The South Florida Wage Theft Task Force (WTTF) is a community based task force working collaboratively to address wage theft since 2007. The goals of the WTTF are to reduce wage theft in Florida and, in the process, broaden public awareness about worker rights. WTTF membership includes immigrant rights organizations, women’s and faith community groups, labor unions, a workers center, legal services providers, a research institute, an employer alliance, and others. The WTTF seeks to strengthen human rights through the expansion of protections for the most vulnerable among us and the improvement of public enforcement of worker rights laws.
What is Wage Theft?
“Wage theft” refers to the nonpayment or underpayment of wages. Wage theft typically occurs when workers do not receive the required minimum wage or overtime wages, when employers cheat workers out of hours, or force workers to work off the clock. Wage theft is exacerbated by discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, language, national origin, or citizenship status and by retaliation against workers who seek to exercise their rights.
Who can be a victim of Wage Theft?
Wage theft typically affects hourly and piece rate workers, and is prevalent in many of the low-wage service industries that make up the backbone of the South Florida economy – plant nurseries, hotel and restaurants, day labor, domestic work, and retail are some of the most common. Although it disproportionately affects low-wage workers and immigrant workers, the impact is felt by all workers. When unscrupulous employers get away with stealing wages of certain workers, they are getting an unfair advantage over honest competitors, driving down standards for all workers. Employers who commit wage theft tend to violate other laws and labor standards as well. Wage theft affects the community too because it denies workers their livelihood and support for their families, and impacts the local economy.
The Scope of the Problem in South Florida
Wage theft is especially acute in South Florida because of the large number of low-wage service sector jobs, and many recent immigrants who are more vulnerable to exploitation. Florida no longer has a state Department of Labor and the Federal Department of Labor has limited capacity for investigations, and limited jurisdiction in many cases. Some employers exploit their workers’ vulnerabilities or may be
unfamiliar with U.S. and Florida fair wage and labor laws. Many immigrant workers have - or believe they have little to no recourse, legal or otherwise. Undocumented immigrant workers are particularly vulnerable. All workers have a legal right to the wages they have earned, regardless of status.
The task force is working with the local officials to provide local solutions to the problem of wage theft. We believe that a community partnership coupled with the opportunity for workers to file complaints about wage theft will result in family economic security and healthier communities because workers will get to keep what they earn.