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In Florida, law could bar some wage theft claims

In our Broward County Employment Law Blog we have previously written about the Florida state and federal laws that govern wages. Generally speaking, here in South Florida employees are granted wage and overtime rights under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

In 2010, Miami-Dade County became the first county in the U.S. to adopt its own wage theft law. Under The Wage Theft Ordinance, workers in Miami-Dade have recovered almost $400,000 in backpay from their employers. Now, the Florida legislature is working on a bill that would effectively scrap this local county law. The bill would stop local governments from enacting wage-theft ordinances.

Wage theft is a term used to describe a situation in which an employer is intentionally and wrongfully withholding pay. This can be by requiring the worker to work off the clock or failing to compensate the worker for overtime.

Employee advocates have argued that county wage theft ordinances are necessary because the Florida courts simply cannot handle all of the wage theft claims, most of which are for amounts of less than a few hundred dollars.

Under the county ordinance in Miami-Dade, workers can fill out a form if they were shorted at least $60 and they are then entitled to a hearing.

Employer advocates in the business community have countered that wage claims should be handled in a court under a judge, rather than in a county hearing with a hearing officer.

Worker advocates have taken to picketing in front of shopping centers in some parts of the state to show their concern that the Florida Retail Federation is backing the state legislation to kill the county wage-theft ordinances.

Regardless of what happens with this legislation, workers who are not being fairly compensated under federal and state employment law do have the right to seek legal recourse.

Source: Huffington Post, "Florida Wage-Theft Laws Could Be Blocked By GOP Bill," Dave Jamieson, March 6, 2012

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