Common Minimum Wage Issues
Federal and state law govern the payment of a minimum wage in Florida. Currently, the minimum wage in Florida is $8.010 per hour. Often, though, determining what you are owed involves more than a simple “hours x rate of pay” calculation each pay period. In our experience as minimum wage lawyers in Tampa, these are the questions and issues that arise most frequently:
Am I entitled to the minimum wage?
To answer this question, we turn to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees who work for certain businesses or organizations (or “enterprises”) are covered by the FLSA and are required to be paid the minimum wage. These enterprises, which must have at least two employees, are:
- Those that do at least $500,000 a year in business; or
- Hospitals, businesses providing medical or nursing care for residents, schools and preschools, and government agencies.
In addition, even if enterprise coverage does not apply, you may be covered individually if you are “involved in interstate commerce.” The FLSA defines a worker as being “involved in interstate commerce” if he or she is “engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” Most employees are engaged in interstate commerce under the FLSA, even if, at first glance, it may not appear to be the case. Examples of employees who are involved in interstate commerce include:
- An employee, such as a clerical worker or office worker, who uses a telephone, facsimile machine, the U.S. mail, or email system to communicate with persons out of state.
- An employee who regularly travels out of state for her job to perform her job duties.
- An employee who uses an electronic device to authorize credit card purchases.
- An employee who works stocking goods from an out-of-state supplier.
Who is exempt from the minimum wage?
The majority of workers are required to be paid at least minimum wage. However, certain industries and job duties are exempt from the minimum wage law. These include, for example:
- Executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees
- Babysitters on a casual basis
- Companions for the elderly
- Workers with disabilities
- Federal criminal investigators
- Workers in seasonal and recreational establishments
- Workers in the fishing industry
- Newspaper employees of limited circulation newspaper
- Seamen on other than American vessels
Can my employer deduct the cost of my uniform from my paycheck?
If your employer’s business requires that you wear a uniform, your employer may not require you to bear the cost of the uniform if it means that by bearing that cost your wages will fall below the minimum wage requirement or cut into your required overtime pay.
For example, assume an employee is making the minimum wage of $8.05. The employer may not make any deductions from the employee’s wages for the cost of the uniform or for the cost of maintaining the uniform. However, assume that instead of making $8.05 per hour, the employee is making $9.00 per hour and works 40 hours in a workweek. The maximum amount the employer may deduct for a uniform is $38.00 (($9.00 – $8.05) x 40 hours).
An employer is allowed to prorate the deduction of the uniform over more than one pay period as long as the proration does not cause the employee’s wages to fall below the minimum wage. Continuing with our example above, assume that the employee’s uniform cost $50.00. Since the most the employer can deduct is $38.00, the employer would have to deduct the uniform cost over the course of two (2) pay periods to comply with FLSA.
Employers may not avoid FLSA minimum wage and overtime requirements by requiring employees to reimburse the employer in cash for the cost of such items, in lieu of deducting the cost from the employee’s wages.
Can my employer deduct the cost of other work-related items from my paycheck?
Your employer is not allowed to deduct from your earnings for items which are for the benefit or convenience of the employer; tools used in your work; damages to the employer’s property by you or any other individuals; profit losses due to clients/customers not paying their bills; or theft of the employer’s property by you or any other individual, if the deduction would cause your wages to fall below the minimum wage.
Here are some common issues involving illegal deductions from employees making minimum wage:
Cash drawer/till shortage. A minimum wage employee is working as a cashier. At the end of the day her drawer/till is short by $50.00. Her employer illegally requires that the money be deducted from her paycheck during the next pay period.
Tipped Employees. A tipped employee works as a waitress for a restaurant. One of her tables walks out on their bill. Her employer illegally requires her to pay the amount of her customer’s bills in cash even though the payout required causes her hourly rate to fall below the minimum wage.
Employee car wreck. A minimum wage employee works for a rental car. The employee wrecks one of the rental cars due to the employee’s negligence. The employer illegally requires the employee to pay for the repairs to the vehicle out of the employee’s paycheck.
Employee tools/equipment. An employee is working as a security guard making minimum wage. The employer illegally requires the employee to purchase a gun from the employee’s paycheck.
Employee physical examination. An employee is hired as a mail sorter at minimum wage. The employer illegally requires that the employee pay for a physical examination necessary for the employee to be hired.
Get Help with your Minimum Wage Issues
It’s not easy to decode the nuances of the FLSA and the minimum wage law. Our experienced Tampa minimum wage lawyers at Florin Gray can help. If you believe your employer is making illegal deductions from your paycheck or that you are not being paid minimum wages for your work, contact us today to discuss your rights.