On January 1, 2008 the Oregon state minimum wage will increase to $7.95 per hour. The increase was announced by Labor Commissioner Dan Gardner on September 16, 2007. This is a 15-cent increase from the state’s current rate of $7.80 per hour.
Oregon’s minimum wage is currently the second highest in the nation. However, on the first day of 2008 it will become the fourth highest in the nation, as the minimum wage in New York and Massachusetts increase to $8.00 per hour. On that same day, the minimum wage in Washington will increase to $8.07 per hour, once again making it the nation’s highest.
“Oregon’s minimum wage law makes sure these workers’ wages keep pace with [the] rising cost of living,” Labor Commissioner Dan Gardner said.
The Labor Commissioner was instrumental in leading the successful 2002 effort to pass Ballot Measure 25 and introduce a cost of living increase for the state’s minimum wage. Many states have followed suits, and at least 12 states currently include cost-of-lving increases in their current minimum wage statutes.
The annual increases in the Oregon minimum wage are calculated based on the Consumper Price Index or CPI. The CPI inflation rate is rounded up to the nearest nickel, and the change goes into effect on the first day of each year.
The current trend in Oregon minimum wage dates back to 1996, when voters approved a measure that increased the state minimum wage by $1.50 in three 50-cent increments spread over more than two years. In 2002, Measure 25 increased the sate minimum wage to $6.90 per hour, and implemented annual increases.
Every employer in the state must prominently display an updated Oregon minimum wage poster. Posters are available at www.laborlawcenter.com.
According to Commissioner Gardner, minimum wage workers in Oregon are still disadvantaged. The Oregon Center for Public Policy, an advocacy group for minimum wage workers, reports that wages in the 25 lowest-paying industries, the average pay raise was just 1% over the past three years. By contrast, in the 25 highest-paying industries, the average pay raise was 10% over the same period.
For employers who would like more information on the Oregon labor laws including the state minimum wage law, BOLI, the state Bureau of Labor and Industry, offers quality Technical Assistance seminars. BOLI recommends these seminars for all Oregon employers, supervisors, managers and human resource professionals. At them, BOLI trainers work closely with bureau enforcement divisions to present up-to-date information. According to the state of Oregon, “BOLI seminars are acclaimed as an effective and proactive way to help keep your organization in compliance with labor laws — and out of court.” A schedule of seminar fees can be found here.
Wage and Hours seminars will be conducted in Portland on December 11, and in Salem at Roth’s Hospitality Center on December 12. A seminar on state leave laws is scheduled for December 13 in Portland, and a seminar on recordkeeping for employers is scheduled for December 18 in Portland. All of the Portland events are held at the State Office Building.
In Addition, on December 5 and 6, BOLI sponsors the stat’s 23rd Annual Employment Law Conference in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center.
Oregon is not the only state that will roll out a minimum wage increase on January 1, 2008. At least 14 states in total will introduce increases. This ranges from a 15-cent cost of living increase in Missouri, to 50-cent increases in Delaware, New York and Massachusetts. Florida’s minimum wage will increase from $6.65 per hour to $6.79 per hour, while the rate in Iowa increases a whopping $1.05 per hour, from $6.20 to $7.25.
Up to 87,000 Wal-Mart workers in Oregon and across the U.S. will get a total of $33 million in back pay and interest distributed among them, thanks to a settlement Wal-Mart agreed to in a suit brought by the U.S. Labor Department.
Wal-Mart was accused of violating U.S. and Oregon minimum wage laws. The Labor Department said Wal-Mart had tried to avoid paying overtime by calling the workers salaried managers. But in the settlement, it was agreed that they were what is referred to as “non-exempt salaried” workers. This means that even if they were salaried, their pay was below the ceiling, which would have exempted them from the protection of the law. In addition, they did not have the kinds of decision-making roles that would also have exempted them.
Wal-Mart is not off the hook as far as other payroll issues are concerned. The settlement, according to sources, only covers the specific violations in the consent judgment, and won’t stop workers from filing complaints with the Labor Department. Ongoing litigation is unaffected as well.
The retailer was essentially accused of circumventing U.S. Department of Labor regulations by declaring certain workers salaried employees, thus trying to exempt them from regulations requiring that anyone working more than 40 hours a week be paid overtime. Howard Johnson’s used the same tactic in the 1980’s, when it hired so-called “assistant managers” who worked 80 hours or more a week in their restaurants. What’s more, the “assistant managers” washed dishes, worked as waitpersons, and bused tables.
In Wal-Mart’s case, the employees involved were declared “non-exempt salaried” workers, according to the ruling. As a result, they were entitled to overtime pay.
The Labor Department has strict guidelines about who is exempt from protection of the overtime pay regulations. Most workers think that if they’re salaried they are not covered. But that is not the case. In fact, federal and Oregon minimum wage laws include guidelines that say anyone making less than $23,600 a year (or $455 a week) is still covered by the law, even if they are salaried. Even if they fall below that level, they may be covered.
While we’re looking at state overtime laws across the United States, we ought to take a look at one particular state law, Oregon’s, while we’re at it. Oregon isn’t entirely all that different from other states that I’ve already written about, or that different from the federal overtime laws for that matter, but Oregon has enough exceptions and differences to make it stand out among the other 49 states.
First, let’s start with the similarities to the other laws. As with the federal overtime laws in the Fair Labor Standards Act and as with many of the individual state laws, Oregon considers 40 hours to the standard length of the work week. So any time you or I spend, as employees, working over 40 hours warrants overtime pay of at least one and a half times our normal pay.
Now let’s look at the differences. Every state, and the federal law too, have certain occupations and job types that don’t get overtime under the law. Or they have certain occupations that warrant a different work week or workday when it comes to calculating overtime.
Enter Oregon. The state singles out workers at canneries, driers, and packing plants as a special employee group, who can get overtime if they work more than 10 hours in a day. In that case, they get time and a half. However, Oregon law says that these employees don’t get the benefit of this law if their plant is located on a farm or if it’s a primarily processing products on said farms, or if the employees are piece workers.
Nurses, both registered and licensed practical nurses, as well as certified nursing assistants, cannot work more than previously arranged shifts, more than 48 hours in a work week, or more than 12 hours in a day unless in special circumstances.