FLORIDA RESTAURANT LAW
a web site devoted to hospitality and restaurant worker's rights
Hello and welcome to Florida Restaurant Law. This site is the work of Lowell J. Kuvin, Esq. a Florida attorney who after 25 years in the restaurant and hospitality business decided to become a lawyer so he could fight for hospitality and restaurant worker's rights.
Florida's tourism and the hospitality business is without a doubt the states largest industry. In 2007 84.5 million tourists visited Florida and spent an estimated $65.5 billion dollars. There are tens of thousands of restaurants in the state and they employ millions of Floridians. The reason that residents of Florida do not pay state income taxes is due in a large part that tourists subsidize the yearly state budget through the sales and other taxes they pay when they visit here. It is for this very reason that employment laws in Florida are very business friendly and less employee oriented. However, there are Local, Florida, and Federal laws which offer sever punishments for when an employer does cross the line between lawful and unlawful.
Florida is a "Right to Work State." That means that employees have the right to quit their job whenever they like. However, employers have the right to let you go whenever they please too so long as they do not let you go for a reason that is protected by state or federal law. A few of the prohibited reasons for discharging an employee are race, religion, national origin, gender, and age. Local municipalities may even have their own ordinances which offer more protection in addition to State and Federal laws. For a more comprehensive explanation of prohibited reasons for discharge, refusing to hire, significant change to your work schedule, please contact our office for a free analysis of your facts and the laws in the City where you work.
Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA is federal employment legislation that was enacted in 1938 at the height of the Great Depression as an attempt to create more jobs and to protect the rights of workers. It establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards/provisions affecting full-time and part-time workers in both the private and public sectors. The Act has been amended several times in the past 70 years to expand coverage to more workers. It is administered by the federal Department of Labor (DoL).
If an employer violates the laws set forth in the FLSA, court usually will award damages (the lost wages) and liquidated damages (an amount equal to the lost wages) as a punishment. In addition to damages the FLSA has a provision that allows the court to award employee's attorney both fees and costs associated with having to litigate the claims. This way the employee who was short changed by their employer does not have to bear the burden of paying an attorney to recover money that was stolen from them.
Florida employment laws
Florida is a right to work state. The "right to work" is in addition to other rights as guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. However, as mentioned above the State of Florida labor laws are very employer (business) friendly and less employee oriented. The Florida Minimum Wage Act ("FMWA") requires the employee to give the employer 15 days notice prior to filing a lawsuit. In a nut shell Florida law allows employees to recover exactly what was stolen from them by their employer without attorney fees and costs. However, if the employer fails to compensate the employee according to his/her demand, or make other suitable arrangements, the employee may file suit and may recover double damages and attorney fees and costs.
I have made available a recent Federal Court FLSA case called JOHN WAJCMAN vs.PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB. This case explains, in legal terms, many of the tip issues that restaurant workers ask me daily. Who may participate in a tip pool, what kind of damages can I recover, and can the management participate in the tip pool and take some of our hard earned money for themselves?
Local employment laws
Local employment laws include both County as well as local Municipality ordinances. A good example of each would be Miami-Dade County as the local "county" law maker and the City of Miami Beach as a local municipality. These local laws are very important in that they may prohibit local employers from discriminating against employees for reasons that are not covered in either State or Federal laws. For example Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Beach prohibit discrimination based on a persons sexual orientation, whereas the laws of the State of Florida and the U.S. Constitution do not.
Reversing the Political Order in the Restaurant Industry:
Slaying Goliath at the Ballot Box
What if only five hundred restaurant workers had the power to shape municipal politics in Miami Beach? What if one thousand servers could determine the outcome of most local electoral races? In a city where mayoral and commission seats are often won by a margin of as little as a few hundred votes, a relatively small coalition of resident hospitality industry employees could defeat the interests of restaurant owners in spite of all their money and influence.
Electoral statistics reveal the surprisingly small margin of victory secured by many of Miami Beach’s elected officials over the past decade:
Sample Margins of Victory by Number of Votes Cast
2009 Runoff Election: Commissioner Jorge Esposito- 321 Votes
2009 General Election: Commissioner Jorge Esposito- 39 Votes
(Resulted in the Runoff above)
2007 Runoff Election: Mayor Matti Herrera Bower- 728 Votes
2007 Runoff Election: DeedeWeithorn- 64 Votes
2007 General Election: Mayor Matti Herrera Bower- 289 Votes
(Resulted in the Runoff above)
2007 General Election: Commissioner Elsa Urquiza- 285 Votes
(Resulted in the Runoff above; opponent Weithorn won)
2003 Runoff Election: Commissioner Simon Cruz- 864 Votes
2001 General Election: Mayor Elaine Bloom- 685 Votes