In the 2007, the Fair Minimum Wage Act enacted a series of increases for the federal minimum wage to be accomplished over a three year period. Each increase would be 70 cents and would occur on July 24. The first increase took place in 2007, the second in 2008, and the third and last increase in 2009.
That last increase went into effect on July 24, 2009 and increased the federal minimum from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. This increase affected most of the employers in Virginia, including those covered by the state minimum wage.
Many Virginia employers are covered by the federal minimum wage.
The federal minimum wage is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act of (more…)
If you’re an employer in Virginia, are you aware that not all salaried employees are exempt from overtime?
In fact, federal and Virginia minimum wage law violations were at the heart of a settlement Wal-Mart, the retail giant, reached in a suit brought by the US Department of Labor. Wal-Mart has to pay 87,000 workers in Virginia and around the country $33 million in not only back wages but also in interest.
This isn’t the first time Wal-Mart has had issues with its payroll system. Moreover, this settlement only applies to certain violations. The judgment outlines these violations. Private litigation is not impacted by this settlement, nor is any worker’s ability to file complaints against Wal-Mart with the Department of Labor.
The settlement resolves a dispute on how some salaried employees were paid. These employees included manager trainees, interns, and programmer trainees. These employees often were paid low wages yet they worked long hours. According to the ruling by the US Department of Labor, these workers actually were “non-exempt salaried” employees. When employees are “non-exempt salaried,” they are entitled to be paid for overtime.
Whether the salaried employees are entitled to overtime depends on the duties assigned to their jobs. New guidelines adopted in recent years affect employees whose weekly earnings are less than $455 ($23,660 per year).
These guidelines require that employees who earn less than $455 per week be paid overtime for any hours over the normal 40. If employees earn more than $455 per week, they still may be entitled to overtime pay if they do not have the power to make significant decisions regarding a department, store, or division.
Other claims against Wal-Mart are not addressed in this settlement. This settlement only resolves certain violations that are defined in the judgment. This agreement does not impact any litigation brought against Wal-Mart by private parties, nor does it impact the ability of any worker to file a complaint against Wal-Mart with the US Department of Labor.
Wal-Mart isn’t the first business to try to avoid paying employees overtime. Howard Johnson’s was found guilty of using an approach similar to the one used by Wal-Mart. In the case of the hospitality businesses, “assistant managers” worked long hours for low pay.
What would you do if your company were accused of breaking the law? That’s the question faced recently by a Texas business. The firm, ABC Professional Tree Services, must pay $1,801,507 in back wages to 2,501 employees in 16 states. It was accused of violation of the minimum wage laws and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The probe began when investigators received a tip from an employee.
Labor law investigators have caught up with a tree-trimming firm that paid at least 2,500 workers below minimum wage, and the company will have to pay nearly $2 million in back wages to about 2,500 employees.
The company, ABC Professional Tree Services of Houston, Texas, was found in violation of federal and Virginia overtime laws. The amount it has agreed to pay is $1,801,507.
According to the federal FLSA, any covered employees must be paid at least $5.15 per hour, the minimum wage, for the first 40 hours of any work week. After that, employees must receive time-and-a-half for overtime. Accurate payroll record keeping is also required.
The company is paying back wages to its Virginia employees as well as to employees from Maryland, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maine, New York, Arkansas, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said the Labor Department is pleased that “we were able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve.” She said the department would continue monitoring to make sure employers are paying the legal amounts to employees.
The investigation started when a dissatisfied worker tipped the Department of Labor about the violation. Labor Department officials found that the company was in violation in 16 states.
U.S. Attorneys in several states have teamed up with the Labor Department on a task force that both investigates and prosecutes labor law violations in the Gulf Coast region, particularly regions affected by hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
We have been talking lately about the Maryland living wage bill, a first of its kind implementation of a state wide living wage that came right on the heels of a change to the Maryland minimum wage. Then we covered, if my memory is not failing me, about how the state of Virginia’s legislature has not passed a new minimum wage. It was sort of a comparison just for the sake of comparison, as Virginia and Maryland are neighbors, and we considered if the minimum wage divide and the new Maryland living wage would make it harder for some Virginia employers—especially in the Washington DC area—to find employees.
But what I failed to cover back then—and I am terribly sorry, please forgive me!—is the fact that the living wage has been making headway in the state of Virginia on the local level, and that the state of Virginia has a grass roots effort still in effect trying for next year’s legislative session to pass a new Virginia minimum wage. Leading the charge or at least helping the charge on all these fronts is a grass roots organization called the Virginia Organizing Project.
As I said, one of its goals is to get a new Virginia minimum wage bill moved through the state legislature in the near future, which would raise the Virginia minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.50 per hour. Behind this movement is also a larger group of organizations called the Virginia Alliance for Worker Justice, which brings together religious, labor, and community groups for this one cause. It did not happen this time, but there is always the next session.
But the Virginia Organizing Project has also helped to get living wages passed in such locales as Albemarle County and as well in the city of Charlottesville, the organization’s home and the home of the University of Virginia, by the way.
But how the Dillon Rule interpretation and the old Virginia minimum wage law could affect some employers is because of the fact that Maryland is right next door to Virginia, at least near the Washington DC area. And in that regard, Maryland now has a living wage law for contractors dealing with the state government in public projects. And Maryland also has a new Maryland minimum wage law that we have talked about as well recently.
So, you ask? Well, the “so” is the fact that some opponents of the General Assembly’s position, and some opponents of the Attorney General’s position, suggest that because Virginia’s minimum wage is only $5.15 per hour—and that Maryland’s minimum wage is $5.15 per hour and its living wage in the Washington DC are is $11.30 per hour—the state of Maryland will then attract the most qualified and best workers in the area.
It is an interesting view, and kind of brings together all of the pros and cons of the living wage and the minimum wage that we have seen in the last few months, while state politicians and federal politicians have been arguing over whether higher minimum wages are better for the economy and for employers overall, or whether they hurt the economy in the long run and hurt an employer’s competitive chances.
We shall see in Virginia. Of course, things might change soon there anyway, because the passage of the federal minimum wage bill—if and when it happens—could at least even up the minimum wage in Virginia in 2008 for most employers with the Maryland minimum wage, thereby ending that price differential. By the midyear of 2008, according to the federal minimum wage bill, many employers in both states would be paying a federal minimum wage of $6.50, since that rate would be higher than both local minimum wages.