Minimum Wage

Rob Wiley: My name is Rob Wiley and today I'm going to be speaking to Colin Walsh about the issue of the minimum wage. So Colin, what is the minimum wage?

Colin Walsh: Currently the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Rob Wiley: Does that apply to everyone who is working in America?

Colin Walsh: Yes, it covers all employees.

Rob Wiley: And I think that's one of the more interesting things about this law. It's part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, so it's actually one of our oldest employment laws on the book. And so the government knew that employers were going to try and get around this law, so they made the law apply to everybody. And then there are some exemptions where you can be pulled out of the law, but the base for everybody is that you should be getting minimum wage. And I'd be very suspicious of any situation in which someone was performing work, but they weren't being paid the minimum wage. Now one way that we do see this come up is where people are misclassified and they're told that they are not employees but they're independent contractors. How might someone have a minimum wage violation if they're being told that they're an independent contractor?

Colin Walsh: Well, if they're really an employee and there's a test that you use to determine that; but if they're an employee, they should be being paid minimum wage for all the hours that they're working. And, one way we see it, is getting a day rate that is not going to be the minimum wage for the hours of work that they're performing that day.

Rob Wiley: And you can do the math. I mean you can take the amount of money that someone's being paid if they're being paid by the job or by the day, and divide that by the number of hours that it took to do the job. And then you can calculate the wage and if it's less than the minimum wage, that's a violation. As you can imagine, minimum wage violations are often about exploitation. It is about taking people that may be economically disadvantaged, a racially or ethnically disadvantaged; they may be immigrants, and really taking advantage of them. And so where there is a violation against one employee, a lot of times you see violations against multiple employees. And, how would we deal with a situation if we found out that there were for instance a bunch of factory workers or a bunch of people that were working on a job and they weren't being paid the minimum wage?

Colin Walsh: Well, the way we would deal with that is we would make it a collective action which is just a group of employees suing to get paid that minimum wage.

Rob Wiley: And that's an important part of this law is you don't have to sue individually. You can sue on behalf of the groups of employees and there really is strength in numbers. I also think that our courts get it. If they see a minimum wage violation and they see the exploitation that goes along with that then I think that they're willing to take action so that we can enforce that law. One of the few cases of minimum wage that I've seen, and it's not all that common that we see the minimum wage violations but I can remember we had a case involving an elderly African-American man and his granddaughter brought him into our office and she'd gone off to college and she was just appalled that her grandfather was being mistreated like that. But it really is cases of exploitation in which somebody who might be ethnically or racially disadvantaged, educationally disadvantaged or just economically disadvantaged, is being exploited. And so, I take minimum wage cases particularly seriously, trying to get relief for clients.

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