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Broward County Commission passes 'wage theft' ordinance

As many workers in South Florida are well aware, Broward County has been called the 15th worst place in the nation for wage theft. Wage theft is a term that applies when workers are not paid for their work, or are not paid at least minimum wage or proper overtime rates. Wage theft also happens when workers are forced to work off the clock or their timecards are manipulated. Back in June it was reported that Broward County had the third largest number of wage-theft cases in the state, and now the Broward County Commission has attempted to put a stop to this trend.

On Tuesday the commission approved a controversial measure that will empower workers to recover losses from wage theft. The area business community has been very vocal about the ordinance, calling it unnecessary.

In a way, the business community is correct because there are already both state and federal employment laws that govern wage issues. However, even with those stringent laws, it can be very difficult for employees who are harmed by wage theft to recover damages and hold their employers accountable.

Under the new measure, those who claim to have lost $60 or more to wage theft in Broward County can seek help from the county--as long as the worker is not employed by the government or a Native American tribe. These cases will be decided by a county hearing officer.

When hearing officers rule in favor of employees, they may be able to obtain back wages as well as damages up to the amount of the wages that were unpaid. The employer would be responsible for the fees of this service as well as the employees' attorneys' fees.

The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect in January.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "'Wage theft' law passes Broward commission," Brittany Wallman, Oct.23, 2012

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