Belated Friday Florida Law Update

As mentioned in an earlier post, some urgent work commitments kept me from timely updating the blog at the end of the last week.  Thank you for your patience!

Today we look at a Third District Court of Appeal opinion styled Martinez v. Ford Midway Mall, Inc., 2011 WL 710154 (Fla. 3d DCA March 2, 2011).  Martinez highlights Florida’s statutory process for claiming unemployment compensation benefits under Chapter 443.  The claimant Martinez was a car salesman.  He was paid purely on commission.  About a year before his resignation, his employer implemented a system in which it issued a weekly “draw” to its salespersons, which was immediately deducted from any commissions earned.  After several months of slow business, Martinez reached a point where he actually owed his employers in excess of $2,000.  Unable to pay the amounts “owed,” Martinez resigned.

He applied for unemployment compensation benefits.  Benefits were denied, with findings that Martinez voluntarily resigned on the heels of acquiescing in the employer’s new payment policy, which the referee also found was implemented correctly.  The agency’s appellate division affirmed the denial of benefits.

However, the Third DCA reversed on two grounds.  Acknowledging that it could only reverse decisions that were legally erroneous, the court held that the employer’s payment method as applied violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and Florida’s equivalent thereof.  In other words, once Martinez was buried in amounts owed, the employer ceased paying out Martinez’s wages, instead applying it to “pay down” the debts owed from the unreimbursed draws.

The second related ground is that even though Martinez willfully accepted the employer’s payment terms, rights under the FLSA cannot be waived.

Accordingly, the Third DCA noted that Chapter 443 protects workers of employers who wrongfully cause their employees to voluntarily leave their employment, and reversed with instructions to award benefits.

Explore posts in the same categories: Florida Law Updates

2 Comments on “Belated Friday Florida Law Update”

  1. K O'Malley Says:

    So i enjoy reading the updates, but honestly was hoping for more of “your take on” the decision.

    What was your opinion going in, did the 3rd COA overstep, was it a bit of a reach, or did they not go far enough? (Or can you not answer because its bad form for a lawyer to comment on a decision?)

    What are the longer reaching impacts, was it standard case law that FLSA rights can’t be waived? How does this impact future decisions?

    Really enjoy the blog btw, lots of interesting reads and cases you post, but theses updates aren’t as personable as some of the others.

    • Craig Salner Says:

      Hi Kev,

      Sorry to disappoint on this latest post. Honestly just had the week from hell at work and got that one in late last night to try and get the blog fully updated. Didn’t put the time in that I should have. I appreciate your enthusiasm in following it.

      How’s everything?

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