The term “wage theft” has become popular among commentators and labor groups to describe a variety of employer violations of federal and state laws relating to overtime, minimum wage or lost income to an employee. In 2010, Miami-Dade County enacted a “wage-theft” ordinance, providing for triple damages against employers and establishing a claims filing process for employees alleging that they were underpaid. Other Florida municipalities are contemplating similar regulations. These ordinances are problematic in that they create a statewide patchwork of various additional regulations that businesses are forced to learn and comply with, are largely unnecessary given the adequacy of existing remedies for employees and do not discourage frivolous or unfounded claims.
The Florida House last week passed a bill that would address these concerns by expressly preempting local regulation of “wage theft” and preventing local governments from enacting their own “wage theft” ordinances. The bill also would encourage early resolution of employee complaints by requiring an employee to, as a condition precedent to bringing an unpaid wage claim, notify the employer in writing, identifying the amount owed and the work dates and hours for which payment is sought and allowing the employer 15 days to pay the total amount of unpaid wages. The bill has been sent to the Senate, which has a similar bill pending. If passed, the bill would become effective July 1, 2012.©2013 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.