Written by Attorney Megan Nowicki & 2021 Summer Clerk, Passion Wells
Small business owners cringed when Florida’s minimum wage law was passed in November 2020 by over sixty (60%) of the voters. Why? Well, because with small profit margins the minimum wage increase will affect a large segment of business owners in the State of Florida. In more rural communities, the new minimum wage law may cause entrepreneurs to crunch the numbers on whether or not continuing their business is even viable. So, what exactly do we all need to know?
Beginning September 30, 2021, and continuing each following year on September 30 through 2025, the minimum wage will increase by $1.00.
The minimum wage in the State of Florida will be as follows:
January 1, 2021 $8.65 per hour
September 30, 2021 $10.00 per hour
September 30, 2022 $11.00 per hour
September 30, 2023 $12.00 per hour
September 30, 2024 $13.00 per hour
September 30, 2025 $14.00 per hour
September 30, 2026 $15.00 per hour
This new law also increases the amount earned by tipped employees. For restaurants, bars, clubs, valets, or other tip-based enterprises, the minimum wage for tipped employees are as follows:
January 1, 2021 $5.63 per hour
September 30, 2021 $6.98 per hour
September 30, 2022 $7.98 per hour
September 30, 2023 $8.98 per hour
September 30, 2024 $9.98 per hour
September 30, 2025 $10.98 per hour
September 30, 2026 $11.98 per hour
Employers are required to implement and follow the new minimum wage and will face severe consequences for failing to abide by its incremental increases. This law permits the state attorney general’s office to sue to enforce the minimum wage. Also, if an employer is determined to be intentionally violating the new minimum wage, then that employer may be fined up to $1,000.00 for each violation.
There is a safe harbor for employers. Employees who believe they are not being paid the correct amount must notify the employer and provide fifteen (15) days to the employer to evaluate whether or not their rate of pay is in adherence with Florida’s law. After fifteen (15) days expire, and the employer does not re-calculate the employee’s wages, then the employee may file a civil action against the employer for back wages plus damages and attorney’s fees. The employee is provided protection against retaliation by the employer for filing any claims for lack of payment. But, for the employer, this provides you the opportunity to receive notice of a grievance and remediate any defaults without the shock of being sued.
There are options for employers to determine what is in the best interests of their business and in compliance with the new state law. The employer may consider reclassifying the employees. You may classify an employee who is eligible to earn a salary as opposed to being paid an hourly rate. These considerations can be tricky, though, so make sure you consult with your legal advisor before you institute new classifications of employees within your business.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your options, your labor and employment advisors at Shuffield, Lowman, & Wilson, P.A. are happy to advise you through this new legislation to ensure you avoid any pitfalls.
 See Article 24(c), Section X, Florida Constitution (2021).