Wage Theft

Jacqueline Chung, manager of the Alachua County Equal Opportunity Office, updates the County Commission on the proposed wage theft ordinance.

When Carole Dunne worked long hours at a rehabilitation facility, she said, her boss expected her to go in early and stay late. She was never paid for her overtime work.

“I was afraid to ask for anything extra because there were 20 people in line waiting for my job,” she said.

Dunne told her story during an Alachua County commission meeting at the County Administration Building on Tuesday, where county officials and residents discussed options for a proposed wage theft ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would provide county mediation for employees who haven’t received wages in a timely manner.

Jacqueline Chung, manager of the Alachua County Equal Opportunity Office, said the plan would help employees and employers decide whether they should take a labor discrepancy to court.

“This proposal is just mediation,” she said.

County Commission Chairman Mike Byerly questioned the effectiveness of an ordinance that doesn’t provide a verdict through adjudication.

“I don’t want to set up a process that doesn’t do anything,” he said.

Byerly added that he was hesitant about a clause in the ordinance threatening penalties for frivolous claims. He said requiring evidence such as pay stubs should be enough to ensure the county isn’t overrun with unfounded complaints.

“I don’t want to establish anything that will have a chilling effect,” he said.

Dunne said a clause requiring an employee to notify the employer of his or her intent to file a complaint before he or she does so could lead to the employee being fired on the spot.

“There’s a real fear factor in going to your boss saying ‘I think I’ve been shortchanged,’” she said.

Commissioner Susan Baird expressed concern for the capability of staff to take on the workload mediating wage cases would add.

“This could potentially be quite a bit of an addition of responsibility,” she said.

For now, county staff will continue researching the issue and will modify the proposal.

Contact Kelcee Griffis at [email protected].