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    If I work, will I be making minimum wage?

    Date: 08.31.07 | by Judge Tom.

    The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes an hourly minimum wage for the U.S. workforce. When the Act was passed in 1938, the minimum wage was twenty-five cents per hour. Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you′re under age twenty, you may be paid $4.25 per hour for the first three months, as a training wage for new employees.

    Here′s how the federal minimum wage has changed over the years:

    • 1950 $0.75
    • 1970 $1.45
    • 1980 $3.10
    • 1990 $3.80
    • 1996 $4.25
    • 1997 $5.15
    • 2009 $7.25

    See www.dol.gov for current information and state specifics.

    States may also set minimum wages that employers must pay, but not less than the federal minimum. Some states have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum. What you′re paid depends on the job and your employer, whether you work in a private business or a government office. Some jobs—including professional positions like doctors, architects, and professors—are exempt from the minimum wage.

    If you′re a restaurant server, you may have been surprised at your first paycheck. If you did the math in your head before getting paid, your figure was probably higher than the check. This is because your tips may be considered as wages. If you make more than $30 in tips each month, your boss may pay you less than the minimum wage. For tipped employees, it has been $2.13 since 1991. A congressional bill is expected to be considered in 2014 raising the minimum wage for tipped workers to $7.07 per hour.


    Photo by borman818 (Flickr)

    Can a worker be paid for overtime hours? Yes. For every hour an employee works over forty hours each week, the law requires that you be paid “time-and-a-half,” which is one and a half times the employee′s regular hourly rate. This may not apply to you or your friends, because most teens work less than forty hours each week. The law in most states, in fact, limits you to less than forty hours per week while you′re in school.

    As of June, 2014, there are 21 states and the District of Columbia with minimums set higher than the federal level of $7.25.  The state of Washington has the highest at $9.32 while Missouri comes in at $7.50.  Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Vermont,  Michigan and Illinois fall in between these figures.  A push in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 is supported by President Obama.

    Update: In 2011, the city of San Francisco became the nation’s first city to increase the minimum wage to a high of $10.24 per hour. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2012. We’ll have to watch to see if other parts of the country follow this example.


    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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