Minimum Wage Rate Lawyers
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What Is Minimum Wage?
Minimum wage is the absolute lowest rate of pay by law, usually by the hour, that an employer must pay a worker for their job. The federal government has established, by law, a federal minimum wage rate. Each state has its own minimum wage rate laws as well.
The state minimum wage cannot fall below the federal minimum wage threshold; however, state minimum wages may exceed it.
What Is the Minimum Wage Rate?
The federal minimum wage rate was established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and as of July 24, 2009 it had been set to its current level of $7.25 per hour.
State Minimum Wage Rages
Each state is free to make laws that set its own minimum wage rate, as long as it is not below the federal minimum wage for FLSA covered work. Some states have chosen to have a much higher rate, while others have chosen to peg their state minimum wage rate to the federal minimum wage rate. A few examples are:
- New York - $8.00 per hour. The New York minimum wage is set to reach $8.75 per hour as of 2015, and $9.00 per hour as of 2016.
- Illinois - $8.25 per hour. However, employers may choose to pay $7.75 per hour to minors or any employee for the first 3 months.
- Texas - $7.25 per hour. The Texas minimum wage is pegged to the federal minimum wage rate.
- California - $8.00 per hour. The California minimum wage is set to reach $9.00 as of July 1, 2014, and then $10.00 as of January 1, 2016. Note, San Francisco has a $10.74 minimum wage as of January 1, 2014, the highest in the United States.
Are There Any Exceptions to Minimum Wage Rates?
The federal minimum wage rate law, and many state minimum wage rate laws, have multiple exceptions. A few examples are:
- Family members - Family members do not usually have to receive minimum wage.
- Employees in training - The employment of person while they are being trained to do their job is usually excluded from the need to pay minimum wage. The so called "training wage" of $4.25 per hour may apply to younger workers (below 20 years of age) for the first three months (i.e., 90 days) of their employment.
- Tipped employees - If a person works for tips, a waiter for example, their employer is usually excluded from the need to pay minimum wage. There are other laws in place, however, and most tipped employees must effectively still get at least $7.25.
- Young employees - If a worker is a young person, usually under 20 years of age, the employer is usually excluded from the need to pay minimum wage, and instead must only pay $4.25 or higher per hour. This exception only lasts for the first 90 days of employment (i.e., usually, a training period) or until the employee turns 20 years old, which ever happens first.
- Full-time students - If a worker is a full-time student working in retail, agriculture, or at university, the employer is usually excluded from the need to pay minimum wage. Instead, payment must be 85% or higher of the minimum wage rate with a voucher from the Department of Labor. Such a student is limited to working 8 hours a day and 20 hours a week when school is in session.
- Student-learners - If a worker is a student-learner who is at least 16 years old and is enrolled in a vocational education program, the employer is usually excluded from the need to pay minimum wage. Instead, payment must be 75% or higher of the minimum wage rate with a voucher from the Department of Labor.
- Volunteers - Volunteers or interns are giving their services to an employer for free, and do not have to be paid minimum wage.
What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Minimum Wage?
If an employer fails to pay minimum wage to an employee when they are obligated by law to do so, they can face punishment which can include:
- Fines, ranging from $100 to $10,000 may apply
- Willful or repeat violators may subject to a $1,100 civil penalty per occurrence
- If employees are minors, $11,000 civil penalty per worker assessed per each violation of child labor laws
- Jail time, usually not more than 6 months to 1 year
- Department of Labor may sue and bring injunctions against the employee
- Liability to the employee for the unpaid wages (i.e., "back wages") and/or overtime compensation
- Liability for legal fees associated with failing to pay minimum wage
- Liquidated damages, which may be equal to back pay, if they are applicable
The Department of Labor enforces compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and its Wage and Hour Division will launch investigation into non-complying employer’s practices.
Do I Need an Attorney for My Minimum Wage Rate Issue?
If you believe you have been working for an employer and not being paid minimum wage, or you are facing liability for not paying an employee minimum wage, it is highly recommended for you to contact a labor or employment attorney. Only they will be able to properly explain the issues and help defend your rights.
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Last Modified: 01-14-2014 03:51 PM PST
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