‘Wage-theft’ bill moving in Houseby Dara Kam | February 22nd, 2012
Counties like Palm Beach won’t be able to craft non-judicial ways to handle disputes over whether workers have been cheated out of their pay under a measure moving in the Florida House.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a revised “wage theft” proposal (HB 609) this morning with a party-line, 12-6 vote. The GOP-dominated committee thwarted an attempt to grandfather in Miami-Dade, the only county in the state thus far to pass a wage theft ordinance creating an alternate wage dispute system. Palm Beach County commissioners are considering a similar proposal.
The Florida Retail Federation and other business lobbies are pushing the ban on local wage theft ordinances, which they say make it too easy for worker challenges. But labor unions and immigrant advocates oppose the measure. They say undocumented workers are more vulnerable to being cheated out of their wages but are afraid to report their employers and don’t want to end up in court.
The House proposal would allow counties or municipalities to create a system to help workers file the complaints in court that would also include mediation. The measure also limits any wage theft complaints to workers making less than $500,000 and requires that the complaints be filed within a year.
A Senate version stalled this week, but Republican senators are trying to work out their differences as the March 9 end of the legislative session approaches.