New Wage Theft and Payroll Fraud Study Released in Florida
According to a recent report in the Florida Independent, wage theft and payroll fraud are rampant in Florida, and the state enforcement mechanism is overwhelmed and grossly understaffed. They cite a recent report from the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) at Florida International University entitled Wage Theft: An Economic Drain on Florida – How Millions of Dollars are Stolen from Florida's Workforce that illustrates the nature of the wage theft and payroll fraud issue in Florida, specifically in 5 industries: Accommodation and Food Services, Retail, Construction, Healthcare and Social Services and Administrative Support.
According to their definition, “Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid their legally owed wages, and according to RISEP it includes ‘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’.”
The article points out the following key findings from the study:
- “From September 2008 to January 2011 more than $28 million in unpaid wages has been recovered through the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, Miami-Dade's anti-wage theft ordinance and community groups.
- “Florida's key industries – tourism, retail trade and construction – have the highest numbers of reported wage violations.
- “An average of 3,036 wage violations per year are reported to the Wage and Hour Division in Florida.
- “Despite ample evidence of widespread wage theft among low-income workers, as of December 2011, Florida's attorneys general have not brought one single civil action to enforce the state's minimum wage law, enacted in 2004.
- “Since the full implementation of the Miami-Dade County anti-wage theft ordinance in September 2010, the county's Small Business Development agency has recovered nearly $400,000 in unpaid wages for 313 workers who unlawfully had their wages withheld from them.
- “The Department of Labor recovered just under $16 million in wages for more than 24,000 workers in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Broward, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Orange counties.”
According to the study, the state of Florida has six wage and hourly investigators, and based on the employment figures in the state, that is the equivalent of 1 investigator per 1.2 million workers. The resultant backlog of cases in the state makes it even less likely that those workers who have been short-changed on their wages and overtime will ever get a hearing.
Workers will be cheated by the bandits until the Obama administration and the states enforce the existing wage and hour laws and we pass wage theft and payroll fraud laws in all 50 states.
Look out construction bandits, we are coming after you.