Wage Theft and Recovery
New Information Relating to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Wage Theft Complaints
QUESTION: The federal government is exploring ways to provide economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. May I file a Pinellas County wage theft complaint against my employer for failure to comply with any measures that may be enacted by the federal government?
ANSWER: No. Generally, section 70-306 of the Pinellas County Codes provides protections for wage theft when an employee is unpaid, in-full or in-part, for work already performed. Any federal measures relating solely to COVID-19 relief are outside the scope of section 70-306.
If an employee believes they were denied pay for which they are due under any federal measures to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are encouraged to obtain more information by visiting the United States Department of Labor's COVID-19 web page at www.dol.gov/coronavirus .
Protection for Residents from Wage Theft:
To protect residents in Pinellas County from being victims of wage theft, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners passed Wage Theft and Recovery Ordinance . This ordinance provides a process through which victims of wage theft may seek recovery of unpaid wages. This wage theft ordinance took effect on January 1, 2016 and is administered by the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights.
If you believe you are covered by the ordinance and wish to file a complaint, please contact the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights at (727) 464-4880 and ask for the Intake Officer, or fill out the online complaint form below.
- Wage Theft and Recovery Complaint Online Form
Deadline for filing a wage theft and recovery complaint - A signed complaint for wage theft must be filed with Pinellas County Office of Human Rights no later than one (1) year after the last date upon which the employee performed the work for an employer.
Recent Amendments to Wage Theft/Recovery Ordinance, and Employer Resources:
The Board of County Commissioners recently enacted amendments to the Wage Theft/Recovery Ordinance which requires employers to post in an area visible to employees information about their rights under the ordinance, and certain information relating to the employer, how the employer may be contacted, and the employee's rate of pay and when wages are due.
To make it easier for employers to comply with these new provisions, the Office of Human Rights has developed a poster employers can print and post regarding the ordinance, and a form which can be completed advising employees about their employer and pay.
Downloadable versions of the required posting, as well as a form providing employees information on their employer and pay, are below.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is wage theft?
Wage theft is the non-payment or underpayment of earned wages to employees by employers. It shall include earned paid time off, leave, vacation or sick pay. Examples of wage theft include paying less than minimum wage, not paying workers overtime, not allowing workers to take meal and rest breaks, or taking workers' tips.
- Who can file a wage theft and recovery complaint?
All employees who work for a covered employer in the geographic boundaries of Pinellas County can file a complaint.
- Who is an "employee" as defined in the Wage Theft and Recovery Ordinance?
An employee is a person who performs work for an employer within Pinellas County. This does not include a bona fide independent contractor (as defined by the Internal Revenue Code). Employee may also include a person who performs work that benefits an employer located within Pinellas County even though the employee may have performed work outside of Pinellas County.
- Who is a covered "employer" as defined in the Wage Theft and Recovery Ordinance?
A covered employer is any person who, acting individually or as an officer, agent or employee of another person, acts directly or indirectly in the interest to a person or entity employing an employee; but such term does not include any Federal or State agency or entity.
- Why was adoption of the Wage Theft and Recovery Ordinance necessary?
The following considerations, among others, led to enactment of the wage theft and recovery ordinance:
- Economic security for persons working in Pinellas County.
- Promotion of business and economic development by eliminating unfair competition by businesses that do not pay or underpay their employees.
- Reduction of the number of employees who rely on public assistance for essential needs because their employer does not pay or underpays earned wages.
- What is "non-payment of earned wages" according to the ordinance?
When an employer fails to pay any portion of wages earned by an employee within a reasonable amount of time from the date on which wages were due for work performed by the employee. It shall include earned paid time off, leave, vacation or sick pay.
- What are the penalties for an employer not paying wages to an employee?
If an employer is found to have unlawfully failed to pay earned wages, it shall entitle an employee to receive three times the amount of back wages that the employer is found to have unlawfully failed to pay the employee. The employer may also pay to the Board of County Commissioners an assessment of costs in an amount not to exceed actual administrative processing costs and costs of the hearing.
- Can I file an anonymous complaint?
No. Contact information and the aggrieved employee’s participation in the process is required.
- Will my employer know that I complained?
Yes. The employer will be contacted to resolve the complaint.
- What if I am fired for complaining?
Retaliation for filing a complaint is unlawful and should be reported to Pinellas County Office of Human Rights for further action.
- What documentation is helpful in processing a wage theft and recovery complaint?
Any information or documentation you can provide to establish that you were an employee, that you worked under an agreed upon wage, and that you earned a specific amount of wages not paid could help support your claim. Typically, this may include (but is not necessarily limited to):
- Copies of demand letters or other communications sent by the employee to the employer.
- Copies of employee paychecks and check stubs.
- Copies of any pay agreements relating to the employee’s wages.
- The names and contact information of any witnesses who can substantiate the allegations of the complaint.
- Copies of the employee’s work schedule, timesheets, and W-2 forms.
- Any other records of the time worked or wages paid.
- What happens after a wage theft and recovery complaint is filed?
The Pinellas County Office of Human Rights will coordinate a conciliation process to attempt to resolve the complaint by written agreement of both parties.
- What if the complaint is not conciliated?
Upon failure of conciliation within thirty (30) days after the County determines that a complaint meets the criterion for wage theft, the County shall appoint a Special Magistrate to hear wage theft matters.
- What do I do if I want to learn more, or if I wish to file a wage theft and recovery complaint?
To learn more about the wage theft/recovery ordinance, contact the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights at 727-464-4880 and ask for the Intake Officer.