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Appellate Court Rules In Favor Of Employee’s Claim For Unemployment Benefits

Peter Maverick
Website

09/11/12

An employee appealed the denial of unemployment compensation benefits. The Florida Unemployment Appeals Commission had ruled in favor of the employer and affirmed the denial of unemployment compensation benefits because the employee "voluntarily" resigned his position.

The declared public purpose of Florida's Unemployment Compensation Law is to provide financial assistance to "persons unemployed through no fault of their own." The purpose of Florida's Unemployment Compensation Law is remedial, and the law generally must be liberally construed in favor of employees seeking unemployment benefits. To effectuae this purpose, Florida law provides that an individual is not disqualified from unemployment benefits where the individual has "voluntarily left work with good cause attributable" to the employer. "Good cause" includes cause attributable to the employer, which "as contemplated by the unemployment compensation law, describes that which would drive an average, able-bodied worker to quit his or her job."

The Referee at the unemployment compensation hearing had determined that the employee owed over $2,000 to the employer at the time of separation based on the employer's commission draw policy. In addition, because the employee was aware of the draw policy and continued to work under those conditions, he essentially accepted the draw policy and therefore did not have good cause to quit.

However, the appellate court explained that the draw policy created an employment condition that withheld the employee's minimum wages to such an extent that the employee became indebted to the employer for over $2,000. The employee testified that he resigned because he was being paid less than minimum wage, and he had to work 60 hours a week, including Saturday and Sunday.

Florida's Minimum Wage Act required the employer to pay the employee a minimum wage for all hours worked during the course of employment. In addition, federal minimum wage law also required payment of the federal minimum wage. Under federal law, excess commissions are allowed to be carried forward from one pay period and applied to the minimum wage in the next period so long as the employee actually received the minimum wage for each hour worked within each separate pay period. However, the employee must actually receive the minimum wage in each pay period.

In this case, the employer's draw policy was unlawful because not only did the employer withhold the minimum wage for the pay period at the end of the month, the employer also carried over a credit to the employer for the amount due. In other words, the employer unlawfully withheld the employee's minimum wages to such an extent that it became money owed to the employer. By doing this, the employer circumvented its legal obligation to pay the employee at least the minimum wage for every hour worked.

The appellate court determined that the employer acted wrongfully in this regard, and therefore awarded the employee unemployment compensation benefits.

Attorney Peter Maverick represents management and business owners in employment and labor law. Mr. Maverick has successfully represented many businesses in court as well as in responding to threatened legal action. This article is intended for information purposes only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular client's situation. Peter T. Maverick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311; Email: pmavrickesq@yahoo.com.

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