Wage theft is a serious problem in Florida and always has been. Given the fact that tourism plays a major role in the state’s economy, the state employs a higher number of service workers and construction workers than other states. These are the same workers who often live paycheck to paycheck and can ill afford to lose any of their hard earned wages. Workers who receive low wages seem to be more likely to have their wages stolen by employers and as demonstrated in this report this is a large number of people. But, even this data does not account for the full magnitude of the problem, as an unknown number of cases go unreported. Indeed, as data on wage theft accumulates, the more it becomes clear how widespread wage theft is in the state of Florida and throughout the state’s industries.
When that loss comes as a result of employer wage theft, it is all the more reprehensible and fortunately, punishable by law.
Wage theft is defined as workers not receiving wages that they are legally owed. It occurs in different forms including unpaid overtime, not being paid at least the minimum wage, working during meal breaks, misclassification of employees as independent contractors, forcing employees to work off the clock, altering time cards or pay stubs, illegally deducting money from employees’ pay checks, paying employees late, or simply not paying employees at all. Unfortunately, many employers know they can get away with wage theft and have little fear of sanction. Enforcement mechanisms are weak, due to lack of dedicated enforcement capacity at the state level, limited capacity of local branches of the Federal Department of Labor, and the gaps in U.S. labor laws that leave many employees are unprotected.
A few years ago, Florida International University sponsored a study of the issue in Florida and focused on the most populous of the Florida counties including Hillsborough and Pinellas. The numbers were staggering. On average, a person who makes a wage theft claim in Pinellas County is usually making a claim for at least $500. During the time of the study a few years ago, there were more than 3,600 claims in Pinellas County alone and the government recovered nearly $2,000,000 of stolen wages!
If you believe you are a victim of wage theft, please contact me and make an appointment so we can discuss your situation. As a champion of the underdog and a blue-collar guy, nothing enrages me more than these types of cases.