A Florida teacher was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for slavery. According to testimony in a Fort Lauderdale court, Maude Paulin forced a Haitian girl to work without pay seven days per week for more than seven years.
While many employers including Target, Wal-mart, Starbucks, Walgreens and others have reached settlements involving minimum wage violations, few come close to the level of abuse in this case.
The prosecution showed that while Paulin was a respected middle-school teacher by day, by night she kept a young teen – the same age as her students—in primitive conditions, forcing the girl to work long hours and sleep on the floor. Still, the employer maintains that she wants only good things for the worker.
Effective January 1, 2008, the Florida state minimum wage will increase to $6.79 per hour. This is an increase of 12 cents per hour from the current rate of $6.67 per hour. This increase is a 1.85% change, based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in the South Region for the 12-month period ending September 1, 2007.
Under the constitutional amendment that created Florida’s minimum wage, voters approved an annual cost-of-living increase. Each year on October 15, the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation determines the rate for the following year.
In 2007, the Florida minimum wage increased by 27 cents from $6.40 to $6.67 per hour.
The Florida minimum wage applies to every worker in the state who is covered by the federal minimum wage. The state currently 82 cents more than the federal minimum wage of $5.85 per hour. Beginning in January, 2008, the Florida rate will be 94 cents more than the federal minimum wage, until July 24, 2008. On that date, the federal minimum wage will increase to $6.55 per hour. The higher state minimum wage will still apply to all employees. However, at that point the Florida minimum wage will only be 24 cents more than the federal rate.
In Florida, as in other states, employees who are covered by both state and federal law are entitled to whichever provides the greater benefit. So currently, workers who are entitled to $5.85 under the federal minimum wage and $6.67 under the Florida minimum wage, are entitled to $6.67 per hour.
It is likely that in 2009, the federal minimum wage will outpace the Florida minimum wage. On July 24, 2009 the federal rate is scheduled to increase to $7.25 per hour. Unless the Florida minimum wage increases by 46 cents or more in 2009, the federal rate will be higher at that time. At that point, Florida workers now covered by the state minimum wage would be entitled to the higher federal rate.
Under current state law, the Florida minimum wage for tipped employees will go to $3.77 on January 1, 2008. This amount must be paid to the worker by the employer. However, if an employee earns less than $3.02 per hour in tips during any shift, the employer is responsible for making up the difference to ensure that the worker earns at least $6.79 per hour.
Any employee who is not paid the minimum wage in Florida may sue the employer. The state attorney general may also bring an enforcement action against an employer, under the statute.
Every employer covered under the Florida or federal minimum wage is required to display a minimum wage poster “in a conspicuous and accessible place in each establishment” where employees work, by Florida law. Federal and state minimum wage posters must be updated each time the rate changes. This means that Florida employers will be updating the state posters on January 1, 2008 and 2009, and the federal posters on July 24, 2008 and 2009.
One excellent way for busy employers to stay on top of these posting requirements is to enlist in a labor law poster service. The service will provide high-quality laminated posters that are automatically updated every time the law changes. Enlisting in such a poster service is an excellent investment for busy Human Resource professionals.
A number of states including Illinois have implemented state minimum wages in the past 4 years. However, very few of them did so by passing a constitutional amendment, as Florida did. The law was passed on November 2, 2004. Prior to that time, the minimum wage for workers in Florida was the federal rate, then $5.15 per hour.
A Florida tree-trimming company must pay back wages to more than 2,500 of its workers in 16 states after it was found violating the federal and Florida minimum wage laws. The Labor Department investigation means the firm owes those employees $1.8 million dollars.
The company, which provides cleanup work around power lines and in areas hit by natural disasters, owes some of that money to employees who worked to clean up after Hurricane Katrina. ABC Professional Tree Services of Houston violated the minimum wage law and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) during the two-year period of the investigation, from August 2004 to August 2006, according to the Labor Department.
According to the FLSA, any covered employees must be paid at least $5.15 per hour, the minimum wage, for the first 40 hours of any work week. After that, employees must receive time-and-a-half for overtime. Accurate payroll record keeping is also required.
The company is paying back wages to its Florida employees as well as to employees from Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Maine, New York, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said the Labor Department is pleased that “we were able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve.” She said the department would continue monitoring to make sure employers are paying the legal amounts to employees.
The investigation started when a dissatisfied worker tipped the Department of Labor about the violation. Labor Department officials found that the company was in violation in 16 states.
U.S. Attorneys in several states have teamed up with the Labor Department on a task force that both investigates and prosecutes labor law violations in the Gulf Coast region, particularly regions affected by hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
The firm in this instance agreed to pay $1,801,507 in back wages.
It’s pretty interesting and important to know that overtime issues across the United States are basically held to one set of standards, the federal government’s Fair Labor Standards Act, the FLSA or the Wage and Hour Law for short. But states can have many of their own overtime laws, or a few. And that’s what makes Florida a special case and worthy of note for this blog.
Florida overtime law really is made up of one law, statute 448.01. In basic terms, this Florida overtime law sets 10 hours as the length of a legal workday for manual laborers. If we look at the law a little further, it goes on to explain, though, that 10 hours makes a legal workday unless the employee and the employer have signed a contract that requires more or less hours to be carried out in the day.
Now we get to the part about overtime. The Florida law continues that unless a contract has been agreed to by the employer and the employee, then overtime pay is due for all work over 10 hours a day. That means that if you were a laborer in Florida, and you’re employer required that you work 11 hours a day, in that case you would be entitled to extra pay.
Otherwise, if you weren’t a laborer working by the day, week, month, or year, as stipulated in the Florida regulation, then you would have to follow the rules of the federal Wage and Hour Law.
In short—and where we have room later I can go into further detail—the FSLA is the rule that most employees and employers are familiar with when it comes to overtime. It’s the general rule that employees who work more than 40 hours in a week shall be paid one-half times their normal pay rate for any hour over that 40.
The Florida Complete Labor Law poster has more detailed information on Florida and the FLSA laws alongside all of the federal labor laws.