Broward Joins Miami-Dade as Only Two Counties in Florida to Pass Wage Theft Law
Earlier this week, the Broward County Commission voted for instituting a Wage Recovery Ordinance that would help unpaid workers recover their wages from employers that either didn't pay the salary promised, or didn't pay at all.
The ordinance met with resistance from business owners who called the ordinance insulting, and unnecessary.
The Florida Wage Theft Task Force's Natalia Jaramillo spoke with New Times, and told us a case was being built on workers' behalf, with flyers, petitions, and, most prominently, a video of personal stories from Broward County victims of wage theft.
Jamarillo's hope was the an ordinance much like what Miami-Dade has would be passed -- rather than a so-called compromise what would only give victims legal aid -- a compromise Jamarillo insisted has never worked.
But on Tuesday, the ordinance passed by a 7-2 vote (with Commissioners Stacy Ritter and Chip LaMarca voting no). And now Broward County joins Miami-Dade as the only two counties in Florida to have instituted the law.
"We're definitely pleased," Jamarilo told New Times in response to the vote. "We got the participation from the commission we were expecting, with seven voting for it."
The law, which will be implemented in January, will allow Broward employees who are owed at least $60 (and more) to be able to get help from the county. The law does not apply to state or government jobs, and businesses that are wrongly accused could be paid for damages plus the amount of the unpaid wage they're accused of.
An employee will be required to write a letter to their respective employer outlining how much is owed. If the paycheck showed up within 15 days, the complaint won't be filed.
Commissioners are expected to hash out a finalized version of the law later this year.
Jamarillo and her group had planned to show the video during the debates leading up to the vote Tuesday, but weren't able to due to time constraints. Still, every member of the commission was sent the video, along with signed petitions.
The main focus was to sway business leaders who claimed the ordinance was a frivolous one, with the law costing the county an estimated $175,000 a year in staffing.
But Jamarillo says the need was too heavy to leave it to legal aid and brush it off with lobbying from business owners.
"The businesses insisted that this was just a case of a few bad apples," Jamarillo says. "They said we didn't need an ordinance. But through the video that we sent to the commission, and a petition with about 150 signatures, and people sharing their own stories, we showed that this was a real need and that the ordinance needed to be passed."