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Miami-Dade enacts ‘wage theft’ ordinance

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Miami-Dade County employers now have another reason to properly classify employees: On March 1, failure to pay an employee wages he or she is due became “wage theft.” The ordinance is the first of its kind in the nation.

According to a county statement, the intent is to allow employees a forum to quickly address pay issues without joining a federal class-action lawsuit.

Although unstated, one possible reason Miami-Dade enacted the statute was to help day laborers get paid without going to the federal court system.

Under the ordinance, aggrieved employees can file a complaint with the county if the employer has failed to pay the employee within 14 days after work has been performed. Employers and employees may agree to a 30-day period in writing.

A county-appointed administrator will hear the complaints. Evidence discovery will take place under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Employees have the right to stop the proceedings at any point and move the complaint to federal court.

The county court administrator will have the right to award up to three times actual damages if it determines the employer’s action was willful.

Beware! This is new territory for everyone, but two caveats are obvious.

First, employers must classify employees correctly. Any misclassification shenanigans discovered through county proceedings will surely come back to haunt the employer in federal court.

Second, even though employers and employees can agree to a 30-day pay period, have an experienced employment attorney craft this agreement. The last thing you want is to create an employment contract for an extended period of time.

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