Most unpaid wage lawsuits in Florida are brought under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). However, that statute applies only to claims for unpaid overtime or minimum wages. It does not apply to a situation where the employer simply failed to pay the employee all non-overtime wages the employee was due. Therefore, we sometimes see breach of contract actions for unpaid wages.

Last month the Pinellas County Circuit Court issued an interesting order on a venue issue in such a case. There, the plaintiff was an attorney at her firm's Pinellas County office. The firm's main office, including its payroll department, was in Palm Beach County. The plaintiff claimed that the firm failed to pay her final paycheck. She filed a suit in Pinellas County Small Claims Court. The firm moved to transfer venue to Palm Beach County. The Small Claims Court denied that motion, and the firm appealed to Circuit Court.

The Circuit Court decided that, under Florida's venue statute, Section 47.051 Fla. Stat., the proper venue was Palm Beach County, because that is the county where the breach, i.e., the failure to issue the paycheck, occurred. The Circuit Court reversed.

It may seem counterintuitive that an employee who works in St. Petersburg may have to file a small claims suit for unpaid wages in West Palm Beach, but that is the holding of this case. The lesson is to always consider such venue questions at the outset of the case, because often they go unrecognized.