When an employer in Florida fails to pay an employee wages he's earned, that employee has a right to those unpaid wages under both state and federal law. However, Florida's Department of Labor does not enforce the state law. An employee's only recourse under state law is to file a lawsuit.
Florida's Minimum Wage Law
Florida's minimum wage law requires employers to pay at least the minimum wage, plus time and a half for any hours more than 40 worked in a given workweek. This law applies to the same employees who are also covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. An employee has the right under the law to sue her employee for any unpaid wages.
A separate state law forbids employers from discriminating on the basis of sex when setting wage rates for employees. This law covers all employees, including those paid salary or commissions who are exempt from the FLSA and Florida's minimum wage law. If an employer has paid an employee at a lower rate because of her gender, she can sue for the difference. This is an independent cause of action that exists separately from any claim she may have under the FLSA or the state minimum wage law.
Filing a State Lawsuit
Before filing a lawsuit for unpaid wages in state court, the employee must send a written notice to her employer detailing her claim. The notice must state the wage to which she's entitled, the hours she's worked and the total amount of unpaid wages. The employer has 15 days to respond to this notice and potentially resolve the claim. Only when that time has passed can she file suit in a Florida court.
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Because these lawsuits can be complex and time-consuming, the employee may want to consult an attorney. If her suit is successful, the judge may award her court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
Fair Labor Standards Act
The FLSA covers employees working at businesses involved in interstate commerce, or that have a $500,000 or more volume of business in one year. Hospitals and residential care facilities, schools and all levels of government also are covered by the law.
Unlike Florida's state law, the FLSA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. If a Florida employee is covered by the FLSA, she has the option of filing a complaint with the WHD. The Division conducts an investigation and attempts to resolve the dispute through administrative procedures. If necessary, the WHD files suit in federal court on the employee's behalf.
Filing a Federal Complaint
A Florida employee with an unpaid wage claim can begin the process of filing a federal complaint by calling 1-866-4-USWAGE or visiting one of the WHD's seven Florida offices. To process and begin investigation of the complaint, the WHD needs basic information such as the employee's name, address and phone number; the name, address and phone number of her workplace and supervisors; details about the type of work she did and her rate of pay. Any documentation she may have, including pay stubs, personnel records or company policies, may also be helpful to the WHD.