Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reached a recent settlement agreement that will enable the retail giant to comply with both federal and Rhode Island overtime laws. At the heart of this agreement is the method in which the nation’s largest retailer calculated the overtime they paid employees. The US Department of Labor maintains Wal-Mart did not correctly calculate overtime and did not properly pay overtime to employees.
The law is that overtime should be calculated at 1.5 times the employee’s usual salary rate for hours that exceed 40 during the week. This usual rate should include incentives and premiums. Wal-Mart didn’t include the incentives and premiums when calculating overtime.
For instance, if an employee’s base rate is $6.00 per hour but with premiums and incentives, he or she normally earns $7.00, then overtime should be calculated using $7.00 as the employee’s base rate. Because Wal-Mart violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the retailer needs to pay 86,680 employees back pay. These employees worked between February 1, 2002 and January 19, 2007.
According to Victoria A. Lipnic, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards, “This settlement provides $33 million in back wages, plus interest, to Wal-Mart workers, and the company has taken corrective action to prevent this from happening again.”
The agreement not only has Wal-Mart pay back wages buy also interest on those wages. The interest is included to be a deterrent again this transgression being committed again at some future time. The agreement was finalized by the Labor Department filing a complaint. This complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court and it alleges that the retailer committed violations of both state minimum wage laws and FLSA provisions.
A consent judgment was issued that ordered Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to pay employees for back wages. This consent judgment also enjoined the retailer from further violations. The court quickly approved the consent judgment.
Another exception to the rule is if your worker is age 14 or 15, and if they do not work for you for more than 24 hours in a week. Then you can pay them 75 percent of the regular Rhode Island minimum wage. Do the math, and that comes to $5.55 per hour.
Then there are exceptions of the Rhode Island minimum wage rule that allow employers to pay their employees the federal minimum wage, or whatever else they are legally allowed to pay below the regular Rhode Island minimum wage rate. These workers include those in the domestic service business that work in a private home.
Any worker involved in voluntary service or working for the federal government, or if they work at a charity of religious, non profit, or educational nature. That makes sense, by the way, since the very definition of volunteer means that you do not get paid at all. Also on this list of flat exceptions to the Rhode Island minimum wage rule are newspaper delivery people, golf caddies, shoe shine men, theater ushers, and outside sales men and women.
The law also makes exceptions for service employees at resort type places, that are open only in the summer or the winter months (depending on whether they are water attractions or skiing attractions). The rule is that the establishment can be open no more than six months out of the year. If so, they do not have to pay their wait staff the full minimum wage.
All of these exceptions, as far as I know, were there in the former Rhode Island minimum wage law, before all of the changes this past January, so the purpose here is to show that despite the change to the overall Rhode Island minimum wage rate, many things have still stayed the same in the state.
I had mentioned the Rhode Island minimum wage in the context of all that training talk we just got done in the last couple blog posts, but should not I get back to my review of state minimum wage changes—and low and behold, there I am, my next state in the list being Rhode Island. Coincidence? I think not. I planned it that way, my loyal readers. But would you ever doubt otherwise? Again, I think not.
Anyway, fun and games aside, let’s roll up our sleeves and take a good look at what is going on in Rhode Islands when it comes to the state minimum wage. Not too much has happened lately in the state in this regard. There have been no big debates such as in Indiana, New Mexico, Missouri, or some of the other states that we have looked at. The minimum wage increase has not been debated and shot down, as we saw in some other states out there, such as Alabama.
What did happen in Rhode Island, though, is that the Rhode Island minimum wage increased on January 1, 2007, as it was supposed to, and it went up for $7.40 per hour for all employees who are age 16 and older. This rate puts Rhode Island as one of the highest in the country; however, that rate does not apply for all citizens and employees in the state.
For instance, if you have a full time student on your books as a worker, and they work for you in a non profit, community service, or religious setting, or they work for you in an educational setting (such as in a library), then you do not have to pay them the full minimum wage. You can instead pay them 90 percent of the Rhode Island minimum wage, or $6.66 per hour.
A recent protest in Rhode Island could show where the next change in that state’s minimum wage law could come. Dozens of Latino workers protested in the small city of Central Falls, organized by an immigrant group called the Fuerza and another called the Comite de Immigrantes, as well as unions such as the Service Employees International Union, or the SEIU, the local 615, nonprofits such as Jobs for Justice, English for Action, and the Brown University Student Labor Alliance.
The idea behind the protest was to tell the state legislature that certain workers need reform to the laws when it comes to their minimum wage, their health care benefits, their child care services, and other services that all families need, they said. One of the biggest issues they are protesting against—and the reason why I am brining up the protest in Rhode Island at all, is that the Rhode Island minimum wage law has a lower tier of payment allowed for employers to pay their employees who are technically exempt from the regular minimum wage law.
For instance, the Rhode Island minimum wage law allows workers such as dishwashers, baby sitters, factory workers of some sorts, and house cleaners to be paid about $2.40 per hour less than the regular worker under the Rhode Island minimum wage law. The argument here, too, is that it is not necessarily stuff that is in the Rhode Island minimum wage law that is causing this issue. It is also the fact that some of these workers could be illegal workers, and thus if they complain to their employers about their pay, they could then just get fired because they should not, under the law, have a job anyway.
I do not want to get into any of the moral, political, or anger issues that sometimes come up when talking about immigrant issues. I am squeamish about politics, as all of my loyal readers know.
Why, those exclusions and exceptions don’t stop with students under the age of 19 who work at certain nonprofit, educational, religious, or other public service type organizations. There are several more and equally important minimum wage exceptions in the state of Rhode Island, according to the law passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly last year.
For instance, there is an exception made for 14 and 15 years olds who work less than 24 hours in a week. If they work more than 24 hours, they are entitled to a higher minimum wage. But under the Rhode Island minimum wage laws as they stand now, these minors who don’t work more than 24 hours in a week have their own special minimum, which is $5.55 per hour.
There are also special exceptions for adult workers in certain job types and industries that we shall look at. For example, any worker in domestic service type positions at a private house, or in federal service, or in some form of voluntary work at an educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit group where there is no traditional employer and employee relationship are not included in the standard Rhode Island minimum wage.
Do not include newspaper delivery boys and girls either, or any newspaper delivery person for that matter, as well as shoe shine type employees, caddies who work on golf courses, theater ushers, and any type of sales person who works on an outside type basis.
When an employee is a son or daughter of the employer, or any minor employed by their parent, these standard rules of the Rhode Island minimum wage do not apply as well. Included, too, on this list are people who work at resorts or camp type settings that are not open more than 6 months out of the year.