The Florida Retail Federation hopes the third time's the
charm in trying to make wage theft legal. They tried
two other times to strike down the wage
theft ordinances that are popping
up around the state to curtail unscrupulous employers who pocket employee
wages for their own use. This time, they've enlisted Florida Republican
legislators to help with a truly Orwellian scheme.
Rep. Tom Goodson, a Republican legislator from Titusville, has filed a bill
that purports to help employees fight wage theft. The problem is that,
unlike county ordinances that provide for double or triple damages against
thieving employers, this bill says employees get exactly what they are owed.
The county ordinances are (mostly) preempted and counties are prohibited from
enacting new ordinances. This is supposed to help employees how exactly?
Let's see. Scumbag Employer, Inc. decides to hire low wage employees and fire
them right before their paycheck is due. They don't pay the employees. The
employees have to sue. Under this law, the employees have to come out of pocket
for several hundred dollars for the filing fee to sue. In the county systems,
they file for free. These are folks living paycheck to paycheck. That's
probably a week's wages for them. Then they have to face court hearings, court
reporter fees, maybe some depositions and discovery. Under the county systems,
they have one hearing and get a ruling.
If an employee manages to survive the wait, they might get their wages paid
after about a year. Under the county systems, it's probably a few months. So
Scumbag Employer, Inc. writes a check after a judgment issues, but in the
meantime they got to use the employee's wages all that time. Plus, most
employees will give up and not bother. They can't afford to fight. A big win
for Scumbag Employer, Inc., which will now have zero incentive to pay employees
when wages are due.
I still don't understand how this benefits legitimate businesses. How can they
compete with Scumbag Employer, Inc.'s slave labor business model? Instead of
supporting the county efforts to shut down these free labor mills, corporations
and their organizations are crying foul. Can someone explain this to me?
Oh, sure, employees can still complain to the Department of Labor and try to
get help. The problem is, they are overworked and overwhelmed. Florida
wage theft is rampant, and employees need laws with real teeth. If employees
stealing sodas worth less than $2.00 can be arrested, why shouldn't
employers who steal hundreds or thousands of dollars from employees land in
prison? At least, they should be penalized.
Miami Herald came out against this blatant attempt to help wage pirates
steal their employees' money. If you aren't convinced by me, read their
well-reasoned editorial. Hopefully, Florida legislators will not fall for this
sneaky trick to help thieves who are stealing money belonging to their constituents.
As to legislators who support this measure, I hope the voters in their
districts who are also employees (i.e., most of them) will vote their wallets
and send these pro-theft lawmakers packing.
See more employment law posts on Donna
Ballman's blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home.
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