Florida is one of the states that has recently passed new laws that will affect the lives of many residents and visitors, especially those who work in the fast-food industry. Starting from January 1, 2024, fast-food workers in Florida will enjoy higher wages, better working conditions, and more protections from their employers.
Higher Minimum Wage
One of the most significant changes that the new law brings is the increase of the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $20 per hour, effective from April 1, 2024. This is a substantial raise from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which has not changed since 2009. The new wage will also be adjusted annually based on the inflation rate, with a maximum increase of 3.5%.
The new wage will benefit about 500,000 fast-food workers in Florida, who make up about 6% of the state’s workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for fast-food workers in Florida was $16.21 in 2022, which means that the new law will result in a 23% increase in their income.
The new wage will also have a positive impact on the economy, as it will boost the purchasing power and consumer spending of fast-food workers, who tend to spend most of their income on basic needs. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour nationwide would generate $107 billion in additional income for low-wage workers and create 1.3 million new jobs. The effects of a $20 minimum wage in Florida could be even more significant, as it would set a new standard for other states to follow.
Better Working Conditions
Another aspect of the new law that will improve the situation of fast-food workers is the creation of a fast-food council, which will be responsible for setting and enforcing standards for the industry. The council will consist of representatives from fast-food workers, employers, consumers, and the state government, and will have the authority to regulate issues such as health and safety, training, scheduling, and dispute resolution.
The fast-food council will also have the power to impose fines and penalties on fast-food employers who violate the law or the standards set by the council. For example, the council can fine employers who fail to provide adequate breaks, protective equipment, or sick leave to their workers, or who retaliate against workers who exercise their rights. The council can also revoke the licenses of fast-food employers who repeatedly or egregiously violate the law or the standards.
The fast-food council is expected to improve the working conditions and the quality of service in the fast-food industry, as it will ensure that fast-food workers are treated fairly and respectfully, and that fast-food employers comply with the best practices and the public interest.
More Protections for Fast-food Workers
The new law also provides more protections for fast-food workers from discrimination, harassment, and exploitation by their employers. For instance, the law prohibits fast-food employers from discriminating against workers based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected characteristic. The law also protects fast-food workers from sexual harassment, which is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment.
Additionally, the law protects fast-food workers from wage theft, which is the illegal practice of withholding or underpaying wages, tips, overtime, or benefits that are owed to workers. The law requires fast-food employers to pay their workers at least once every two weeks, and to provide them with a written statement of their hours, wages, deductions, and tips. The law also allows fast-food workers to file complaints with the fast-food council or the state labor department if they suspect that their wages have been stolen, and to recover their unpaid wages, plus damages and attorney fees, if they prevail in court.
Furthermore, the law protects fast-food workers from unjust termination, which is the act of firing a worker without a valid reason or due process. The law establishes a just cause standard for termination, which means that fast-food employers can only fire workers for a legitimate, job-related reason, such as poor performance, misconduct, or economic necessity. The law also requires fast-food employers to follow a progressive discipline policy, which means that they have to give workers a warning, a suspension, or a probation period before firing them, unless the worker commits a serious offense. The law also grants fast-food workers the right to appeal their termination to the fast-food council or the state labor relations board, and to seek reinstatement, back pay, or other remedies if they prove that they were fired unjustly.
The new law that Florida has enacted to increase the wages and standards for fast-food workers in 2024 is a landmark legislation that will have a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers, as well as the economy and the society of the state. The law will raise the income, dignity, and security of fast-food workers, who are among the most vulnerable and essential workers in the state. The law will also benefit the consumers, who will enjoy better service and quality from the fast-food industry. The law will also set an example for other states and the federal government to follow, as it demonstrates that raising the minimum wage and improving the working conditions for fast-food workers is not only possible, but also desirable and necessary.