Proposed Fix to Get Business Owners to Pay Unpaid Wages

A proposed ordinance could help strengthen Miami-Dade County’s existing wage theft ordinance.

Commissioner Pepe Diaz introduced the plan that would add attorney fees to the amount a business owes an employee who takes them to court over unpaid wages.

“They can try to ignore it but it’s going to be a lot harder,” Diaz said.

The county has a wage theft ordinance that allows a worker to take a former employer to a hearing over unpaid money. A hearing officer can rule that a business owner has to pay. But the NBC 6 Investigators found business owners still not paying workers even after the deadline passes.

The new plan would require a business to pay attorney fees and costs that a worker takes on trying to get the money. An attorney is not required in the initial hearing portion of a wage theft hearing but could be needed to pursue a business that doesn’t pay.

“We’re going to continue to do things so hopefully, hopefully this will be a thing of the past in Miami-Dade County,” Diaz said.

Last winter, the NBC 6 Investigators reported the stories of several workers who claimed employers hadn’t paid them for work that had been done, including Alexander Hernandez.

The chef has been waiting more than a year for three weeks of pay from the former District Restaurant in Miami. The business closed and he says he didn’t get his final pay.

Hernandez filed a wage theft complaint in Miami-Dade County and won.

A hearing officer ordered the owners of the former restaurant, Maria Gonzalez and Esther Diaz , to pay Hernandez three times more than what he was owed, a total of $6,204 within 45 days.

In March, Diaz wouldn’t commit on when she would pay Hernandez.

“I’m working on it,” she told NBC 6 Investigator Myriam Masihy.

Diaz didn’t return a phone call and wasn’t at her new restaurant when NBC 6 Investigators tried to reach her this week.

Commissioner Pepe Diaz says in addition to the proposed fix to the ordinance, he wants to work with state lawmakers to find a way to crack down on business owners who shut down one business and open another in an effort to avoid paying employees.

“Unfortunately they find ways to get around things,” Diaz said. “We’re finding ways to avoid those ways to get around things.”

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