Florida Wage and Hour Laws
Through a number of federal and state laws enacted over the years, the average employee in Florida enjoys a wide variety of rights and protections that employees even 100 years ago did not know. One such right includes the right to receive a fair, minimum wage for work performed. This right is often coupled in the minds of employees with the protection against working excessive hours without just compensation. While laws and regulations cannot stop employers from violating an employee’s rights, they can provide the wronged employee with ways to seek some redress for his or her injury.
Wage or Hour Violations – What To Do?
Most employers treat their employees fairly and pay them in accordance with the law. It is in the employer’s interest to do so because: (1) employees who are happy and feel their employer treats them fairly are more productive and tend to remain with that employer; and (2) it cuts down on the number of complaints and lawsuits, which can be bad for the company’s public image.
If you feel a wage violation has occurred, you are permitted to bring a civil suit against your employer for unpaid or back wages. In order to do so, you must follow these steps:
- First, you mustnotify your employer in writing. The notification should clearly state that you intend to bring a civil suit or action. The notice must also state what wages you believe you were entitled to (your minimum or your working wage, if higher), the date or dates and corresponding hours for each date you claim you were not paid, and the total amount you are claiming.
- Next, after the employer receives your notice, the employer will have 15 calendar days in order toeither pay the total amount you claimed in your notice or to resolve the dispute with you. During this time, your employer may contact you regarding your notice and attempt to see if the dispute can be resolved for an amount less than what you claimed. In any event, the employer must resolve the claim to your satisfaction; if you are not satisfied, you may continue bringing an action against your employer.
- If your claim is not satisfied, you may then bring your case before the court. A judge will decide whether you are entitled to unpaid wages and, if so, in what amount. In presenting your case, you will need to present evidence establishing that you were employed by the employer, that you were entitled to the minimum wage (or another wage, if higher), that you were working on the dates in question and what hours you worked those days, and that you did not receive your pay.
If you prevail in your case – that is, if the judge agrees that you did not receive the pay to which you were entitled – the judge may order that the employer pay you:
- Unpaid back wages;
- Liquidated damages that are not greater than the amount of unpaid back wages;
- Reasonable attorney’s fees and costs; and
- Any equitable relief the court deems appropriate, such as reinstating your job (if you were let go) or issuing an injunction against your employer to prohibit certain conduct.
Punitive damages – a money judgment designed to “punish” the employer – are not available in this type of civil action.
Note that the Secretary of Labor can also bring an action against the employer under the FLSA. The remedies here are similar to the remedies available under Florida law. The Secretary of Labor can assess civil penalties, fines, and/or imprisonment if it is shown that the employer has willfully or repeatedly violated the FLSA. A visit with the local Department of Labor office is usually enough to initiate an investigation.