Miami judge rules in favor of county’s anti-wage theft program

By | 03.27.12 | 12:48 pm

Workers who were stiffed out of wages at a Broward County construction project earlier this year (Pic by Marcos Restrepo)

A Miami court today announced its decision to dismiss the constitutional challenge brought by the Florida Retail Federation against Miami-Dade County’s anti-wage theft program.

Judge Lester Langer writes that Miami-Dade County “had the right, pursuant to a proper exercise of its police powers which are constitutionally guaranteed under the Home Rule Charter to enact the ordinance to prevent the theft of wages for working people in Dade County.”

Langer writes that Miami-Dade’s anti-wage theft ordinance “was a responsible and reasonable exercise of governmental authority. The ordinance as enacted, provides appropriate due process, equal protection procedures and meets the essential requirements of law.”

According to the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, as of September 2011, Miami-Dade County’s wage theft ordinance “has processed 662 claims for a total amount of $1,760,177. Almost $400,000 has been recovered through conciliation and over $300,000 has been awarded through a hearing examiner process. In August alone, the program recovered and collected thru conciliation $52,000 for 109 workers.”

A Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University study on wage theft released in January 2012 shows that the practice of employers stiffing workers out of the wages they are owed remains a widespread problem that affects millions of Floridians.

The court’s decision also states that Miami-Dade County’s “Motion to Dismiss is hereby GRANTED” and the Florida Retail Federation “Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby DENIED with prejudice.”

According to the court document, the Florida Retail Federation is a “statewide nonprofit Florida corporation and Trade Association representing the mutual interest of retail related business the State with an approximately 352 large retail chain members and 280 small business numbers located in Miami.”

During the 2011 and 2012 state legislative sessions, the Retail Federation supported a GOP-sponsored bill that would not allow local government in Florida to adopt or maintain any “law, ordinance, or rule for purpose of addressing” wage theft.

John Fleming, director of communications at the Florida Retail Federation, told The Florida Independent that state Rep. Tom Goodson’s bill “establishes a state-wide definition for unpaid wages, allows counties to set up an administrative process to help agrieved workers recover unpaid wages, and creates a uniform statewide standard.”

Goodson’s bill failed to pass in 2011 and 2012.

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