Florida Policymakers Need to Reassess How the Minimum Wage is Enforced

This post was last updated on July 22, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.
On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Executive Summary

In November 2020, Floridians made the historic decision to move an estimated 2.5 million Floridians closer to a living wage with the passage of Amendment 2. The state minimum wage increase goes into effect in September 2021, increasing from $8.65 to $10 per hour, then rising by $1 per hour each year until it reaches $15 in 2026.

In anticipation of this increase, Florida Policy Institute (FPI) and Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) assessed the extent to which the current state minimum wage is enforced. FPI and CIWO analyzed over 15 years of U.S. Census data and recent records obtained from the Florida Attorney General’s Office to do so.

Failing to pay workers the minimum wage is but one of many forms of wage theft. However, given the timeliness of Amendment 2, wage theft in this report refers solely to minimum wage violations among low-wage workers (those with incomes in the bottom 20 percent) unless otherwise indicated.

FPI and CIWO’s analysis finds: 

  • The minimum wage has been largely unenforced for at least a decade.
  • After Florida’s 2005 minimum wage increase, its minimum wage violation rate more than doubled to 17 percent by the end of 2007.
  • Victims of wage theft lose 18 percent of the minimum wage to which they are entitled, on average, or $1.32 per hour.
  • Floridians in the state’s top industries (agriculture, service, and real estate) suffer the highest wage theft rates.
  • Black, Latina, and immigrant women are more likely to face wage theft than their peers.
  • If these violation rates persist, Florida could expect to lose an average of $25.3 million in sales tax revenue each year over the next six years.

Before Amendment 2 goes into effect, Florida policymakers should mitigate these unsettling trends by reintroducing a State Department of Labor equipped with the authority and resources necessary to ensure working Floridians are paid the wages they are entitled to.

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