Jul 07, 2010

Miami-Dade “Wage Theft” Ordinance

During the past few months, Miami-Dade County enacted, and then amended, an ordinance attempting to regulate the payment of wages to employees. Under the ordinance, the non-payment of wages is considered a form of theft. The “Wage Theft” Ordinance, as originally enacted, required all private employers, regardless of size, to pay their employees for work performed within 14 days of the date such work was performed. The ordinance provided an exception to this general rule, whereby employers could pay their employees more than 14 days after performance of the relevant work, but not more than 30 days after performance, only if the affected employees agreed in writing to the alternative payment scheme.

Perhaps sensing a backlash from well-meaning employers whose payment schedules nevertheless qualified as “theft,” Miami-Dade County recently amended the ordinance to provide a more realistic schedule. The amendment states that employers would be in compliance with the ordinance as long as they abide by a schedule, set by employer policy or practice, “whereby employees earn and are consistently paid wages according to regularly recurring pay periods.” The amendment further eliminates the provision that required employers to get written consent from their employees to pay their wages more than 14 days after the work performed. For practical purposes, this means that if a private employer intends to pay its employees more than 14 days after work is performed, it must pay them consistently according to regularly recurring pay periods, with or without the written consent of the employees.

Although the amendment somewhat eases the burden on employers with regard to payment schedules, the ordinance creates a review process that allows for claims to be decided by a hearing examiner who is not required to be a lawyer, judge or someone with any experience in employment law. Moreover, the ordinance subjects offending employers to potential liability, including possible triple damages, that exceeds the liability set forth in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Miami-Dade “Wage Theft” Ordinance applies to any business conducted in Miami-Dade County. If you have any questions regarding compliance with the ordinance, do not hesitate to call your employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.

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