On May 4, 2011, the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation (“Agency”) announced that the state minimum wage will increase by 6 cents an hour from the current, federal rate of $7.25 to $7.31. This announcement was made on the heels of a ruling by the Second Judicial Circuit in a lawsuit filed in Leon County on behalf of low-wage employees alleging that the Agency had miscalculated the appropriate rate of pay. In its ruling, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis found that the Agency had violated the Florida Constitution by failing to raise the state’s minimum wage for 2011 to account for inflation as required by a constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in November, 2004. The Court further ruled that Florida’s minimum wage can never decrease and that, in calculating future wages, the Agency was required to use the formula laid out in the Florida Constitution.
As a result of this ruling, the state minimum wage will increase to $7.31 an hour effective June 1, 2011. This new rate will also affect tipped workers by raising their direct wage from $4.23 to $4.29 an hour. It is estimated that this increase in the Florida minimum wage will affect over 180,000 workers statewide and result in approximately $28 million more in wages being paid to minimum wage earners.
The impact of this announcement by the Agency on employers is profound. First, the Court’s ruling leaves employers with less than thirty (30) days to prepare for the pay increase to their minimum wage and/or tipped employees. Further, the Agency’s announcement makes it clear that any employer not paying its employees an appropriate minimum wage as of June 1, 2011 will be subject to civil action under the Florida minimum wage law, as well as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Finally, this increase will result in an employer’s need to update its minimum wage postings in order to remain in compliance with applicable Florida statutes.