Wage theft is a growing problem in Florida.The industries that are the backbone of the Florida economy – tourism, construction, hospitality, and retail trade – are some of the most affected with the highest number of incidents reported.
Wage theft, or unpaid wages, comes in a multitude of categories including unpaid overtime; non-adherence to minimum wage; unpaid severance, final commission checks or bonuses.Over 28 million dollars of unpaid wages have been recouped by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division in Florida. In Florida alone, on average, there are 3,036 wage violations reported each year.
One of the most common forms of wage theft is unpaid wages. While it can happen in any industry it often is seen in construction where subcontractor bosses claim they must wait to pay workers until the contractor is paid. When the job is over, the subcontractor is gone, and the workers weren’t paid.
Ignoring Minimum Wage
Even the well-known Le Cirque restaurant in Manhattan is not above the law. In 2014, workers served the famed establishment with a class action lawsuit in federal court for not adhering to minimum wage and not paying overtime. The suit alleges managers were not keeping adequate records of the hours worked.
Those filing the suit accuse management of retaining tips and redistributing them to non-top eligible employees, such as managers. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is clear about differentiating tipped employees from non-tipped workers. The minimum wage for both is quite different so strict adherence to the categories is crucial for proper FLSA compliance.
A recent case to make the news involved a Papa John’s Pizza Franchisee who split employees’ work hours between two stores. That way it didn’t appear, at first glance, that they were eligible for overtime. It wasn’t until employees compared the recordkeeping of both stores that they realized they had worked over 40 hours in total and were eligible for overtime.
Years ago it was common for companies to employee college students for free, payment being the opportunity to work there, network, and add it to a resume. Today this sort of employment might be illegal. If an intern’s job description is wrongly classified and s/he is hired to do the work of an employee (meaning the company hires free interns to avoid hiring employees), the intern is probably owed compensation. Conde Nast paid $5.8 million in a settlement to over 7,000 of its interns in 2014.
“Blackballing” and Workplace Discrimination
Many interns and other workers don’t file to recoup unpaid wages or overtime because they are afraid of the ramifications. Interns are afraid they won’t be able to work in their chosen field because of being “blackballed” and workers who file against their current employer fear the ramifications. Both of these actions, a form of retaliation, are illegal. These are wages that are owed to you for work you’ve done. Firing you for filing a wrongful termination.
If you think your employer is committing wage theft, you need someone with extensive knowledge of employment law on your side. The attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., can help. Contact them today to schedule a free initial consultation.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.