Where's my hard-earned quarter?
August 8, 2009 3:59 PM   Subscribe

You-are-not-my-lawyer-filter: Minimum wage went up, and my paycheck didn't. Why not?

Minimum wage went up, and, two pay periods later, my check has yet to reflect this (it's still $7.00). What's up?

Some more info: I am a summer job worker in an independently owned plant nursery and greenhouse, with about 20 employees total. I am enrolled in college in fall and spring but not during my employment; my state does not have a minimum wage requirement so I am referring to the federal minimum wage when I say "minimum wage." I am well over the age of majority (21), not a student-learner, or a full-time student, nor any other clause that I can find that would make me exempt under the US Department of Labor standards. Is it just because I was originally hired on at $7.00? Is there a grace period for implementation? Is it because I'm going back to school in a week? Or am I getting dicked around?

Thanking you in advance for your help!
posted by WidgetAlley to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Best answer: If the MW went up to X amount on Date Y...then you need to get paid X/hour starting on Date Y. I don't know about the payroll situation in your unknown state. California (me) has way different rules on when you will get paid for working on a certain date than Indiana (for example).

Check the dates of your checks. Does it include work for the dates on and after the MW change? If so...you better get your money. I'd start with talking to your supervisor first...if they don't correct this (ahem) "administrative error" for everyone...talk to your local DOL office.

Contact me on memail if there are other labor violations in addition to what you've discussed.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:05 PM on August 8, 2009

Why haven't you talked to your employer about this? Are they refusing to give you the raise, or have you not asked?

Not saying they aren't stingy assholes, but maybe they are just forgetful? The point is, you should start there rather than here...
posted by wfrgms at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2009

Best answer: The small farm farmworker exemption is incredibly narrowly defined. If there are 20 employees like you say and you're not getting paid by the piece (which you aren't clearly) and you're not under 16 (again, you're not), it doesn't look like it applies to you. There may well be other exemptions, but pretty sure that one ain't it.

I'd start by just asking your supervisor. Just say you know minimum wage went up not too long ago and you were wondering whether you should be included in that. If that doesn't produce a satisfactory result, definitely call your state's wage and hour bureau (probably part of the state Labor department). Note that "oh well we can't afford to pay you any more" isn't a satisfactory answer. It may be true, but it's illegal. Most states take this stuff real seriously and the clerk on the phone should be able to tell you how to start the process. The Federal DOL office may also be able to help if you don't get traction from the state, as hal_c_on suggests. Good luck.

Since you're going to be quitting soon to go back to school, it may be advantageous to not make too much of a stink until that happens. If they can't (or won't) afford to pay you more, they might just decide to stop paying you all together. Talk to your supervisor and have a informal chat with the labor department sure, but maybe avoid filing a final complaint just yet. While there are laws to protect you from retaliation for complaining, it's far preferable to not get fired in the first place for being a troublemaker. The labor bureau can help you figure out the statue of limitations on any claim you may have so you don't miss a deadline, but you ought to be able to pursue this even after you stop working there.
posted by zachlipton at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2009

Everything that zachlipton said.

Also, there's a poster somewhere, probably near the timeclock (if you "punch in" for your time), or near where they post the hours people are scheduled to work for the week, or near the manager's office. It states the minimum wage, the rules for minimum wage, and most importantly for you the telephone number for the Labor Department. That's the number you want to call to report this, after you talk with your manager and if he doesn't correct this immediately.
posted by Houstonian at 5:34 PM on August 8, 2009

The first thing I thought was that they hired you at a rate more than minimum wage, so when the change took effect, it didn't even occur to your employer that they would have to increase your wage (because they didn't think of you as a minimum wage earner before). If this is a small business, I could definitely see them making that oversight.
posted by LolaGeek at 6:31 PM on August 8, 2009

Response by poster: Nelvana: The farmworker thing definitely does not apply... this is a plant-centric retail job, although I do appreciate the effort.

The reason I ask was that my employer specifically mentioned today in a conversation, "As you know, minimum wage went up..." so I don't think they're unaware of it. This was a prelude to a conversation where they informed me that this week, they gave me a 50 cent raise (now at $7.50). Which would be nice, except that since the work is totally seasonal and our season is ending, I only worked two days this week, so that benefits me virtually not at all. I also noticed that, despite this mention of the minimum wage increase, there is no announcement in the office and the government poster has not been updated to reflect the wage increase. The whole situation was very weird, which was why I asked you guys about exceptions before I simply ask my employer.

Since you're going to be quitting soon to go back to school, it may be advantageous to not make too much of a stink until that happens.

This is one of the reasons I decided to ask Mefites first-- my labor law research skills are not exactly world-class, and if there was a simple explanation I wanted to have it in advance before charging in and demanding an explanation. It sounds like there isn't, though, so I'll most certainly be bringing this up in a (tactful) way with my supervisor.

Thank you very much everyone!
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2009

Of course, IANYL. Your employer should have raised your pay to minimum wage for the time you worked on and after July 24, 2009. It sounds like when you say that they gave you the raise "this week" and you say that you only worked two days this week, they were giving it to you for the week that just ended. So it sounds like you are only out a quarter an hour for your time between July 24 and whenever "this week" started for purposes of your raise. Probably around ten bucks. This isn't nothing, but keep in mind that your employer gave you a raise above minimum wage (and told you about minimum wage gong up, so it doesn't sound like they are really trying to screw you over) and maybe give them a chance to make the ten bucks up to you until you go to the labor authorities. Unless they've treated you badly, in which case this is a great way to get back at them.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2009

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