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Judge dismisses Florida Retail Federation lawsuit against Miami-Dade over wage-theft program

A Miami-Dade circuit court judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the county over a popular wage-theft law intended to give workers a way to recover wages owed by employers.

Judge Lester Langer ruled Friday that it "was a responsible and reasonable exercise of governmental authority" for the county to set up quasi-judicial hearings to determine whether employers had improperly underpaid or withheld wages from workers. The Florida Retail Federation, a business group, had argued the system was unconstitutional and denied employers due process.

But Florida's Constitution allows for quasi-judicial hearings, the judge noted in his nine-page ruling, and Miami-Dade's unique Home Rule Charter gives it the power to enact a law to prevent wage theft.

The Retail Federation had led a charge during this year's legislative session to ban Miami-Dade's wage-theft ordinance, but the program survived after state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, ran interference in the Senate Judiciary Committee she chairs.