Palm Beach activists call for county to move forward with proposed wage theft ordinance

By | 05.24.11 | 1:31 pm

Members of a religious coalition from Palm Beach county that supports a proposed wage theft ordinance has sent a letter to all the members of Palm Beach county commission asking members to move ahead with the measure.

The ordinance approved last year by the Miami-Dade county commission creates a resolution process for wage theft claims outside of court. Some supporters of the measure say it can help prevent employers from cheating workers out of pay they are owed by allowing workers to make claims without having to hire a lawyer.

The group’s members, People Engaged in Active Community Effort, known as PEACE, state in the letter (available in full below) that with the death of the Senate bill that would have curtailed local municipalities’ freedom to crack down on wage theft, they expect to see a wage theft ordinance enacted in Palm Beach county. The bill that would override local wage theft ordinances was originally filed by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville.

The letter adds that the proposed Palm Beach County Wage Theft Ordinance needs to include a subpoena power provision, which would allow the County Office of Equal Opportunity to obtain information of fraudulent employers and them to appear before an investigator (or a public hearing officer if the case is not settled in the initial phase). The ordinance should also provide workers economic damages to ensure that the victim recovers interrupted income due to the actual theft and time lost from current employment.

In October 2010, Palm Beach county commissioners ordered staff to draft the ordinance, but in February 2011 they decided to wait on the outcome of a court challenge brought by the Florida Retail Federation against the Miami-Dade County ordinance. The challenge argues in part that the county does not have the authority to create a tribunal for employers that operates outside the court system.

Jeanette Smith of the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force said the death of Goodson’s bill has no impact on the court challenge to Miami-Dade’s wage theft ordinance, but added that the bill may have created more awareness of the problems surrounding wage theft among some state legislators.

Smith said the Miami-Dade wage theft ordinance program, which helps prevent costly legal battles, is intended to be both “pro-worker” and “pro-business.” As of April has collected over $117,000 dollars in wages owed to workers.

Letter to county commissioners

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