Wage Theft: Why should you be aware of it?

Over the past few years a new term has developed in employer-employee relations — “Wage theft.” Yes, it sounds ominous, but some would say it is supposed to be as part of a nation-wide trend by states and municipalities to insure that employees in their jurisdictions receive the wages they have earned. All it really means is the underpayment or nonpayment of wages due an employee.

While Florida has long recognized a common law action for an employee to recover unpaid wages, with an ability to also collect attorney’s fees under Fla.Stat. § 448.08, counties and cities throughout the state have enacted ordinances providing for aggrieved employees to seek compensation before a special magistrate through procedures created by the particular ordinance. For example, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg have all enacted wage theft ordinances.

So if Florida law already affords one a mechanism to recover unpaid wages why should both employers and employees be aware of these ordinances? Many of them provide for treble damages! Some also provide for recovery of attorney’s fees as well.

If you are an employee who feels that you have not receive full payment of your wages or an employer who wants to insure compliance or needs to defend against a claim, a close review of the particular ordinances that may be applicable is in order as each which will have its own particular nuances and procedures. Of course Weber, Crabb & Wein, P.A. is available to assist employers and employees in navigating this area of the law.