State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, today filed a bill to prohibit Florida municipalities from “adopting or maintaining” local ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed.

A similar bill filed by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, during the 2011 legislative session would have done away with a Miami-Dade anti-wage theft ordinance passed in 2010 that created a process for workers to recover stolen wages.

Samantha Hunter Padgett, deputy general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, tells The Florida Independent her organization supports Simmons’ bill because “existing state and federal laws address the issues raised in local wage theft ordinances.”

“We believe existing laws are adequate and provide relief to employees, and due process protections for the employee and employer, and in these economic times to add an additional layer of regulation is both unnecessary and costly,” Padgett says.

“We submitted our ideas to Sen. Simmons but he and his staff drafted the bill,” Padgett tells the Independent. “We had the bill from last year that provided the model and we provided the first suggestions and our input.”

Goodson’s bill, which did not pass, was supported by the Florida Retail Federation, which has a pending court challenge against Miami-Dade’s anti-wage theft ordinance, and Associated Builders and Contractors.

Padgett told the Independent in January that the Retail Federation strongly supported Goodson’s bill, and actually brought the issue to him and assisted him in drafting the measure.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners last week approved a resolution that “opposes state legislation that would preempt Miami-Dade County’s wage theft ordinance,” and a second resolution that “urges the Florida legislature to pass a statewide wage theft law modeled [after] the Miami-Dade county wage theft ordinance.” (Read the full text of the resolutions below.)

The ordinance approved in 2010 by the Miami-Dade County Commission creates a resolution process for wage theft claims outside of the court system. 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.

According to his online bio, Simmons has earned the “Florida Workers’ Advocates’ Legislator of the Year Award” and the “Outstanding Legislator on Behalf of Workers’ Rights Award.”

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