Although the Wyoming minimum wage is currently $5.15 per hour, most employees are entitled to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
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.
The Wyoming minimum wage has not changed, and on the state level, we cannot even be sure that a change will take place any time soon. The level is set to match the federal minimum wage at the moment—at $5.15 per hour. And one has to wonder whether or not the state of Wyoming’s minimum wage law attaches its rate automatically to the federal minimum wage, or whether the state legislature in Wyoming will have to pass a new law in order to get the state minimum wage directly tied to the federal minimum wage.
After my last blog post, you can see the significance of that. If the federal minimum wage is passed by the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, then the entire country could be looking at a three part federal minimum wage increase spanned out over the course of two years.
As we talked about before—the first increase would occur 60 days after the president signs the federal minimum wage into law. That would take the federal minimum wage from its current level of $5.15 per hour to the next level of $5.85 per hour. A year after that, in 2008, the federal minimum wage would increase again, this time from the $5.85 per hour level to $6.50 per hour. It would be in 2009—another year to the day of the second increase—that the federal minimum wage would take the third in its three part increases, from $6.50 per hour to $7.25 per hour. There the federal minimum wage would remain until a new law comes through the halls of Capitol Hill to increase the rate again.
In event that these increases become reality, many employers in the state of Wyoming would have to pay the new higher wages to the lowest paid workers. Why? Well, because many employers in the state of Wyoming would be liable to follow the federal wage and hour labor laws on the subject—the Fair Labor Standards Act. We covered why an employer might be liable for the Fair Labor Standards Act before, but not for a little bit, so why not look at it again—right?
The Fair Labor Standards Act has two main qualifications that employers must meet—one or the other, not necessarily both—before they have to pay the federal minimum wage. The first qualification is the so called enterprise qualification, whereby an employers brings in more than $500,000 per year in revenue. Do that, and you must pay the federal minimum wage. Another determining factor is if you have employees that work or operate in more than one state. If so, you must pay those employees the federal minimum wage. Also included in that list are government employers, schools, and hospitals—no matter what sort of revenue they bring in.
The issue for these employers is pretty simple. You have to pay the federal minimum wage, so when it increases in the coming weeks, so will your payments to those employees on your pay roll that make the minimum wage. But what of those employers that do not have to follow the Fair Labor Standards Act. They must pay the state of Wyoming’s minimum wage, so if that does not change with the federal minimum wage, then they will be paying less than those other employers in the state. That is where the situation in Wyoming could get very interesting.
No matter what type of employer you are in the state of Wyoming, however, there is one thing for sure if the federal minimum wage goes and becomes law—all of you will be required to get a new updated federal minimum wage labor law poster.
The state of Wyoming’s legislature has closed up shop for the season. The 59th state legislature has ended this session after 37 days in the office, and after passing 511 laws during that time. But their general session ended without a new minimum wage for the cowboy state.
The state had considered other important issues as well, not just the minimum wage, such as abortion, school scholarships, eminent domain, child predator laws, and child care. One such law was the Wyoming Cancer Control Act, which gives money to people who need to get colonoscopies but otherwise could not afford the expense of the medical procedure. Its ultimate goal of course to prevent cancer in the state of Wyoming.
Other passed laws include on that removes the sales tax on groceries, or one that makes sure breastfeeding mothers cannot be charged with indecent exposure in public. Another law makes it legal to have patron-organized gambling or poker in bars and restaurants. Other laws offer protection for consumers against identity theft, and another that will help people get access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment through the state.
But the Wyoming legislature also failed to pass some bills that employers in the state could have cared about, whether or not in a good or bad way. For instance, the state failed to pass a smoking ban for smoking in public places, which according to my sources had some pretty heavy duty public support.
And of course, the main topic of this post—the state legislature in Wyoming did not pass a measure that it had on its table to increase the state minimum wage. What does that mean for employers? Well, if you are a small (under $500,000 per year revenue) and local (no interstate business), you will not have to pay the higher federal minimum wage when and if it becomes law.
Wyoming is a beautiful state, full of massive national parks, huge mountains, pristine ski resorts, and wild animals roaming free in their natural habitat. Luckily for most of these scenic beauty, there aren’t too many people around to muck it up. But for those people around, they have a state minimum wage that is at $5.15 per hour (I know you were wondering how I was going to get it back to minimum wage labor law!).
That means that employers are currently paying the same rate as the federal minimum wage. But as we have heard a million times before, and will hear a million times going forward, the federal minimum wage is set to change soon. Voting in the Senate lately (and I will talk about this shortly) looks to pass the federal minimum wage bill that has been around Washington DC since the beginning of January, when Democrats in the House put it on their agenda at the start of the new Congress.
When that new federal minimum wage becomes law—and 60 days later after the President signs the bill, the federal minimum wage goes up to $5.85—what will employers in Wyoming have to do? What then will they do a year later when the federal minimum wage goes up again to $6.55 per hour, and a year later, when it increases the third time in nearly two years to $7.25 per hour, its final resting spot according to the new federal minimum wage law?
Well, some employers in Wyoming, put simply, will have to pay this higher wage. If they are liable to follow the Fair Labor Standards Act, then they are liable to pay this higher federal minimum wage as their own. But for those employers who do not have to follow the FLSA, small local employers, they can continue to pay the state minimum wage.
Wyoming’s minimum wage rate is $5.15 per hour for all employees. Wyoming state law makes exceptions for the following employees employed in Agriculture; Domestic service; Executive, administrative or professional capacities; Public employment — federal or state; Activities of educational, charitable, religious or nonprofit organizations where the employer/employee relationship does not exist; Minors under eighteen and part-time workers working twenty hours or less per week; Outside salespersons paid on a commission basis; Drivers of ambulances and other vehicles on call at any time; and individuals in educational or apprenticeship programs approved by the commissioner.
Some religious and social interest groups are banning together in Cheyenne, Wyoming to rally for an increase in the federal minimum wage law that Wyoming abides by. They are calling this event “Bridge the Economic Gap Day.” Organizers of this event say that increasing the current federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is a moral issue. The federal minimum wage hasn’t increased in almost ten years and legislators in both the U.S. Congress and in Wyoming have failed to agree on any raise to the minimum wage.
By not increasing the minimum wage, Virginia Sellner, executive director of the Wyoming Coalition of the Homeless, has stated that this failure to increase the minimum wage creates problems in society. In addition, Tom Gallagher who is the manager of research and planning for the Wyoming Department of Employment feels that raising the minimum wage in Wyoming wouldn’t affect all businesses equally. He further stated that Wyoming is seeing very rapid wage growth in the state however; some areas in the state where wages are growing more slowly would feel more impact from increasing the minimum wage.
As the debate continues not only in Wyoming but also in Congress, many other states throughout the country have given their low wage workers more economic power by raising their minimum wage rate. Studies have shown that raising the minimum wage rate even by $1.00 per hour increases state revenues, improves the economy, does not cause job losses and helps to decrease government assistance programs.