Seattle City Council Unanimously Approves Nation’s Highest Minimum Wage
June 6, 2014
Much has been made of the national minimum wage in the media as of late, with even President Obama calling for it to be raised to a rate that would be considered a “living wage.” While reasonable economists and policy makers can disagree on what a higher minimum wage will do the economy, one certainty is that minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation. This means that minimum wage workers have less buying power than they had in the past; in fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), minimum wage is worth around $2.00 less that it was in 1968 when it was at its peak.
While the national minimum wage is set by the federal government, states and other governmental units are free to impose their own minimum wage, as long as it does not conflict with federal regulations. The city of Seattle did just this by approving a $15 minimum wage on June 2, 2014. The increase is set to be incrementally phased in over the next three years, applying to large employers first, then gradually to smaller employers. Many groups, including the International Franchise Association, are upset about the measure. Under the law, franchises are considered large corporations, and would be required to comply with the new minimum wage sooner than many small businesses.
Federal Wage and Hour Standards
The Federal Labor Standards Act establishes employment standards with regard to issues such as wages, overtime, working conditions, and child labor issues. When employers violate these standards, they may be subject to legal consequences including civil penalties, lawsuits, and injunctions, all of which have the potential to result in significant financial consequences. There are certain employees who are exempt from the federal minimum wage requirements, however. These include the following categories of employees:
Outside sales employees; and
Highly compensated employees.
There are many factors that determine whether employees who fit into one of the above categories are exempt, and the best way for an employer to ensure that it is in compliance with the law is to consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. Generally speaking, however, the federal threshold requires that employees in this category make at least $455 per week on a salary basis and have certain work-related duties. These exemptions do not apply to certain groups of workers in law enforcement-related positions, including detectives, police officers, state highway patrol, investigators, correctional officers, park rangers, paramedics, as well as others.
As minimum laws change around the country, both employers and employees need to be aware of how these changes affect them. The best way to ensure compliance with the current employment laws is to discuss the specific of your situation with an experienced California employment law attorney. Among the types of cases we handle are those based on discrimination, wrongful termination, workplace harassment, unpaid internship cases, wage and hour violations, leaves of absence, and personal injury.