Minimum Wage Laws
Federal minimum wage law was established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which also has provisions for regulating equal pay, child labor and overtime pay.
A new minimum wage law in '07 amended the FLSA to incrementally increase the Federal minimum wage to its current rate of $7.25 per hour.
Federal minimum wage law is enforced under the FLSA by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, for employees of private-sector businesses.
The Wage and Hour Division also enforces FLSA minimum wage law for employees of state and local governments, and Federal employees of the Library of Congress, U.S. Postal Service, Postal Rate Commission, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management enforces minimum wage law for other Federal employees, while the U.S. Congress enforces it for congressional employees.
States may enact their own minimum wage laws that include or expand the minimum protections afforded by the FLSA; for example, states may mandate higher hourly pay rates than does the FLSA. Many states have enacted such laws, while others have simply adopted the FSLA "as is".
Municipalities might have enacted their own minimum wage laws too, that include or expand the protections afforded at the state level. (Consequently, the information in this article may differ under state and municipal FLSA equivalents.) You are protected by whichever law — Federal, state or municipal — is the most generous.
For example, on January 1, 2013, San Francisco's minimum wage law (ordinance) mandated $10.55 per hour, while California's equivalent minimum wage law mandated $8.00 across the state. Both were higher than the $7.25 hourly rate mandated by Federal law (FLSA). Employers must pay the higher amounts to their eligible California employees.
A few states mandate hourly pay rates that are lower than the Federal equivalent, presumably to ensure that employees who are not covered by the FLSA aren't forced to work for less. Regardless, employees in those states who are covered by the FLSA are entitled to receive the higher, Federal minimum wage. The FLSA always rules, except in states and municipalities that have more generous minimum wage laws.
See State Labor Laws to research your work state's minimum wage law. Browse the Web site of the relevant state labor department for the current dollar amount or related contact information. (Check at the municipal level too, such as with the city council.) Contact information is likely also in the government pages of your local phone directory.
If you reasonably believe that you are eligible to receive the Federal or state minimum wage, but your employer is paying you at a lower hourly rate, then you likely may file a wage claim with the wage and hour (or equivalent) division of the state labor department.
For legal advice, such as which between filing a claim or lawsuit is the better way to go in your particular situation, consult a lawyer. Such lawsuits are typically referred to as "wage and hour" lawsuits and many are class actions.
Under the FLSA or an equivalent state minimum wage law, your employer may not retaliate against you for filing a wage and hour claim or lawsuit, for participating in related proceedings, or for consulting a lawyer. The same goes for witnesses, such as coworkers, who testify on your behalf.
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