We have talked about the Missouri minimum wage for months—no joke. The reason was that back in November of 2006, the voters of the Show Me State had passed a new Missouri minimum wage increase, bringing the rate from its past level of $5.15 per hour to a new level of $6.50 per hour. The new law also linked the Missouri minimum wage to the inflation index, thereby making it so the rate would increase in 2008 and beyond based on the Consumer Price Index in Missouri. Workers and labor groups in the state celebrated, and employers in the state got themselves new updated Missouri minimum wage posters.
But the issue did not stop there. Next came an issue with the way the new Missouri minimum wage law treated the tipped employee minimum wage. It did not directly seem to address the tipped employee minimum wage. So the state department of labor provided advice to employers with tipped employees—pay them 50 percent of the federal minimum wage, or $2.13 per hour. This caused labor groups to protest, and then a national labor law lawyers group published a warning that the department of labor’s recommendations might be wrong and might be opening Missouri employers to future wage and hour lawsuits from their tipped employees.
That is when the governor of the state stepped in, Gov. Matt Blunt, and he stated his final say on the issue—that the Missouri tipped minimum wage should be 50 percent of the current Missouri minimum wage—that is $3.25 per hour. In effect, the governor was disagreeing with his own administration, an important move that then changed the way, right then and there, that employers paid their tipped employees. Currently, the case in still up in the air, as some employers filed a lawsuit against the state department of labor. The case is meant to protect employers from those wage and hour lawsuits that I just mentioned—as well as force the department of labor to finally judge what exactly the Missouri tipped employee minimum wage should be.
As if those were not enough issues surrounding the Missouri minimum wage, there are more. The main one was the issue over the overtime exemption for fire fighters and police officers. Fire fighters, police officers, and other first responders tend to work odd and long shifts—sometimes from 12 to 24 hours at a time. And thus under the old Missouri minimum wage law they had a special overtime exemption, meaning there were special rules to determine if and when they got overtime, different than the standard 40 hours in a week, or 8 hours in a day, guidelines.
In the new Missouri minimum wage law, however, those rules were not included. The standard overtime rules applied to fire fighters and police officers, and this is costing their employers—cities and towns throughout the state—millions in extra salary. These employers, and even the fire fighters and police officers themselves, have been lobbying for the state legislature to fix the Missouri minimum wage to reinstate that special overtime provision.
And that brings me to the whole point of this blog post—this special fix passed in the House, but Republicans in the Senate would only pass it if a certain compromise was reached. They would pass the Missouri minimum wage fix if the Democrats and the governor agreed to remove the $3.25 per hour tipped employee minimum wage, as well as take out the provision in the law that attaches the Missouri minimum wage to inflation. No deal could be reached. And the legislative session ended this past Friday. Word is now the only chance for a deal to be worked is if the governor calls a special legislative session.
Even with the worst of the winter weather – hopefully – behind us, worker safety and cold stress are still concerns for OSHA. It’s not spring yet!
Missouri worker safety is a major concern of the national Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). During the winter months, people are advised to take precaution in the cold weather. Many workers are in particular potential danger if their career requires outdoor work.
Even in temperatures of 50 degrees, it is possible to suffer from the same types of physical harm that extremely cold temperatures can cause. That means that cold stress can be a concern, well into the spring season. Under cold, wet and windy conditions, any of these things can happen to someone working outside, even for a short period of time. When temperatures are below freezing, frostbite, hypothermia, cold stress, and even death can occur. Wind chill and moisture can cause the human body to react as if temperatures are below freezing, when in fact it might be as high as 50 degrees out.
One concern the OSHA has is employees working outside may suffer from hypothermia. A less serious form of hypothermia is cold stress. The older a person is, the more they are at risk of suffering from cold stress. As aging decreases the ability to maintain warm temperatures in the body, winter weather brings a greater challenge in keeping warm. Once the body is unable to warm itself, cold stress occurs. Contact with cold surfaces and cold water in conjunction with wind is potentially threatening.
If someone is suffering from cold stress, it is necessary for them to be taken to a warm area, dressed in dry clothing, and given warm (not hot) fluids. Since the body is under tremendous stress, caffeine should be avoided. Any severe case requires immediate medical attention, so call an ambulance in this event.
In all states, employers are required to post information about state and federal labor and employment laws – such as those found on the Missouri Posters. The Missouri posters have information outlining the state labor and employment laws dealing with unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and discrimination. Federal laws that should be posted on the posters are USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law, Federal Minimum Wage, Employee Polygraph Protection Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and OSHA – Job Safety and Health Protection.
All of this information is very useful for both employers and employees. Employers can use this information to help them know exactly what is required of them to make sure they are not violating their employees’ rights as determined by the labor laws. They can also use the information on the posters to double check details concerning specific laws if questions arise such as on what occasions its okay for males and females to have differing pay for similar or equal jobs. Employees also benefit from the posters because this is often the only place they have access to the laws that affect their jobs. They can use the information on the posters to help them understand their rights. Since the posters also have the grievance procedures and contact information for the appropriate state and federal agencies concerning the posted laws, employees can also use the posters to help them file a compliant or grievance against their employer.
Mississippi posters need to be posted in a visible spot in an area where all employees have access to them. Possible places would be the employee break room, work room or mail room – anywhere that the employees tend to gather on a regular basis would work. Also, employers nee to be aware that labor and employment laws can change frequently – even annually – so they need to make sure they have the most up-to-date information on their posters.