More than a dozen U.S. states will increase the minimum wage with the new year, including Missouri. The Missouri minimum wage will increase 15 cents from $6.50 to $6.65 per hour on January 1, 2008.
Section 290.502.2 of the state statutes requires the Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to measure the increase or decrease of the cost of living as of the previous July, and adjust the state minimum wage accordingly. The new rate is based on the CPI, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers published by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Missouri is one of the very few states that allows for the minimum wage to be decreased, if the cost of living goes down.
The Missouri law does exempt retail or services businesses with gross revenues of less than $500,000 per year. However, if these businesses engage in interstate commerce, many employees will be covered under the federal minimum wage law.
The state law also requires that employers pay overtime after 40 hours per week. However, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations doesn’t have an enforcement branch. Instead, employees who are being paid too little must bring suit against the employer.
Missouri’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $5.85. Many states have minimum wage laws, too. When both laws apply, the one which provides the best deal for the worker is the law to use.
The Missouri minimum wage and overtime law does not allow the fluctuating work week, or Belo plan, for employees. Under this plan, employees are paid a set amount for a standard workweek, which may be more or less than 40 hours. Many employees object to Belo plans, because they result in the employee getting a smaller overtime premium when they work more. Belo plans are used in other states in industries like ski resorts and golf courses where the hours vary seasonally. They are legal under federal law and in most states. However, they are not legal in Missouri.
Montana’s state minimum wage will be $6.25 per hour as of January 1, 2008. Some employers–those with $110,000 or less gross revenue–can legally pay only $4.00 per hour.
Large businesses in Minnesota pay workers the state minimum of $6.15 per hour. Smaller companies, those that bring in less than $625,000 per year in revenue, only pay $5.25 per hour.
Consider Kansas with a minimum wage of $2.65. If an employee is covered by state and federal law, clearly the federal minimum of $5.85 gives the worker more money, thus a bigger benefit. The federal minimum would apply.
In addition to differences from the federal minimum wage law, several states have written some unusual conditions into their state minimum wage statutes.
Agricultural workers in Massachusetts can legally be paid a mere $1.60 per year. Employees who also earn tips have a legal minimum of $2.63. The rest of the industries, however, pay one of the top five highest minimum wages in the country, $8.00 per hour as of the year 2008.
Washington will take the top spot with $8.07 per hour on January 1, 2008.
Maryland has a state minimum wage of $6.15, but it doesn’t apply to part-time employees over 61 and under 16. The exclusion applies to younger workers who work up to 20 hours per week and to the over 61 age group who work up to 25 hours per week. Some companies in Maryland, including amusement parks, hotels and restaurants, don’t have to pay overtime either.
School bus drivers in Alaska benefit from the quirks of their state minimum wage law. The minimum wage is $7.15 per hour, and the law demands that bus drivers receive wages of $14.30 per hour, or twice the minimum.
Another tragic case of violence in the workplace serves as a reminder that crime doesn’t take the holidays off.
A graduate student from Senegal was killed and three others were attacked in three separate incidents involving handguns at the University of Chicago. All three incidents occurred within blocks of each other, on the same day.
Amadou Cisse, a 29-year-old chemistry PhD. candidate and instructor at the University of Chicago, had successfully defended his doctoral thesis just weeks earlier. The young instructor from Dakar was gunned down while walking home from a gathering with colleagues.
Shortly before, three students were robbed at gunpoint in separate incidents, all apparently related. One student was injured when he fled a car where the passenger got out and fired shots at him. About 45 minutes later, a group of five young men robbed two female students.
At about 1:26 am, Cisse was walking home from a modest party where friends had gathered to congratulate him on completing the requirements for his PhD. He was attacked by a gunman in the 6100 block of South Ellis Street. Police theorize that the gunman tried to rob him. The graduate student struggled. The assailant fired one shot into Cisse’s chest before fleeing, leaving Cisse’s wallet and books behind.
Cisse was shot at the exact location where the university plans to build a new dormitory.
“Amadou understood that he had been given an opportunity that many in Senegal, in Africa, do not have,” said Czerny Brasulle, director of multicultural affairs at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Cisse earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, physics and mathematics. “The taking of his life ha resulted in the absence of someone who would have made a difference in the world.”
The University of Chicago is a prestigious school that counts many Nobel Prize winners amongst its faculty and alumni. In recent years, however, the school has struggled to convince parents and prospective students that its south-side Chicago neighborhood is safe.
Now, critics say that the school waited too late, by not informing students of the crime and taking security precautions for more than 9 hours after the incident. One of those is Alison Kiss, program director at Security on Campus, a non-profit student safety advocate.
“In this case, where a staff member was shot, and students were robbed, it is important to make sure there is a way to notify the students,” Kiss said. “We like to see it within 30 minutes when there is an imminent risk.”
This is just the most recent in a series of episodes of workplace violence this year. Three people were killed and two were injured when a 63-year-old retired city maintenance worker in Alexandria, Louisiana entered a downtown law office and started shooting. The retired worker, John Ashley, died in a gunfight with police on October 5 after a 10-hour standoff. Killed were the son of one of the office’s attorneys and a postal worker who had gone into the building to deliver mail. The injured were the attorney whose son died, another attorney, and a legal secretary. Two of the injured escaped and a third was rescued by police.
One of the most tragic cases of the year was the massacre at Virginia Tech on April 16 of 2007. In that incident, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and staff members before killing himself as police moved in on him. Officials at the school faced criticism for not closing the campus sooner. Police faced criticism as well for writing off Cho’s original two fatal shootings as a “murder-suicide” even though no gun was found at the scene.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, Cho demonstrated early warning signs of workplace violence, including fits of rage, an unhealthy interest in weapons, and stalker-style behavior. He had not been getting treatment for his mental health problem.
Approved Minor Work Permits issued by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development are still in effect for workers under the age of 19. However, if the work permit lists “selling cigarettes” as a job duty, the young person will no longer be able to perform that part of their duties.
A number of young workers voiced a concern that this measure will limit employment opportunities even further. In recent months, the states jobless rate has crept up from 4.8% to 6.3%. Alaska’s unemployment rate remains in the nation’s highest 10%.
This measure was enacted because under Alaska law, a person must be at least 19 years old to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products. Legislators feared that a convenience store or gas station clerk under 19 working alone would be likely to sell cigarettes to an underage friend, or to purchase them herself. For that reason, state legislators took the step to make it illegal for people too young to purchase cigarettes, to sell them.
Other aspects of the Alaska Child Labor Laws are unchanged. Like many other states, Alaska limits the number of hours and days that young people can be employed, and the jobs that they may hold.
Anyone under the age of 16 must have a valid work permit on file with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to hold down a job. Youths aged 17 must also have permits to work in a restaurant with a liquor license.
Any employee under the age of 18 is entitled to a 30-minute meal break when scheduled to work 6 hours or more. No youth can be required to work more than 5 hours without a meal break.
Under state law, youths under the age of 14 may work in only a few clearly designated jobs. Those include newspaper sales and delivery, and babysitting. Youngsters under the age of 14 can also do handiwork or work in or about a private home doing chores and domestic duties. Youngsters are permitted to be entertainers, however, they must have an approved work permit from the Alaska Wage & Hour Administration.
Youths aged 14 and 15 years may work in Alaska, however, the combined time in school and work cannot exceed 9 hours per day. They also may not work between 9 pm and 5 am. Youngsters this age may not work more than 23 hours per week, during the school term, or more than 40 hours per week during school vacation.
Workers in this age group are prohibited from working in a number of industries and areas, including manufacturing, mining, canneries, boilers, meat coolers, warehouses and transportation. They cannot operate power machinery other than office machines, or perform maintenance or repair of machines. They cannot work from windows, ladders or scaffolds, operate power food slicers or grinders or use sharpened tools. In addition, they are prohibited from loading trucks, railroad cars or conveyers.
No one under the age of 21 can sell pull-tabs, a popular form of gambling in Alaska.
Alaska state law sets few restrictions on the hours that a worker over the age of 16 may be employed. However, state law does stipulate than no one under the age of 18 may work more than 6 days in any work week.
The state also designates a number of occupations as too hazardous for workers 17 and under.
Most youths in Alaska are also subject to the federal child labor laws under the FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In some cases, the federal requirements are more stringent than state law.
Under Colorado Minimum Wage Order 24, the state minimum wage increases by 17 cents from $6.85 to $7.02 per hour on January 1, 2008. Tipped employees must be paid at least $4.00 per hour, under the new law.
The Colorado minimum wage law is must more limited than similar laws in other states. The rate covers only retail and service industries including commercial support, food and beverage, and the health and medical industries.
Under the Colorado law, workers in those same industries are entitled to overtime after working 12 hours in a single day, or 40 hours in a week. The overtime rate is 1.5 times the usual hourly rate.
The previous Colorado minimum wage law has been in effect since January 1, 2007.
This is just the most recent in a series of changes to the Colorado employment laws. On January 1, 2007 Colorado Statute 8-2-122 went into effect. This was a tough new immigration law that requires every employer to make copies of the employee’s identification documents for the federal I-9 form, and keep them on file for the entire term of employment. In addition, every employer is required to complete a state affirmation within 20 days of hiring a new employee. The affirmation states that the employer did not knowingly hire an illegal alien, and that the employer has examined the worker’s documentation without altering it.
State laws governing overtime and the minimum wage for employees who receive tips differ greatly across the nation.
According to federal law any time worked over 40 hours per week is payable at one and a half times the worker’s normal hourly rate. This “overtime” covers the majority of workers in the country. Several states don’t have a state level statute, however, to cover overtime pay. In those states, if the employees aren’t covered by the federal law, they are probably not entitled to any overtime.
Nebraska, Illinois and a number of other states utilize the federal law and require employers to pay overtime for more than 40 hours of work per week. In Minnesota, state law considers anything over 48 hours to be overtime. Kansas overtime cut-off point is anything over 46 hours per week.
A few states also have laws in effect for the number of consecutive days worked. For example, in Kentucky any employee who works seven days in a row gets overtime pay for that seventh day–no matter how many hours have already been worked. Connecticut has a similar law, but it only applies to workers in hotels and restaurants.
California takes it a step further, guaranteeing overtime on the seventh day and after 8 hours on the seventh day requires employers to pay double the hourly salary, or double time.
For employees who receive tips as a part of their job, the federal law mandates an hourly rate of $2.13 per hour. Indiana and Kentucky mirror the federal law. Massachusetts law mandates a rate of $2.63 and North Carolina’s is $2.43 per hour.
In several states employers get only a little tip credit when paying tipped employees. Colorado’s minimum will increase to $4.08 in 2008. Hawaii allows businesses to pay $7.00 instead of the state minimum of $7.25 per hour, allowing a 25 cent tip credit.
Washington, however, gives no tip credit at all. State law in Washington requires companies to pay tipped employees the same as non-tipped employees. In 2008, that minimum wage will rise to $8.07 per hour.
Colorado employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break free from all work duties on any shift of 5 hours or more. If the work situation makes this impossible, employees are entitled to eat a meal while on duty, and must be paid for this time. Employees are also entitled to a 10-minute paid break on each shift of 4 hours “or a major fraction thereof.”
Every employer must display a Colorado minimum wage poster prominently in an area frequented by all employees. A complete list of the state’s required labor law posters is at www.laborlawcenter.com.
A controversial new law in Illinois would make it illegal for employers to voluntarily use federal employment verification software effective January 1, 2008.
Any Illinois employer who does wish to use the Department of Homeland Security E-verify software should sign up before that date.
If enacted, this law could make Illinois a haven for undocumented workers and a potential terrorist target. Some observers worry that it increases the risk of a terrorist attack at Chicago’s Sears Tower, the nation’s tallest building.
Governor Rod Blagojevich signed an amendment to the state Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act on August 13, 2007. The law prohibits Illinois employers form enrolling in an employment eligibility verification system (EEVS) in its current form.
E-verify, the EEVS software introduced by the Department of Homeland security, has been available to employers since 1997.
In the past many employers have used the EEVS system to verify that employees can legally work in the U.S. The system helps eliminate potential identity theft and serves as an affirmative defense against charges of willfully hiring illegal immigrants under federal law.
The EEVS system double-checks an employee’s social security number, full name, date of birth, and sex with the records of the Social Security Administration (or SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security. This system eliminates the use of 90% of forged Social Security cards and other workplace documents such as green cards.
Employers who submit information normally receive confirmation of the employee’s legal right to work within 24 hours. If the information supplied by the employee doesn’t match the SSA records, the employer receives a tentative non-confirmation notice. The tentative notice may be contested by the employee. If the notice is not contested or resolved within 10 days, E-verify issues a final non-confirmation notice. This final notice may take up to 30 days to issue.
More than 99% of tentative non-confirmation notices are legitimate warnings that a worker is using forged documents, or has engaged in identity theft. In a very few cases, however, the E-verify records may be incorrect. The database might omit a middle initial, or have two numbers in an individual social security number transposed. In those cases, an individual who can legally work in the U.S. would receive a tentative non-confirmation notice and need to contest it within 10 days.
Workers who receive a tentative non-confirmation notice must legally remain employed until the final notice is received. At that point, the employer must terminate the worker or inform the Department of Homeland Security that it intends to continue to employ the person.
Under the new program, no employer could legally enroll voluntarily in the EEVS system until the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are able to make determinations on final non-confirmation notices within 3 days.
The law preempts all local laws that require employers to use an EEVS system.
Some employers are required by federal law to use E-verify. These include businesses that have been fined repeatedly for hiring illegal immigrants, and some federal contractors. These companies would be exempt under the new state law.
In addition, employers enrolled in EEVS would have to undertake expensive training for any employee who uses the system. The employer would also have to post notices that E-Verify is in use so all applicants could see them, and provide employees with counseling on how to handle tentative non-conformation notices.
Opponents of the bill point out that there is no evidence that anyone legally entitled to work in the U.S. has lost his or her job, or been deprived of work, under the current system. They argue that the potential benefits for counter-terrorism outweigh the miniscule number of workers who are inconvenienced by the federal EEVS system.