In Illinois, the state minimum wage increased 25 cents from $7.50 to $7.75 per hour. This is the second step in a 3-tiered increase. The state minimum wage will increase again in 2009. The law applies to any employer with 4 or more workers who are not family members. More details here.
Michigan’s minimum wage also increased 25 cents per hour from $7.15 to $7.40. The state minimum wage has risen nearly $2.00 since 2005, despite sluggish job growth, problems for the automotive industry and the loss of a number of major employers. The law applies to employers with 2 or more workers. More details here.
Nevada’s minimum wage statute is unique in the 50 states because it allows employers who offer a qualified health benefit plan, such as group health insurance, to pay workers less. Currently, Nevada employers offering a qualified health insurance plan can pay workers $5.30 per hour. On July 1, 2008, qualified employers can pay workers $5.85 per hour. (more…)
A Las Vegas construction company was forced to pay back wages amounting to nearly $1.2 million to workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Investigators revealed the fact that lathers, finishers, plasterers and estimators who worked up to 58 hours per week were not paid overtime by the company. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid 1.5 times their usual hourly rate.
Desert Plastering, owned by two Las Vegas brothers, was ordered to pay 1,060 construction workers a total of $1,147,921 in unpaid overtime wages for work between April 2005 and March 2007.
The company was founded in 1998, and the two owners tout their “more than 35 years” of combined experience in installing and repairing lathe and stucco. The company website extols the high-quality work delivered by “a wonderful group of team players and highly qualified personnel.” Apparently Desert Plastering defined being a team player as “being willing to work overtime without pay,” at least for a thousand of its employees.
According to sources in Las Vegas, the company worked with a number of developers on the construction of new homes in several subdivisions.
The violations of federal and state overtime law were severe enough that Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao weighed in on the issue. In a news conference, Chao said, “Employers have a fundamental obligation to pay workers all the wages they have earned and they can count on hearing from this department when they fail to do so.”
Secretary of Labor Chao added,” In this case, we are recovering nearly $1.2 million dollars for more than 1,000 workers and the employer is on notice to properly compensate workers in the future.”
In addition, the investigation revealed that Desert Plastering failed to keep accurate records of the time employees actually worked. This, too, is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
There are speculations that in this case, the company tried to pay some employees a flat salary, rather than paying them for overtime. Under federal law, salaried employees may qualify for overtime, depending upon their job duties. In general, an employee must have significant administrative duties, authority to make business decisions, or must supervise 3 or more employees, to qualify as “salary-exempt.” That designation means the employee is not entitled to overtime pay, regardless of the number of hours worked. These employees were found to be “salaried non-exempt” meaning although they were paid a weekly salary, they were still entitled to overtime compensation.
In other cases, employers including those in the construction industry have attempted to miss-classify workers as “independent contractors” to avoid paying overtime. Because the company controlled how, when or where work was performed, the “independent contractor” designation doesn’t apply.
This action is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s continuing battle against employers who violate federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Just days ago, the Department of Labor forced a Connecticut healthcare firm, Stonington Behavioral Health, Inc. and its parent corporations to pay more than $1 million in overtime to 143 employees of the Stonington Institute, a residential rehab clinic.
Earlier in the month, the U.S. Department of Labor forced 107 subcontractors of KBR, Inc. of Virginia to pay some $1.5 million in back wages and benefits for up to 2,600 workers who participated in the Hurricane Katrina recovery project. The construction workers were involved in repairs to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport Mississippi or the Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The U.S. Department of Labor is still searching for some of the workers involved in that case. Anyone who believes that they are owed back wages for these projects can contact the nearest U.S. Department of Labor office. The average payment per worker in that case was $616.
Earlier this year, under a voluntary agreement to prevent a federal suit, Wal-Mart, Inc. agreed to pay $33 million in unpaid overtime wages to 86,680 employees throughout the nation. An internal audit revealed that the company had incorrectly classified some employees as “salary-exempt” when in fact they were entitled to overtime pay. In other cases, the company admitted that it had based overtime pay on the employee’s base hourly rate, not including incentives and bonuses in the employee’s average rate as required by law.
Just when you thought it was safe to come out again, a new living wage could come upon us! Kidding aside, employers across the United States have not only seen recently a spate of minimum wage increases, debates, and law changes in the last few years. They have also seen a bunch of local communities and cities choose to set up a living wage within their borders. Just this month, a new living wage law was passed that for the first time extended a living wage throughout a whole state—that being Maryland.
Now I got word of another living wage movement taking place in the community of Greensboro, North Carolina. There in the northern part of the northern half of the Carolinas, a movement started for and by the citizens of the state is pushing for a living wage of $9.36 per hour.
The name of the group leading the campaign to draft a living wage law in Greensboro is the Greensboro Minimum Wage Campaign. The purpose behind it is to do what most supporters of living wages push for—which is to give certain workers, or all workers in some cases, in a given area more salary than the minimum wage. The reason is that the minimum wage is generally set based on what the old minimum wage used to be, added with the rate of inflation to keep it up to date.
On the other hand, a living wage such as the one proposed in Greensboro is meant to ensure that a worker makes enough per hour to bring their annual salary at or above the federal poverty level, which is generally considered along the lines of: what would it take two adults working full time to make enough to reach the poverty line for a family of four in that given area.
Here’s breaking news on the Nevada minimum wage. Wal-Mart, Inc., hired workers and called them managers. It then worked those “managers” more than 40 hours a week but did not pay them overtime. Now the retail behemoth must pay $33 million in back wages and interest to 87,000 workers.
This is the gist of a settlement between the U.S. Labor Department and Wal-Mart recently. The crux of the matter was the underpayment of a group of salaried manager and programmer trainees and salaries interns for long hours of work.
Businesses have tried in the past to circumvent the regulation by declaring certain workers as salaried managers. Howard Johnson’s, for example, was found guilty in the 1980’s of hiring “assistant managers” in their stores who worked 80-hour weeks or more busing tables, doing dishes, or working as wait persons.
The settlement doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Wal-Mart’s troubles around payroll violations. Private lawsuits may still be instituted, and workers still have the right to file complaints with the Labor Department.
It’s not true that all salaried employees lack the protection of the overtime regulation. In fact, according to U.S. and Nevada minimum wage laws, anyone – including salaried workers – who makes less than $455 a week or $23,660 a year is protected by the regulation. Even then, only certain salaried people would be exempt. The guidelines require that the manager must have substantial decision-making authority and have the ability to hire and fire. Otherwise, he or she is still protected by the overtime law.
In the Wal-Mart case the argument was that the manager trainees were sometimes paid less than the required $23,600 yearly, they worked long hours, and they did not supervise employees.
To be an exempt employee, and as a result subject to work weeks longer than 40 hours but without overtime pay, you must fall under certain guidelines. One is that you must make more than $455 a week, or $23,600 annually. Second, you must be in a decision-making or supervisory role in your division, department or store. More specifically, that applies in most cases to somebody who has the authority to hire and fire more than three people.