Employers are required to pay the minimum wage to employees who meet the coverage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The federal minimum wage as of July 24, 2008 is $6.55 per hour.
The FLSA's minimum wage provides a national floor for wages of covered employees, representing the rate considered to be essential to maintain a minimum standard of living. Employees may not enter into an agreement with an employer for wages less than the federal minimum wage.
Where state law or municipal ordinance requires a higher minimum wage, that higher wage applies.
Who is Not Covered under the FLSA?
Under the FLSA, certain workers are not covered by the minimum wage requirement. These workers are often called "exempt workers." Examples of exempt workers include:
- Salaried executive, professional and administrative employees
- Outside sales employees
- Farmworkers on small farms
- Employees in fish and aquatic farming
- Seasonal amusement or recreation employees
- Babysitters who work on a casual basis
- Companions for the elderly
- Newspaper delivery workers
- Telephone company switchboard operators
- Seamen on non-American vessels
- Computer analysts and programmers
- Employees of limited circulation newspapers
- Certain employees exempt by regulations or certificate
Workers under the age of 20 are permitted to be paid $4.25 per hour for their first 90 days of employment.
There are also exceptions to the standard minimum wage requirements for various workers, such as:
- A limited class of disabled workers
- Tipped employees
- Messengers who primarily deliver letters and messages
- Student learners
- Full-time students
If an employer receives a certificate from the local Wage and Hour Division of the U. S. Department of Labor, it can pay a wage that is less than the minimum wage to a disabled worker whose disability affects his or her productivity or wage-earning ability.
Tipped workers are only required to be paid $2.13 per hour in regular wages as long as their tips plus wages equal or exceed the minimum per hour wage, the tipped employees are allowed to keep or pool all of their tips, and the employees each usually earn more than $30 per month in tips.
Employers who hire students enrolled in a high school, college, university, or an accredited high school vocational education program can pay the students 85 percent of the federal minimum wage for the period during which the students are enrolled in the program. The workers must be at least 16 years old and work only part time.
Apprentices and Learners
An "apprentice" is a worker, usually at least 16 years old, but at a higher age for some occupations, who is employed to learn a specialized trade through an apprenticeship program. A "learner" is worker who is in a training program for a job or occupation that requires skill and judgment but ordinarily is not recognized as a trade that has apprentices. Usually, an employee can't be considered a learner after 240 working hours.
Full-time students employed in retail or service stores, agriculture, or colleges and universities can be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage, so long as the employer gets a certificate from the Department of Labor, and the employee does not work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session and no more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do the minimum wage laws apply to me if I am in an exempt class, but am employed through an employment agency?
- What if my employer fires me for filing a lawsuit under the FLSA for minimum wage violations?
- Can I be displaced with an employee who is permitted to be paid less than the minimum wage?