County Commission could decide on wage-theft ordinance Tuesday

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:31 p.m.

After multiple meetings and months of local activism, the Alachua County Commission may approve a wage-theft ordinance today at its evening meeting that would allow the county to act as a mediator between workers and employers in disputes over unpaid wages.

Common forms of wage theft include paying workers only in tips, withholding an employee’s final paycheck and requiring people to work off-the-clock.

The Alachua County Wage Theft Task Force has spent months raising awareness about the issue and has encouraged the commission to adopt an ordinance allowing the county to handle wage-theft cases. The task force has argued that a local approach will be more effective than relying solely on the federal government to manage these claims.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties have wage-theft ordinances that refer disputes that fail the county’s mediation phase to a hearing officer who decides the cases.

Alachua County’s proposed ordinance would include a similar process. However, the hearing officer’s decision is only enforceable by the court system so a worker may need to go to court if an employer refuses to pay.

The commission will review the ordinance and may approve it at its evening meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the County Administration Building, located at 12 SE First St. in Gainesville.

Even if the commission passes the bill, it could be pre-empted if state legislation filed by North Florida Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, who represents the county within his district. The state senate bill, if enacted, would pre-empt wage-theft ordinances like Alachua County’s and refer workers to small claims court.

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