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Back from the Dead: FL Wage Theft Pre-emption Bill Returns

March 4, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Legislation (SB-926) that would pre-empt local attempts to regulate wage theft is moving at a fast pace through the Florida Legislature. Wednesday it will be up for its first vote in committee.

Workers' rights groups oppose the proposed bill, saying it would make it too difficult for workers to get back lost wages. Rich Templin, legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO, pointed out this is the fourth time in the past four years that lawmakers have attempted to pass such a law.

"This bill is like an episode of the 'Walking Dead,'" he charged. "An issue comes before the Legislature, they kill the bill, and then, lo and behold, it gets up and starts walking around again, which is what we have here on the issue of wage theft."

Miami-Dade was the first county in the country to adopt a wage-theft law. Close to $1 million in lost wages has been recovered under their law by the U.S. Department of Labor. Broward and Alachua Counties also have passed their own local laws. More than 31 percent of Florida's population lives in counties that have established local Wage Recovery programs.

Templin pointed out that "wage theft" describes more than just employers not issuing paychecks. It also describes requests to not write down overtime hours and to report that lunch breaks were taken when they were not.

"Wage theft is big business," he declared. "There are a lot of big companies and small ones - unscrupulous business owners - who have worked into their business model, underpaying their employees. "

The Florida AFL-CIO and other groups assert that fighting wage theft should be accessible to all workers, not just those with the financial means and ability to fight for their income in court.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL