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South Florida, Other Locales Focus Hard on Employers' Wage Theft

Saying that, "The best economic stimulus plan is a paycheck," Jeanette Smith, the executive director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, lauds the recent collaborative efforts of government agencies and private groups to curtail widespread wage theft by employers across a wide range of professions and salary levels in Florida.

Miami joined more than 50 other cities across the country on November 18 that declared that day A Day Against Wage Theft. Wage theft includes a broad range of employer activities and strategies that result in unpaid wages lawfully owed to workers. Those activities include paying below the minimum wage, misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits, altering time cards, not paying for or underpaying for overtime work, making employees work off the clock, and related tactics.

South Florida officials see their area as being comparatively ravaged by the practice, which extends across low-wage jobs and industries to workers in more lucrative professions, such as doctors, accountants and architects.

A recent report commissioned by the Florida Wage Theft Task Force documented wage violations in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and found that, over a recent four-year period, nearly 4,000 violations were reported that addressed more than $3.5 million in unpaid wages.

Miami-Dade County passed a wage theft law in February of this year and has already processed more than 400 wage complaints. Palm Beach County is expected soon to enact similar legislation.

Related Resource: "In South Florida, wage theft at all levels" November 11, 2010

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