By
FPI Staff
|
March 4, 2021

Wage Theft in Florida Will Persist Without More Vigorous Enforcement, Report Finds

This post was last updated on September 10, 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.

The average wage theft rate more than doubled following Florida’s minimum wage increase in 2005 from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour

ORLANDO, Fla. - Unchecked wage theft, in the form of employers failing to pay employees the minimum wage, could keep countless Floridians from sharing in the anticipated benefits of Amendment 2’s gradual $15 minimum wage boost, according to a new report from Florida Policy Institute (FPI) and Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO).

In “Florida Policymakers Need to Reassess How the Minimum Wage is Enforced,” FPI and CIWO find that, in the 14-year period following Florida’s 2005 minimum wage increase, roughly 17 percent of low-wage workers in Florida — or about 250,000 Floridians per year on average — were paid less than the minimum wage. This is more than double the average wage theft rate between 2000 and 2005, the period right before the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour.

The analysis also finds that:

  • The minimum wage has been largely unenforced for at least a decade in Florida.
  • 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.

“The fact that so many Floridians are being paid subminimum wages should send a clear signal to policymakers that a Department of Labor is needed to enforce wage laws and hold bad actors accountable,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI. “There are numerous positive impacts that will come with Amendment 2’s gradual minimum wage increase, including a reduction in pay disparities, but these can only be realized if employers are following the law.”

“How is it that Florida, a state of 10 million workers, employs no one to enforce the minimum wage?” said Professor Janice Fine, CIWO’s director of research and strategy. “New York, with a million fewer workers, has 115 full-time state investigators. Florida has none. And that's despite voters approving two minimum wage hikes. It should come as no surprise that our study finds stunningly high rates of wage theft, particularly affecting low-wage Black, Latinx, and immigrant women. These workers are, at the very least, entitled to receive the wages they are owed for the work they performed.”

The report was co-authored by FPI’s Alexis Davis and CIWO’s Daniel J. Galvin, Janice Fine, and Jenn Round. Galvin, a CIWO fellow, is also an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University.

FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

CIWO, part of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, is a “think and do tank” that seeks to shift the balance of power toward greater economic and social equality.

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