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Popular Clearwater Beach Sandpearl Resort sued for wage theft

Clearwater Beach’s Sandpearl Resort is the defendant in a lawsuit alleging wage theft. Three current or former employees who worked as in-room servers at the resort filed a suit on behalf of themselves and a group of unnamed others claiming the resort forced them to work about five hours per week of unpaid overtime.

The suit was filed by Aris Poloska, 25, Romeo Nasellari, 23, and Blerim Kambo, 34, last week.

The suit does not specify how many others are seeking damages for lost wages or for how long the alleged wage theft occurred.

Sandpearl Resort is a Triple A “four-diamond” resort and was recognized by the Tampa Bay Times last year as one of the top places for employees to work. The article cited happy employees as one of the resort’s biggest draws.

The plaintiffs are being represented by Bouzas Owen, an employment law practice out of New Port Richey.

The lawsuit comes as St. Pete moves a wage theft ordinance that could provide an alternative route for employees claiming wage theft. The ordinance is modeled after a similar one in Miami-Dade County that has already been challenged and upheld in court.

Currently, an employee’s only recourse is to seek civil litigation for wage reimbursement. Many employees often fail to report incidents of wage theft or don’t seek damages because they think the relatively small amount isn’t worth seeking legal representation.

St. Pete’s ordinance would create a system in which employees could file complaints rather than relying on a federal reporting system and civil action. It would also include a non-retaliation clause that would provide additional damages if employers fired or otherwise punished an employee for filing a complaint.

The measure is also seen as a deterrent to wage theft.

St. Pete City Council will hear the measure on second reading during a public hearing on April 16. Pinellas County commissioners are keeping their eye on St. Pete’s efforts with the goal of implementing a similar ordinance countywide.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch attended a committee meeting in which St. Pete City Council approved the ordinance and sent it to first reading.

Wage theft isn’t just forcing employees to work unpaid overtime. It also includes employees who work off the clock, are asked to clock out before being able to leave or clock in after a shift has already begun.

Wage theft is considered to be most prevalent among low-wage workers in the service industry.

By Janelle Irwin

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