Pinellas County wage-theft law challenged as unconstitutional


A Largo executive search firm is challenging the constitutionality of Pinellas County’s recently enacted wage-theft ordinance.

KLA Industries is an Ohio-based executive search firm located at 801 W. Bay Dr., Suite 203 in Largo.

Zachary J. “Zach” Burns, 30, is a Madeira Beach resident and former KLA employee who recently moved from West Chester, Ohio. State records show Burns incorporated the recruitment company Stratus Search in March 2017. Stratus Search has its office at 3530 1st Ave. N, Suite 203, in St. Petersburg.

In 2015, Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously to enact a “wage theft” ordinance. In effect as of Jan. 1, 2016, the law allows local workers who believe an employer has illegally denied them wages to file a complaint with the county’s Office of Human Rights, which also fields complaints on housing, employment and disability discrimination issues.

If successful, employees are awarded treble damages. Much of the ordinance came from a similar one enacted by the City of St. Petersburg in 2015.

According to a complaint filed May 23 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, shortly after Burns resigned from KLA Industries in 2016, the company placed a recruit with one of his former clients and obtained payment for doing so.

When KLA refused to pay Burns the $5,400 commission, he filed a wage-theft complaint with the Office of Human Rights.

While the hearing will not take place until July 17, KLA is being proactive, filing a suit where the company denies Burns is entitled to the commission, and accuses him of trying to steal its clients.

KLA is contesting the constitutionality of the county’s wage-theft law on several grounds: It sets up an impermissible court outside the supreme court, district courts of appeal, circuit and county courts; it does not allow trial by jury and does not allow an employer to pursue counterclaims or assert any set-off defenses against the amount owed or against the imposition of treble damages.

 

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