Wyoming is one of four states with a minimum wage lower than the federal minimum wage. Those states include Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota and Wyoming.
There are also five states without a state minimum wage – Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee. If an employee in any of these states is not covered by the federal minimum wage, that employee can legally be paid a mere $1.00 per hour.
Most Wyoming employees, however, are covered by the federal minimum wage, which increased on July 24, 2009 from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour.
For that reason, Wyoming employers should be careful to diaply an updated federal and Wyoming minimum wage poster.
The relevant law for the federal minimum wage is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This law made major changes in the workplace. It established child labors laws to prohibit children under the age of 14 from working in almost every occupation. Today’s teenagers sometime balk at this fact, but prior to FLSA, children of all ages often worked 60 hours per week in factories, mills and farms, sometimes operating dangerous machinery.
FLSA covers all businesses with annual earnings of at least $500,000 and those companies engaged in interstate commerce. Individual employees who engage in interstate commerce are covered, too. For example a secretary who answers out-of-state phone calls is engaged in interstate commerce, as is a shipping clerk that mails packages out-of-state.
With the widespread use of credit cards and the Internet, there are few businesses and employees who aren’t engaged in interstate commerce.
Wyoming employers should take this opportunity to update their labor law posters, both state and federal. The posters must be displayed in a prominent spot, easily accessed by all employees.
The increase in the federal minimum on July 24, 2009, was the third and last of three 70 cent increases set forth by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. These increases each occurred on July 24 in the years of 2007, 2008, 2009.
Several states tie their minimum wage rate to the federal rate. For example, Arizona, Maryland, Iowa, Utah, Texas and Indiana enacted laws so that when the federal minimum increased, the minimum in their state matched it. Therefore, on July 24, 2009, the minimum wage in these eight states increased to match the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.
Like several other states in the U. S., Oklahoma ties its minimum wage to the federal minimum. Therefore, when the federal minimum wage increases from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009, Oklahoma’ s minimum wage will increase, too.
According to state law, the Oklahoma minimum wage increases when the federal minimum wage does. The Oklahoma statute doesn’t even contain a dollar amount, merely that the state adopts the federal minimum.
The Oklahoma minimum wage applies to companies with 10 or more employees at a single location.
In addition, according to the Oklahoma Department of Labor, the Oklahoma minimum wage applies to all employers with annual earnings over $100,000, regardless of the number of workers employed.
There are exceptions to the Oklahoma minimum wage law. For instance, employees in domestic service in private homes and volunteers in charitable and non-profit organizations are exempt. Others exempt from minimum wage include students under the age of 22, agricultural workers, newspaper carriers or vendors and feed store employees.
As with the federal minimum wage laws, salaried managers, most executives, outside salespeople and professional employees are exempt from Oklahoma state minimum law. For part-time employees, the exception applies only to those who work fewer than 25 hours per week.
In a little known exception to the Oklahoma state minimum wage law, employers with earnings less than $100,000 and fewer than 10 workers are legally permitted to pay employees as little as $2.00 per hour. Every worker over 18 years of age, however, must be paid at least $2.00 per hour.
Also excluded from the state minimum wage law are all employers who are covered by FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), which is the main federal minimum wage law. Under FLSA, employers earning at least $500,000 per year, or engage in interstate commerce fall under the federal minimum wage laws.
Overtime pay isn’t addressed by any Oklahoma state law. Instead, employees are covered under FLSA. This federal law mandates employees be paid 1.5 times the usual hourly rate when they work over 40 hours in one workweek.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rules, Wyoming employees have the right to as much as 12 weeks of job protected, unpaid leave yearly to attend to their own or an immediate family member’s “serious health condition.”
Employers have the right, in turn, to require that the condition be certified by an employee’s healthcare provider.
Proposed new changes to the FMLA regulations by the U.S. Department of Labor would change some of the rules governing medical certification.
For example, the new rules would permit an employer to request recertification of an “ongoing condition” once in a 6-month period or even more often, provided the request is in conjunction with an absence on FMLA leave. Although it is referred to as a “request” for recertification, employers have the right to deny FMLA time to a worker who refuses to comply.
New changes would also streamline the process of recertification. Employers may contact healthcare providers to clarify details of a medical certification form, but both the employer and provider must abide by HIPAA laws regarding medical privacy.
Employers may not request information not already included on the form. Healthcare providers need not supply a diagnosis when filling out a medical certification. While the U.S. Labor Department’s WH-380 form for certification is being updated, it remains optional. The WH-380 form includes a place where the provider may list a diagnosis if she or he wishes to do so.
Employers under the new rules may require medical recertification annually in the case of an ongoing serious health problem. If a worker’s migraine headaches require periodic days off, unscheduled, under FMLA, it is allowable for the employer to require annual recertification.
The new regulations also clarify an existing ambiguity. Currently, employers may require recertification if a healthcare provider lists a time limit on the original certification.
A provider may specify that employee Mary requires 6 weeks of FMLA leave to attend to her carpal tunnel syndrome. But this led to problems for both courts and employers because healthcare practitioners will sometimes list a condition as “lifetime” or its duration as “unknown.” Under the old rules, that permanently blocked employers from requiring recertification. The new regulations permit employers to require periodic recertification.
More Wyoming FMLA Changes
Employers would have greater control over certain aspects of the “fitness-for-duty” certification process under some changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) proposed by the U.S. Labor Department.
One change would permit employers to require that a certification specifically address a worker’s ability to carry out key tasks of his or her job. A warehouse worker, for example, who lifts heavy boxes, could be required to provide certification that he or she will again be able to do so when returning from an FMLA leave that was taken to attend to a serious health condition.
Another change is designed to limit or eliminate FMLA leave abuse by workers. It addresses the employee who takes intermittent FMLA leave. If there is a safety concern, the employer is allowed to require the worker to provide certification each time he or she takes some FMLA leave and wishes to return.
“Carl” is a truck driver who suffers intermittent migraine headaches, for example. The headaches interfere with his vision. Because driving with impaired vision is a safety concern, Carl’s employer could require him to submit a “fitness-for-duty” certificate each time he takes FMLA leave and seeks to return to his job.
If there is no reasonable safety concern, however, the employer does not have the right to require a certificate.
The current regulations allow employers to require a worker taking FMLA leave to submit the certification from a healthcare provider showing that he or she is physically capable of resuming the job.
The employer must apply the certification requirement uniformly to workers who are in similar conditions. An employer may require all workers who take FMLA leave for a serious health condition to submit a certification when returning. On the other hand, the employer need not require such certification if the employee is returning from an FMLA leave that was taken to care for a newly adopted child.
The Labor Department recently announced the proposed changes. Employers and others wishing to comment have until April 11, 2008. After that, the changes are published in the National Register and become law.
The United States Department of Labor awarded a grant of more than $1 million to a community college in Casper, Wyoming. This is one of the 72 community colleges in 34 states awarded under the President’s Community-based Job Training Grants program. President George W. Bush introduced this program in his 2004 State of the Union Address. This grant, as well as the others, is to be used for the training of workers in skills related to fast growing occupations like construction, energy, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare.
Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor, expressed, “The $125 million these 72 community college partnerships will receive under the President’s Community-Based Job Training Initiative is going to help workers succeed in careers in health care, advanced manufacturing and other growing industries.” The Wyoming employment grant was given chosen in a competition between 429 schools. Secretary Chao stated “Community colleges are vital partners in educating and preparing workers for good jobs in their local area.”
The Casper College for energy education programs received the Wyoming employment grant. The grant is for $1,015,602. The school has an extended history of successful scholarship awards.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco states that “Community colleges are closely tied to the areas they serve, and they have proven themselves adept at responding to the regional workforce demands of numerous industries.” She also mentions that “Today’s awards recall the imperative that businesses and the workforce system team up with their region’s community colleges to ensure that workers are armed with the right skills to thrive in the 21st century economy.”
So far, over 104 awards have been made since the program’s 2005 initiation. The principle of the Wyoming Dept. of Labor grants is to improve worker skills in the area, especially in mandatory areas like energy. Our nation’s success is partially dependant on the community college’s ability to equip workers with the skills they need to help the economy.
Veterans returning to the workforce: you should know that your old job is probably protected by an act of government.
The act is called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). When you return from duty, it entitles you to the same job, salary, and benefits you would have gotten if you had stayed with that position.
The final regulations for USERRA were released by the U.S. Labor Department recently. They cover the job rights for veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve who are coming back from their military duty.
Under USERRA’s latest regulations, if you’re a veteran your civilian job rights are protected for a maximum of 5 years if you’re on military duty during that time. That includes members of the Air Force, Navy, and Army Reserves. And you don’t have to have served your entire military obligation at one time. It can be cumulative. In other words, if for example you served 2 years, then later served another 3 years, you are still eligible.
The right to return to the job, benefits, and pay that you would have gotten if you had still been working is an important one. There have been several cases testing this part of USERRA. In those cases, the veterans who returned got the promotions they would have gotten based on time on the job had they not been on military duty. Sometimes the returning veterans/employees are guaranteed the yearly pay hikes or cost-of-living increases they would have received if they had been working at that job.
Anyone who wants help with claims under USERRA is urged to contact the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, or VETS. There are some exceptions to the rule, however. For example, a veteran who served more than 5 years in the military may still have his or her job protected. And intermittent training for the National Guard or Reserve is not included in that 5-year period.