Florida Companies, Republicans Try to Make Wage Theft Legal, Again

Florida Companies, Republicans Try to Make Wage Theft Legal, Again

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.

The 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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