The Osceola County Board of Commissioners unanimously renewed the county’s wage theft ordinance on Tuesday afternoon. The Wage Recovery Ordinance as it’s formally recognized, applies to all private employers with employees who are performing work within the county and is designed to eliminate the underpayment or nonpayment of wages.
The ordinance was brought up two years after it was first approved in 2015 and Commissioners were given the chance to repeal, change, or renew the measure.
District 2 Commissioner Viviana Janer moved for its renewal saying “this is the difference with putting a meal on the table for some people or being able to make their rent for that month. I think it still serves a very important purpose.”
The motion was supported by District 5 Commissioner Fred Hawkins and District 4 Commissioner Cheryl Grieb.
While District 1 Commissioner Peggy Choudhry supported the ordinance, she pushed for more protections for small businesses potentially at risk from disgruntled employees. Challenged companies could potentially lose the disputed amount simply from time lost to attend a hearing.
“Those employers doing the wrong thing should definitely be punished. No doubt about it.” she said “We’re here to protect both, we’re not here to protect one. There are attorneys out there like Morgan and Morgan and many others that will actually cater for free.”
“I’m confused why you would want more structure to punish the employee, who really has no authority in this situation at all?” asked Commission Chair Brandon Arrington “It’s not some nefarious thing to punish small business.”
The board would ultimately approve renewal with an option to once again review the ordinance in two years.
Commissioners also took a moment at the beginning of the meeting to remember former Commission Chair Frank Attkisson, who was killed while riding his bicycle last Friday.
Hawkins, who originally opposed the ordinance when first approved, remembered his colleague again during the vote saying “I think this was something Frank would have supported because he was all about helping even one person.”