South Florida a Leader in Recovering Wages for Employees Denied Wages

The “wage theft” Miami-Dade County ordinance, enacted in 2010, has entered the national spotlight as an example of local legislation created to solve a problem that plagues much of Florida and other states around the country. The program was created to help employees recover funds that are owed by employers for a number of reasons. It is designed to especially aid those who exist on the fringes of society, excluded by a language barrier or illegal resident status.

The ordinance requires a minimum amount of $60 of unpaid wages to file a claim. The maximum amount of recovery in a claim for lost wages is three times the amount of unpaid sums plus administrative costs. Often, this recovery is used as a negotiating “stick” to influence the employer to pay the wages owed to the employee without a formal hearing. However, if a hearing is required it can take quite a bit of time to actually be held. Wronged employees may also use other alternatives to pursue their claims through civil action in state or federal court. These claims cannot be filed simultaneously with a local wage theft claim.

Part of the reason the local ordinance exists is because of lax requirements imposed on Florida’s employers at the state level. Florida no longer has a Department of Labor and has very low unemployment benefits. Generally, if wages are to be recovered it would be through a workers’ compensation action for lost wages due to an injury or death on the job.

Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage mandated by the state of Florida, designed to help workers receive much-needed financial assistance for the employee or employee’s family to pay for hospital bills, basic living expenses, education for a new field of employment, or funeral costs. Lost wages are calculated by looking at the average weekly wage the employee was making at the time of the injury or death causing accident. This number is calculated with a few multipliers set by the government, including an impairment rating. An injured employee must be seen by a doctor or therapist in an independent medical examination where an assessment is made determining whether the employee is partially or totally disabled, and whether this is temporary or permanent disability. Consideration is also given for the psychiatric stress caused by an accident.

An injured Florida employee is unable to file a personal injury suit against an employer when there is workers’ compensation since the employee with a qualified injury is guaranteed a type of recovery, dissolving the need for other avenues of legal relief. However, an injury may also be caused by the negligence of a 3rd party who is outside the workers’ compensation immunity or by a defective product made by a negligent company. An injured employee or their family may then file a personal injury or wrongful death action in Florida’s state or federal court.

Friedman, Rodman & Frank are Florida workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys who have fought for multiple employees’ lost wages and compensation for medical expenses. They have litigated several personal injury and defective product claims that resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts. If you have been injured on the job and would like to speak with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us for a free consultation.

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