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South Florida continues attempts to combat wage theft

Broward County might be the first county in Florida to implement a wage theft ordinance in the aftermath of a report that called the state the 15th worst in the nation when it comes to workers' abilities to recover unpaid wages. Broward County currently has the third largest number of wage-theft cases--those that involve workers not being paid overtime or minimum wage, being forced to work off the clock, or not being paid at all--in the state.

Miami-Dade County passed the state's first wage theft ordinance in 2010, and it has since recovered almost $1 million in wages stolen from workers by their employers. Palm Beach County has also implemented a pilot project to tackle the issue, and the Broward County Commission recently asked the county attorney to write a wage theft ordinance.

Although both the Florida Retail Federation and the Associated Builders and Contractors have fought the wage theft ordinance in Miami-Dade, many small business owners have come out in favor of wage theft protections.

Workers advocates say the entire state needs to follow South Florida's example to protect the employment rights of workers.

A recent report issued by the Progressive States Network stated: "Florida has exactly zero laws on the books that would incentivize employers to stay honest."

Of course, in some cases employers are not withholding pay of out maliciousness, but rather out of ignorance to the law or financial business issues. Either way, it is clearly a problem here in Broward County and throughout the state. Although Florida state may not have effective statutes to protect workers from wage theft, Florida workers still have many wage rights under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Workers who feel they are a victim of wage theft often benefit from speaking with an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "Florida Flunks Wage Theft Test-South Florida Leads the Class," Jeanette Smith and Cristina Francisco McGuire, June 13, 2012

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Broward to draft wage-theft ordinance," Marcia Heroux Pound, June 13, 2012

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