Business interests raise questions about new wage laws

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Florida business interests have filed a lawsuit in order to prevent a Palm Beach County ordinance that would affect the way workers could claim unpaid wages from employers. Advocates for such workers, as well as local religious clergy, are protesting the action, explain that the workers are merely trying to obtain what is owed them.

Wage theft usually occurs in the form of employers who force their employees to work off the clock or refuse to pay them overtime. In some cases, employers fail to pay workers at all. Successful lawsuits against such employers are common, but stricter laws against wage theft are often met with opposition, especially in Florida.

Despite such resistance, Miami-Dade County passed a wage theft law in 2010, which has been called one of the most progressive measures of its kind in the United States. The law allows workers who are owed at least $60 in unpaid wagers to make a case with the Miami-Dade County small business development office. The program has awarded over $130,000 in unpaid wages.

The Florida Retail Federation lobbied against the Miami-Dade County wage theft law ordinance as well, claiming effective systems designed to recover lost wages already exist. The group is concerned that such ordinance swill force employers who violate wage theft laws to pay workers through both the county and federal department of labor.

Supporters of the Palm Beach County law say that such a result is not likely to occur, explaining that employers who pay their workers properly will not face any negative consequences. The employee has the burden of proof to prove that they were not paid properly for the work they performed.

The retail federation has filed a lawsuit in state court in the hopes of preventing the law from passing. They argue that the ordinance is in violation of the constitution of the state of Florida.

Source: Huffington Post “Wage Theft: Business Interests Try To Scuttle New Worker Laws” July 6, 2011