See The Minimum Wage & Hour Rules Across America (And Important Labor Law Resources Both State & Federal)

map of wage minimums by state

A Map of Minimum Wage Rates: Guide for Workers

This map was created so you can know what the minimum wage state to state rates are at a glance.

Fair labor laws across America mandates the minimum wage for work by covered and non-exempt employees. State laws supplement the federal minimum for covered employees currently set at $7.25 per hour which is found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees are entitled to the higher of the two minimum earning rates when both State & Federal hourly rates apply.

While employers are required to pay workers the mandated rates for hourly work, it isn't always so easy as referring to our map of current minimum wage rates to see if you are getting paid what you should. The regulations include a number of exemptions, coverage rules and rate adjustments. Employment attorneys can help you determine how the laws apply to your situation if you are unsure whether you are covered.

Exemptions: The rules governing minimum pay rates for work have a number of exceptions.

Covered Employees: According to the DOL, "All employees of certain enterprises having workers engaged in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for such commerce by any person, are covered by the FLSA." However, even if your employer doesn't meet FLSA requirements, you still may be covered. Tipped employee coverage generally requires the minimum hourly wage combined with tips to meet the minimums of the provision.

Exempt Employees: A number of "white collar" employees are considered exempt from minimum wage laws - though it's the duties you perform not your job title which determines whether or not you are exempt. Exemptions for employees, farm workers, or public sector employees, as defined by both federal and state laws apply. The duties test may apply when determining exemptions and coverage by job.

Enforcement is the responsibility of the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD). Workers who believe they are owed wages following illegal underpayment have a right to file a claim. Though not required to file a complaint, lawyers for employees can help you with a wage and hour claim if your pay situation did, in fact, violate the laws.

Know your rights! But get qualified legal representation if you face a legal problem of your own.

How The Federal Minimum Wage Works

Intended as a safeguard for laborers and workers, the 1938's Fair Labor Standards Act began the practice of establishing a set minimum base standard pay rate to protect the well-being and health of workers. People working for employers on an hourly basis, determined to be covered employees, have a right to the minimum earning rate established by the provision. In situations where State laws exist, they higher pay rate applies.

The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division is empowered to investigate alleged violations of the wage laws can compel employer records be provided and force witness participation in an effort to enforce the provisions. Victims have the option of filing suit for civil damages in some situations, and criminal and monetary fines are a possibility for employers who willfully violated the statutes. Depending on the circumstances, civil claims seeking to recover unpaid wages may be able to recover attorney's fees, liquidated damages in the amount of unpaid wages and wages owed under the FLSA.

State vs. Federal Requirements: Employers are required to apply whichever mandated rate of pay is of the greatest benefit to the worker. State minimum wage laws cannot exempt employers from Federal coverage requirements. When in doubt about the wage laws specific to your State, seek qualified legal counsel. Minimum wage pay requirements do NOT apply to exempt employees, farm workers, or public sector employees, as defined by BOTH federal and state laws.

Covered workers in America are guaranteed the minimum rate of pay for hourly work engaged in - when employers fail to pay workers what they are legally entitled, knowing or unknowingly, it amounts to wage theft.

Continue reading to learn more.

hard-work-without-payoff

The U.S. Wage Theft Epidemic: Getting Paid What You Are Legally Entitled

Recently reported statistics from the Department of Labor show in 2008 there was a total of $140.2 million paid out to over 197,000 employees as the result of employer FLSA violations (DOL). Some of the hour and wage violations reported include:

  • Requiring employees to work off the clock
  • Calculating hours as an average over two work weeks
  • Claiming that the employee is not eligible for overtime pay because they did not obtain permission to work the extra hours
  • Failing to pay workers for meetings, training sessions, on call time, take home work, and breaks lasting between 5 and 20 minutes
  • Misclassification of employees as exempt from overtime
  • Paying "comp" time instead of overtime

Employer wage theft is a massive problem across the United States accounting for millions of dollars in entitled earnings annually.

In some cases, employers are simply ignorant of required compensation obligations to those in their employ. Others are taking willful action to avoid paying employees what they are owed. When they illegally avoid paying what people are entitled for their work it constitutes wage theft - they are knowingly or unknowingly stealing from their workers.

When an worker punches out after a full day of work, puts in the long hours required at their work - they have a reasonable expectation to their paycheck.

legal help after getting fired illegally

Questions and Answers About the Minimum Wage

Common questions about wages and labor:

  • Do states have to follow the federal minimum wage? Yes.
  • What is federal minimum wage 2017? Currently $7.25 per hour.
  • Is it illegal to pay below the minimum wage? Covered and non-exempt employees are required to be compensated the minimum hourly rate of pay stipulated by law.
  • What states do not have a minimum wage law? Currently the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina do not have a set minimum wage - in such cases the Federal rate applies for covered workers.
  • Do you have to be paid minimum wage? Various exemptions exist: see above on how to determine whether you are covered and the required pay rates apply.
  • Do small business owners have to pay minimum wage? Yes, non-exempt employees working hourly are entitled to the minimum rate. Generally tipped workers have a different minimum set rate than straight hourly employees, however.
  • What happens if you pay less than minimum wage? Various enforcement options are available to the FLSA which may be used to investigate violation complaints. Civil damages and monetary recovery options are available as well for employees who file claims to recover unpaid wages pursuant to the law.
  • Do you have to be paid for travel time? According to the Dept. of Labor, ravel time during normal work hours is considered compensable work time and workers and should be considered as among worked hours - however, travel time spent to and from work is generally not considered as time worked.
  • Can I Sue My Employer for Paying Less Than Minimum Wage? If, you were covered and non-exempt, and your employer failed to pay the lawfully mandated hourly rate for your hours worked - you have a right to file a complaint and seek recovery for unpaid wages.
  • Do you have to be paid for mandatory meetings? The FLSA employment law states nonexempt employees must be paid for all hours worked, and employers need to be prepared to pay for mandatory meetings outside of normal working hours.
  • Are employers required to pay for training? According to the Dept. of Labor, training time is considered work time and entitled to pay, unless all the following criteria are met: • attendance is outside of normal working hours • attendance is truly voluntary • the training session is not directly related to the job • no productive work is completed while attending.
  • Can you work off the clock? Workers are entitled to compensation for required work and time spent is considered towards the employees weekly hours worked. Employers may be required to pay an employee for "suffered" work as well, meaning the work in question wasn't required but was allowed. Off the clock work is often illegal, and employers may be required to pay for unpaid overtime and lost wages in recovery.
  • Do I have to be paid for being on call? If the worker is required to remain on the workplace premises while on-call and the time can't be spent for the employees own purpose the time is generally required to be compensated according to Federal employment law (FLSA).
  • How many breaks are required by law in an 8 hour shift? Federal law does not require breaks, however State labor laws may require mandatory break periods. See applicable State provisions for break requirements.
  • How long are you legally allowed to work in a day? Overtime pay is required for employees who work more than 40 hours per week, or more than 8 hours in a day. Specific exemptions from overtime pay requirements are available on the Department of Labor website, and State overtime laws should be referred as well. There are no rights to maximum hours of work generally in federal law though your State may have restrictions.
  • How many days in a row can you work without a day off? Where safety concerns are at play, industries may have hours of service restrictions (most notably commercial truck drivers). In some states (California) employees are entitled to one day for rest in 7 and cannot be required to work more than six days in seven. Hours worked in excess of overtime regulations may require time and a half compensation for hours worked in excess of the limit - over 200 exemptions apply however. There is no federal limit limiting the number of days in a row workers can work without a day off.
  • Do federal labor laws supersede state labor laws? State labor laws supplement federal laws, the rule providing greatest benefit to the employee applies when trying to determine which rules apply.

If you have a question about coverage, the wage and hour requirements or need help with an labor situation you face - seek representation from a qualified labor attorney today.

Government & Employment Legal Resources

Here are some resources (a running collection) of official and useful online information having to do with basic laws and statutes important in the workplace.

The following State court and legislative resources are intended to help with your labor law & workplace regulation research.

  • Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)

Additional State regulations and local laws may also afford additional protections in the workplace.

State Regulations: (Specific to your State of Residence)

Wage Resources by State: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

 

State laws are always subject to change.

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