National Consumers League

New year, new (minimum wage) rules


Michell McIntyreBy Michell K. McIntyre, NCL's Special Project on Wage Theft

Thanks to some state legislatures, the start of the New Year means new rules for some workers. Eight states helped their workers with an increase in their state minimum hourly wage. Washington continues to lead the nation with the highest state minimum wage and is the only state with a minimum wage higher than $9. As of January 1, 2012, its minimum wage is $9.04 per hour. Seven other states also increased their minimum wages at the first of the year: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont.



New Hourly Minimum Wage

Arizona $0.30 $7.65
Colorado $0.28 $7.64
Florida $0.36 $7.67
Montana $0.30 $7.65
Ohio $0.30 $7.70
Oregon $0.30 $8.80
Vermont $0.31 $8.46
Washington $0.37 $9.04
As of the first of the year, San Francisco leads nationwide minimum hourly wages – federal, state, county, and city; and is the first in the nation to top $10 an hour. The minimum hourly wage increased by 32 cents from $9.92 to $10.24 per hour. With the start of the New Year, California’s new Wage Theft Prevention Act and Employee Classification Act went into effect. The main points of the new Wage Theft Prevention Act:
  • requires employers to provide workers, at the time they’re hired, a written disclosure of their basic terms of employment (the pay rate, the pay day, and the name and address of the legal employer)
  • strengthens misdemeanor criminal penalties for employers who willfully fail to pay wages due in 90 days after final judgment
  • allows a worker to recover attorney’s fees to enforce a court judgment for unpaid wages.
Some of the main points of the new Employee Classification Act include:
  • making it unlawful for any persons or employer to engage in willful employee misclassification (classifying an employee as an ‘independent contractor’ rather than an ‘employee’)
  • making it unlawful to charge any fees or make any deductions in a worker’s paycheck for expenses (space rental, services, repairs, good or materials, etc.) where such deductions would have been unlawful had the worker been classified as an employee
  • increasing penalties that can be assessed against any employer for willful employee misclassification
  • requiring employers who have been found to have committed employee misclassification to display a notice to its employees and the general public on their Web site and/or each location where it occurred.
This New Year, please take the time to examine your paystub and double-check that you’re being paid the correct amount. Remember, the Department of Labor has tools to help you track your pay, overtime and vacation time – an app for your smartphone and a printable work hours calendar in English and Spanish.