Heads Up Contractors—“Living Wage” Ordinances Recently Enacted by some Florida Municipalities

A few Florida municipalities recently enacted so-called “Living Wage” ordinances.  For instance, such ordinances have been adopted by Broward and Alachua counties, and the cities of Miami, West Palm Beach, and St. Petersburg.  In sum, these ordinances require certain contractors and subcontractors that provide services to the municipality to pay their employees a higher wage and benefits.  For example, the minimum wage under St. Petersburg’s living wage ordinance is currently $12.00 per hour.

Construction contractors that do work for cities and counties need to be aware of the existence of these ordinances.  But contractors also need to be aware that they can be complicated to understand and all are not created equal.  For example, the Broward county living wage ordinance does not apply to construction and roofing services.

There are many issues to consider when reading the ordinances:

What size project triggers the requirement?  How many employees must a contractor have before the ordinance applies? Does the contractor have to include Living Wage requirements in the language of its subcontracts?  Will the contractor be liable if its subcontractor’s violate the ordinance?  What penalties will the contractor face for violating the ordinance?  These, and other questions, may or may not be answered by the language of the ordinance.

One question was recently answered by a trial court.  The question was whether the ordinance applied retroactively to wages paid on a public project before the ordinance was enacted.  The answer was “no”; not unless the ordinance includes language expressly stating that it applied retroactively.  See Parajon v. Coakley Mech., Inc., 17-24007-CIV, 2018 WL 1936867, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 24, 2018) (“In this case, the plain text of the Ordinance does not demonstrate an expressly stated clear legislative intent for subsection (k) to apply retroactively. . . . Therefore, to the extent that the Plaintiffs are seeking relief for violations occurring prior to the enactment of subsection (k), those claims are properly dismissed.”)

Keep your eyes open for Living Wage ordinances in the municipalities where you are doing work.  There seems to be a trend, and more municipalities will likely add these ordinances.  To make matters worse, the various ordinances are different in many respects.  What is true in one municipality may not be true in another.  Look for these ordinances, read them closely, and seek legal guidance to clarify their meaning.

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