Overview: Federal minimum wage law requires that all nonexempt employees be paid at least $7.25 for every hour they work; this is the federal minimum wage. Twenty-six states have (or will soon have) even higher minimum wages.
Since about 97 percent of the American workforce earns more than the minimum wage, very few employers need to concern themselves with this baseline requirement. Nevertheless, an employer that makes agreed-upon deductions from an employee's pay – for example, deductions for cleaning uniforms – must be careful that the deductions do not bring the employee's wage below the applicable minimum rate.
To comply with minimum wage laws, an employer can apply certain payments – most notably, tips that wait staff, bartenders and other tipped employees receive for service, and the cost of board and lodging – toward its minimum wage obligations.
Also, minimum wage laws allow certain employees – including students, workers with disabilities, messengers, apprentices and student-learners – to be paid at subminimum wages below the normal rate.
Trends: To help employees keep pace with the rising cost of living, 14 states adjust (or will adjust) their minimum wage rates based on the rate of inflation. Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would do the same in other states, and at the federal level.
Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect an increase in Minnesota's minimum wage, effective August 1, 2016.
In Schaefer v. Walker Bros. Enters., the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals followed federal guidance that allows employers to claim the minimum wage tip credit even when their employees spend as much as 20 percent of their time performing duties that are related to their occupations but do not explicitly produce tips.
Updated to reflect the passage of San Diego's new minimum wage ordinance, effective July 11, 2016.
As a result of the Philadelphia Pay Wage Theft Ordinance, effective July 1, 2016, the Wage Theft Notice Handbook Statement has been added to the Pennsylvania handbook.
Philadelphia employers, including employers that compensate employees for work performed in Philadelphia or enter into employment contracts in Philadelphia, that seek to comply with a notice requirement under Philadelphia's Wage Theft Ordinance should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.