Minimum Wage Increase For Florida Employers

May 2011

On June 1, 2011, the Florida minimum wage will increase to $7.31 per hour. Thus, Florida employers will be tasked with paying higher wages than those mandated under the federal minimum wage laws. Additionally, "tipped employees" in Florida who are eligible for the tip credit authorized by the Fair Labor Standards Act will need to receive a cash wage of at least $4.29 per hour to compensate for this increase.

The wage increase was brought about after a court determined that the formula used by the Agency for Workforce Innovation (“AWI”) for calculating Florida’s minimum wage levels in 2010 and 2011 was incorrect. As a result, AWI has issued a revised 2011 "Notice to Employees" poster that Florida employers will be required to post, as of June 1, in a conspicuous place within each establishment they do business. The poster is available for downloading from AWI's webpage, and must be posted in addition to the federal minimum wage poster. 

Unemployment Bill Update From Florida Legislative Session

A bill awaiting Governor Scott's signature, that I have been heavily involved in drafting, will make significant changes regarding the ability of a discharged employee to receive unemployment benefits in Florida. The bill not only will reduce benefits to 23 weeks or less on a sliding scale basis depending on Florida’s unemployment rate, but perhaps, most significantly, the bill changes the definition of “misconduct” for purposes of disqualifying an employee from entitlement to unemployment benefits. Prior to passage of this bill, the receipt of unemployment compensation benefits was required to be liberally construed in favor of the claimant. Not only will this change in the newly passed bill, but as noted above, the narrow definition of misconduct has been greatly broadened. The bill, upon signature by the Governor, redefines misconduct by stating that the misconduct standard will apply “irrespective of whether the misconduct occurs at the workplace or during working hours.” The bill goes on to add the following additional classifications of misconduct:

(1) the employee was chronically absent or tardy in deliberate violation of a known employer policy, or the employee had one or more unapproved absences after receiving a written reprimand or warning relating to more than one unapproved absence [please note, despite this language, absences taken in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, etc., must still be allowed];

(2) an employee of a Florida-certified or Florida-licensed employer engaged in a willful and deliberate violation of a Florida standard or regulation which would cause the employer to be sanctioned or have its license or certification suspended by the state;

(3) the employee violated the rules of conduct established by the employer, unless the individual can show that (a) he or she was not aware of the rule, and could not reasonably have known of its existence, (b) the rule is unlawful or is unrelated to the job; or (c) the rule is not fairly or consistently enforced.

Accordingly, it is critical for employers to have a well thought-out handbook, which includes clear policies on what rules will lead to discipline and dismissal. Additionally, employers should ensure that all employees have signed documentation in their personnel files acknowledging their receipt and reading of the applicable rules, including any updates that are issued.