On Monday, October 15, 2012, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced that Florida’s minimum wage will rise by 12 cents next year, to $7.79 per hour. This new minimum wage goes into effect on January 1, 2013.
On November 2, 2004, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment, which created Florida's minimum wage: s. 24, art. X of the Florida Constitution. This constitutional amendment is implemented through Section 448.110, Fla Stat., which requires, each year, for Florida to recalculate the minimum that Florida employers must pay most workers for all hours worked, using the federal measure of inflation as calculated by the United States Department of Labor. This year, the calculation resulted in an increase from $7.67 to $7.79 per hour as the minimum wage for most Florida employees.
However, employers of "tipped employees," who meet the eligibility requirements for the tip credit under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (generally, they are able to keep all their tips and receive more than $30 per month in tips), may pay such employees a different direct wage. Such employers are allowed to claim a "tip credit" toward fulfilling the minimum wage requirements, whereby tips satisfy a part of the employer's obligation to meet the minimum wage. The direct wage that must be paid to "tipped employees" is calculated as equal to the minimum wage ($7.79) minus the tip credit allowed under Florida law ($3.02), which equates to a direct hourly wage of $4.77 as of January 1, 2013. This is an increase from $4.65 per hour in 2012.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has issued a new "Notice to Employees" poster that Florida employers are required to post in a conspicuous and accessible place within each establishment where employees are employed. The poster is now available for downloading in English and Spanish from the Department's webpage. This poster is in addition to (rather than substitution for) the federal minimum wage poster. The federal poster remains available on the U.S. Department of Labor website.
Employees who are not paid the minimum wage may bring a civil action for back wages, an equal amount as liquidated damages and costs and fees. Thus, potential liability can be much higher than the actual amount owed. For instance, an employee may only be owed a few hundred dollars, but the attorney's fees could run to thousands.
As lawsuits alleging failure to comply with federal and Florida wage and hour laws remain prevalent, this is an excellent time for all employers to review pay practices to ensure compliance.