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Wage Theft: How Millions of Dollars are Stolen from Florida’s Workforce

Source: 

Florida

This is the second in a series of reports monitoring the growing problem of wage theft in Florida. Using previously unanalyzed data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and separate data from various community organizations, this report shows evidence of a widespread problem across a broad spectrum of industries in Florida. The industries especially impacted are those commonly thought of as the core of Florida’s economy—tourism, retail trade, and construction. Moreover, it appears more likely to affect those workers who can least afford it. 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 ofpeople. 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. 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 unprotected.The report finds that many of Florida’s workforce fall outside of federal labor laws; thus, other enforcement mechanisms such as Miami Dade’s Wage Theft Ordinance are needed to ensure that employees, communities, and local governments will not miss out on millions of stolen wages that are owed to them, and that unscrupulous employers will be penalized for breaking labor laws.The report estimates that nearly 60-90 million dollars are stolen from Florida’s workforce, impacting communities, law abiding employers and local and state economies. The release of the report comes at a time when the Florida legislature is debating a House and Senate bill that would eliminate the Miami-Dade Wage Theft Ordinance, which has collected nearly $400,000 in stolen wages from employees–and preempt any other local governments trying to find solutions to wage theft in their communities.