Florida has a new law which prevents a city or county (or any other local government agency) from mandating that employers provide certain benefits to its workers. The issue arose last year when a petition drive succeeded in Orange County, calling for a referendum on whether all private-sector workers in the county would be entitled to sick leave, in most cases with pay.
While the referendum did not make it onto the ballot in Orange County, in response the business community, along with civic, charitable, religious, and other nonprofit employers, was supportive in asking the legislature for a "preemption" law to ensure that worker-benefit requirements would be imposed on a statewide basis, not on a confusing and inconsistent county-by-county or city-by-city basis. The legislature responded.
On June 14, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed CS/HB 655 into law, which largely prohibits counties and cities from requiring an employer to provide employment benefits.
"Employment benefits" is broadly defined to include anything of value an employee receives from an employer in addition to wages and salary. Thus, the term includes, but is not limited to:
group accidental death and dismemberment benefits,
paid or unpaid days off for holidays, sick leave, vacation, and personal necessity,
retirement benefits, and
"Employer" is defined as any person who is required to pay a state or federal minimum wage to the person's employees.
Under the new law, cities and counties still have the authority to establish a minimum wage or provide employment benefits for their own employees, or for the employees of an employer contracting with, or receiving a direct tax abatement or subsidy from, the city or county.
The bill also creates an 11-member Employer-Sponsored Benefits Task Force to analyze employment benefits and the impact of state preemption of the regulation of such benefits. The Task Force's findings and recommendations will be included in a report submitted to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House by January 15, 2014. Whether the work of the Task Force results in further statewide legislation on worker benefits will have to be monitored during the 2014 legislative session.
These provisions will take effect July 1, 2013. For more information, please visit the Florida Senate website or Florida House of Representatives website.