Federal Minimum Wage vs. State Minimum Wage

If your employer has not paid you a minimum wage, you have the legal power to pursue legal action that compensates you for your time at work.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay a minimum wage for every employee on the payroll. Although there are exceptions to the federal minimum wage legal mandate, an overwhelming number of American workers must receive a minimum wage.

Although federal minimum wage law appears cut and dry, a 2017 federally conducted survey revealed that in the ten largest American states, more than 2.4 million workers lose around $8 billion per year because of minimum wage violations.

The vast majority of minimum wage violations affect American workers that are not aware of their labor rights under federal law.

Here is a list of American workers that do not automatically qualify to receive the federal minimum wage:

  • Commissioned sales representative
  • Farm employees
  • Seasonal workers
  • Independently contracted babysitters
  • Tipped employees
  • Workers under the age of 20

State and Federal Laws Follow Different Minimum Wage Standards

There is a federal minimum wage, as well as a state minimum wage. As of November 2020, the federal minimum wage was $7.25.

The federal minimum wage establishes the lowest amount of money a qualified employee can be paid per hour. States have the right to establish a minimum wage that cannot fall below the minimum established at the federal level. American workers are paid the higher of the two minimum wage standards.

Here is a list of some of the states that have established a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour:

  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • North Carolina

Many states have set minimum wages that far exceed $7.25 an hour. For example, Colorado has set a minimum wage of $12, while Washington, D.C. has the highest minimum wage of $15 per hour.

States set higher minimum wages primarily because of the cost of living. For example, it is much more expensive to live in Washington, D.C. than it is to live in rural Indiana.

What to Do if You are Not Being Paid Minimum Wage

There is one important issue to consider before you take legal action against your employer for not paying you the state-mandated minimum wage: Your employer might not be aware that it has violated state and federal labor laws.

Make sure you discuss the minimum wage issue with your employer first before proceeding with legal action to recoup the money lost because of minimum wage violations.

Whether you work out a minimum wage complaint with your employer or you decide to contact a state-licensed employment lawyer, you need to collect evidence to make your case.

Here is some of the evidence required to pursue a minimum wage complaint against your employer:

  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Time clock records
  • Employer accounting documents
  • Audio and digital communications

How to File a Minimum Wage Complaint

If you believe that your employer has violated a minimum wage law, you have the right to file a complaint with that Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the United States Department of Labor.

Here is the information that you need to submit:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Employer name address, phone number, and human resources contact
  • Job title
  • Job description
  • Hourly wage paid
  • Method of wage payment
  • Frequency of wage payments
  • Date of minimum wage violations
  • Description of minimum wage violations

After the WHD receives your complaint, the division of the Department of Labor will conduct a thorough investigation that includes interacting with your employer.

Although the WHD has established a strong record of helping American workers recover money because of minimum wage violations, you might have to reach out to an experienced employment law attorney to pursue legal action against your employer.

Get a Free Case Evaluation

Receiving less than the state-mandated minimum wage can cause an incredible amount of financial hardship. Not only can it put you behind on bills, but it also can have a negative effect on your physical and emotional health.

Reaching out to a highly-rated employment law attorney can help you recover financially from one or more minimum wage violations.

Your lawyer can help conduct investigation into your allegations that can include interviewing co-workers and upper management employees.

Contacting an attorney within two years of the alleged minimum wage violations ensures that you comply with the statute of limitations imposed by the FLSA.

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