Kansas City readers may have recently heard about President Obama's recent initiative to increase the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009, and analysts note that it has significantly lagged behind increases in the cost of living. Since the recession of 2009, a majority of new jobs have gone to workers earning minimum wage, and these workers are predominantly women over the age of 20; about one-fourth of them are parents listing a dependent child. President Obama's proposed changes in federal wage laws, which include establishing a permanent link between minimum wage and the rate of inflation, are a direct response to these relatively new shifts in the workforce demographic. Opponents referred to the potential hike as a rise in the cost of employment and are predicting dire consequences. They point to data from the Southern Economic Journal, which estimates that an increase would cost the economy 467,000 jobs. They assert that low-skill workers will have a more difficult time finding employment and that the increase's negative consequences will be passed on to consumers.
Although Texas has more construction worker fatalities than any other state, most of its workers don't receive compensation. A majority earn extremely low wages, and almost one-fourth of workers have come forward with allegations that their employers withheld or denied them payment for the work they performed. Although state wage laws do exist in Texas, reports and surveys show that employers in some regions pay far less than in others. Members of the San Juan, Texas-based labor organization La Union del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, regularly report wage theft to organization staff. LUPE includes 7,000 members, and about half of them hold jobs in construction fields. Like Texas, Missouri has minimum wage laws for workers and minimum-age limits established to prevent child workers from participating in hazardous occupations. Although there are no legally mandated requirements for providing workers with breaks with the exception of the entertainment industry, the Missouri Department of Labor notes that doing so is up to the employer's discretion. In the example of Texas, many workers who do not receive adequate wages leave the area for better paying jobs elsewhere.
It was almost exactly 50 years ago that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was enacted into federal law. The legislation was enacted with the aim of eliminating the large wage gap that existed between male and female earners. On its half-century anniversary the effect that the legislation has had on closing that gap has received a bit of criticism.
In our Employment Law blog, we've talked in the past about seeking help when something just doesn't feel right in the workplace. Some people are tentative about seeking counsel when they aren't sure that they have a claim, but are often surprised when they learn that the law really does provide protection. It is the legal representatives they talk to that change what they know about the law, but that isn't the only things that changes.
When an employee is terminated from their employment, a company often tries to make it short and uneventful. Sometimes when an employee is terminated in such a manner, the employee may not receive their entitled wage compensation for all final hours worked for the employer. If the employee is fired for protected reasons in Missouri, the employee may have a cause of action for wrongful termination and an additional cause of action for failure to pay.
For most of us, we go to a restaurant, we judge the waiter on the type of service that we receive and we give them a tip. Those tips are important for waiters, but what about the rest of the staff that works at the restaurant? The bus boys, cooks, hostesses and dishwashers most often do not get a portion of those tips and heavily rely on the minimum wages that they are paid. In this economy, restaurant attendance is down, putting even more reliance on the minimum wage salary for servers as well.
When most employees in Kansas work over forty hours per week, the employees are entitled to extra compensation if they are non-exempt employees. The terms of how, why and the amount of compensation an employee may receive for overtime is determined by company standards and prevailing state and federal laws. When an employee does not receive just compensation for overtime, the employee may have a wage and hour claim for what was not paid.
Wage and hour disputes can occur in almost any workplace, including ones in Missouri, Kansas and any other state. The famous chef Wolfgang Puck has been involved in a wage and hour dispute lawsuit that was recently finalized in a settlement.
We recently talked about how state employment laws can vary between states, but federal laws are the same for all employers. The U.S. Department of Labor is a federal agency that is charged with enforcing labor regulations that could apply to employers in any state. A large agricultural employer has been charged with wage and hour violations that total $400,000. As agriculture is a prominent commodity in both Missouri and Kansas, the precedent of this federal lawsuit could impact Missouri and Kansas agriculture employers.
Discrimination happens in many different ways. Recently, a Missouri employee had his paycheck withheld because he says he was discriminated against for his hairstyle.