Mississippi Minimum Wage Changes

Down South, the folks in Georgia get off on making fun of the folks to their west in Alabama. In Alabama, they get back by making fun of the people in the Florida Panhandle. And all of the folks in those states make fun of the people in Mississippi. Should I have even mentioned that Southern tradition? Perhaps not. Now is that Southern tradition fair? Probably not because those Southern states are similar in many respects, especially when it comes to the minimum wage.

Alabama and Mississippi both have no minimum wage, for instance. It seems like an almost impossible fact, that some states exist still that have no minimum wage. But in de facto reality—meaning for all intents and purposes— Mississippi does have a minimum wage for many of its employers, and that’s the federal minimum wage.

As we know, technically, any employer in the state of Mississippi that is beholden to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act must pay the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. These employers include any company that brings in more than $500,000 per year in revenue. The companies are also included if they conduct interstate business, whether that means having offices in more than one state or trading or selling goods in more than one of them. Also, certain other businesses, such as schools, hospitals, and government entities, are also included under the FLSA umbrella.

So that means that all of these employers in Mississippi will be affected when and if the federal minimum wage changes perhaps in the coming weeks or months. There is a good chance that the federal minimum wage bill will pass—I’m keeping you posted on it—and if it does pass and get signed by the President, the federal minimum wage will first go up to $5.85 per hour after 60 days. Then a year later, it will reach $6.55, followed by $7.25 per hour a year later.

Minimum Wage Requirements for Employers in Mississippi (MS)

Over strong opposition from Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, the Democrat-controlled state House Labor Committee recently approved a bill to introduce a minimum wage in Mississippi. If passed, House Bill 237 would set the state minimum wage at $6.25 per hour effective July 1, 2007. In the final step of the increase, the state minimum wage would be increased to $7.25 per hour on Jan. 15, 2008.

Minimum wage is in the news in Mississippi with state legislators debating a state minimum wage law, House Bill 237 (HB 237). Currently, Mississippi is one of just 5 states with no minimum wage law. The others are Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. A state minimum wage was narrowly defeated in Louisiana, during recent elections. Only one state – Kansas – has a state minimum wage lower than the federal minimum of $5.15 per hour. The state minimum wage in Kansas is $2.65 per hour.

In the states without minimum wage laws, most jobs are covered by the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. For some businesses who don’t conduct interstate commerce, however, there is currently no state minimum wage.

The current HB 237 is sponsored by State Representative Ricky Cummings, a Democrat from Iuka. After two years of research, Cummins has co-sponsored a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $7.25 by early 2008.

“All of government should not be built around large corporations,” Cummings said.

Several business groups, including the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, are opposed to the increase. The point out that the proposed state minimum wage is 40% higher than the national base rate of $5.15 per hour.

Many opponents of the bill, including Mississippi Manufacturers Association President Jay Moon, worry that increasing the minimum wage will reduce the number of entry-level jobs and somehow hinder job growth for more skilled workers. They argue that training unskilled employees makes more sense than increasing the minimum wage.

Mississippi Injury Reporting for Workers� Comp

In the state of Mississippi, the government can’t stress to its human resource folks that one of the most essential parts of the whole workers’ comp process is the first report of injury. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily fall on the employers like you to make that very first report of loss. That’s up to the employee in Mississippi, as it is in most states.

But it can be up to the employer and their human resource staff to keep their employees all informed about what needs to be done when the employee gets hurt on the job. That’s where workers’ comp information sheets come in handy, whether you’re handing those out when your employees first join your team or regularly to established employees in their paycheck envelopes.

Another obvious way to pass on the word about workers’ comp and injury reporting is to post the workers’ comp poster with all of your other state and federal employment law compliance posters for Mississippi.

What should employees learn from all of these references. Well, first and foremost, they need to know that it’s up to them to report an injury to you the employer right away. That way, you can make a report of the injury for your insurance company and for Mississippi’s Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The employee in fact has 30 days to mention the injury to their employer. After that report of injury, there is what is called a two year statute of limitations. If you and your insurance company don’t pay the employee benefits within those 2 years, then the claim is closed. That gives insurance companies time to investigate claims. And it helps to prevent cases of fraud. Say an employee gets hurt in December of 2006, but doesn’t decide until December of 2008 that they are injured by the accident and can’t work anymore?

Mississippi Workers� Comp Compliance

In Mississippi, the whole workers’ comp system as we know it today there started in 1948. Then, the state set up a Workers’ Compensation Law and a Workers’ Compensation Commission to make sure that the law was carried out. Basically, as in most states where a workers’ comp program was established, the intent was to provide benefits to people who were injured on the job.

The system that developed in Mississippi is a no fault workers’ comp system. We’ve seen such things elsewhere. The basic premise is that no matter how the workers’ injury or illness occurred, as long as it occurred at work, then the workers’ comp insurance must pick it up. And under the law, any employer that is mandated by the law to have the workers’ comp coverage must do so by buying the insurance from a carrier, or by getting permission to do the self-insurance thing.

As with most states, there is a unique way that Mississippi covers certain employees under its workers’ comp law, while other employees do not have to be covered by the protection. For instance, all employers with five or more employees that are considered regular workers at an establishment must have the workers’ comp protection. Whereas, if an employer has less than five employees, they can voluntarily provide the coverage to those employees, but they don’t have to.

There are also certain types of employees who don’t have to have coverage no matter what. Take domestic and farm workers, for instance. They don’t have to be covered, nor do employees of certain non profits organizations, charities, religious groups, and cultural groups. Federal employees are not covered by the Mississippi law, and those transportation and maritime employees covered by federal compensation law don’t have to be covered by Mississippi law either.

Job Discrimination Laws Governing the Mississippi Workplace

More often than not there are both federal and state regulations in place to monitor and enforce discrimination in the workplace. Employees should be free to work in an environment absent any harassment or discrimination. Most states have established their own rules about what is acceptable behavior and what constitutes unlawful employment practices. Usually there is a state agency or department dedicated to enforcing these regulations and a person could go to them with questions or concerns about a harassment or discrimination issue. Mississippi is one of few states that has no such department, in fact they do not have any laws of their own that address discrimination in the workplace.

Employers are however required to follow federal regulations and must abide by federal anti-discrimination laws. These would be the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). These standards have been adopted as Mississippi (MS) job discrimination law in the workplace and make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. Unfortunately the ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees and the ADEA requires at least 20 employees. These laws protect workers in all aspects of employment including recruitment, testing, hiring, compensation, promotion, pay and termination.

In my research I did find that there is a group of individuals who developed the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights. It is a worker advocacy program that offers services such as legal representation and training for low wage, non-union workers.
They also offer support to those that feel have had their rights violated and direct them as to how to go about filing a complaint. Currently in Mississippi you would contact the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file such a complaint. They are also pushing for independent Mississippi (MS) job discrimination law in the workplace.

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