. Graham appealed the decision.
The United States Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit—with jurisdiction over employers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin—affirmed the district court’s ruling. With regard to Graham’s allegation that Arctic Zone had failed to reasonably accommodate him, the court emphasized that both employers and employees must engage in the interactive process. When an employee fails to provide “sufficient information to the employer to determine the necessary accommodations,” the employer will not be liable for a failure to accommodate claim. Here, Graham admitted that he did not tell Arctic Zone of his belief that the skate sharpening assignment did not fit his restrictions. Therefore, the court found this to be a “textbook example” of a situation in which an employer would not be liable for failure to accommodate due to the insufficient employee communication.

The Seventh Circuit also dismissed Graham’s arguments that Arctic Zone’s reasons for discharging him were perpetual. In doing so, the court rejected Graham’s argument that Arctic Zone had somehow forfeited its right to terminate his employment for behavioral problems because the company had never given him any formal notice or discipline before discharging him for those reasons. The court emphasized that Arctic Zone’s decision to let something slide without a formal response did not mean that the behavior had gone unnoticed.
The court also rejected Graham’s other arguments, which included an assertion that he had been treated worse than another employee who had been involved in a Zamboni accident. Although Arctic Zone did not terminate the employment of the other employee after his accident, the court noted that the other employee had a “sterling employment record prior to the accident” and that the other accident had not created a hazard for customers (whereas Graham’s accident had). Thus, Graham and the other employee were not “similarly situated” for purposes of supporting a legitimate claim of discrimination.

Key Takeaways
The decision in Graham v. Arctic Zone represents a practical analysis and a ruling that can be relied on by employers to defend ADA claims by discharged employees. The case is a powerful tool for employers because the trial court dismissed it before trial, concluding that Graham’s theories and evidence did not create a genuine factual dispute that justified a trial, and the appellate court panel agreed unanimously. Wisconsin employers may be particularly interested to see that fellow Wisconsinite, Judge Michael B. Brennan, who was appointed to the Seventh Circuit in May 2018, joined in this unanimous decision. This case reflects a pragmatic approach to dealing with these issues.
This case reflects recurring themes in ADA litigation that employers should keep in mind when defending ADA claims:

  • Both the employer and the employee must engage in the interactive process. Where an accommodation does not fit within an employee’s restriction, the employee is obligated to inform the employer. An employee who fails to give his or her employer sufficient information to accommodate a disability may be less likely to hold the employer liable.
  • The failure to have a history of formal discipline does not automatically suggest pretext when a termination decision is based on recurring bad behavior. The courts here did not even allow a trial on the issue of whether the employer’s stated reasons for discharging the employee concealed a discriminatory bias. An employee’s poor behavior can still be a basis for termination, despite the employer’s never having disciplined the employee for the behavior.
  • Not all workplace incidents are created equal. An employer can take into consideration how different incidents ultimately affect its business or customers. Also, an employer may want to consider the work history of an employee when taking disciplinary action. Such considerations contribute to whether employees are considered “similarly situated” for purposes of supporting a discrimination claim. Identifying how employees and situations being compared by a plaintiff differ can play a role in a court’s decision not to impose liability.
The ADA continues to be fertile ground for litigation.

Total Rewards Management


Attract, Motivate and Retain Employees with an Effective Rewards Program

Learn what is required to formulate a rewards program that has the power to attract, motivate and retain — total rewards. Participants are introduced to the total rewards model and each of its components. Emphasis is given to the five elements of total rewards: compensation, benefits, work-life, perfor- mance and recognition, and development and career opportunities.

  • Gain an understanding of total rewards management

  • Discover the five elements of total rewards

  • Understand the critical role of the main drivers — organizational culture, business strategy and human resources strategy

  • Learn the process of designing a successful total rewards strategy

October 14 and 15, (Monday and Tuesday)
St. Petersburg, FL, location TBD
Suncoast HR Management Association
Contact Will Rives at



This course is designed for professionals new to human resources, as well as HR generalists or line managers who want a basic overview of the components that can create an effective balance in employee rewards tools.




■ Introduction to Total Rewards

■ Compensation
■ Benefits
■ Work-Life

■ Performance and Recognition
■ Development and Career Opportunities

■ Total Rewards — Putting It All Together


  • CCP: Required

  • CBP: Required

  • GRP: Required

  • Recertification: 2 course, .5 exam

  • CEUs: 1.5 course, .3 exam

  • CPEs: 16

  • CPT: 12 points

  • PHR/SPHR/GPHR Recertification

    Hours:16 (Traditional Classroom); 14 (Instructor-Led Live Online)



For more information visit


P.O. Box 2111 Pinellas Park, Florida 33780
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