The minimum wage has been a hot employment topic for years. Proponents say the minimum wage hike to $15.00 an hour would help workers make a living wage, but others claim the raise will harm businesses and consumers. While the debate rages, states and communities have initiated their own increases without waiting for the federal government to do so. This has not happened in Oklahoma, though. To understand the question of whether Oklahoma should raise its minimum wage, we need to explore the subject further.
Federal vs. State
The federal government has set its minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. This means that is the lowest hourly wage employers can pay their workers. This applies to most workers, but not all. For example, workers with disabilities, full-time students, some people under age 20, tipped employees, and student learners are exceptions to the minimum wage.
States are not required to pay more than the federal minimum wage, but some do anyway. For example, the minimum wage in Maine is $10.00 per hour. Neighboring New Hampshire, like several other states, does not have a state minimum wage. Oklahoma is one of several states that mirrors the federal minimum wage.
When the state and federal minimum wages differ, employers must pay the higher minimum wage.
Cities and Municipalities
It’s also true that cities and municipalities have the power to set their own minimum wages. At least, in some states this is true.
However, in 2014, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law prohibiting Oklahoma cities from setting their own minimum wages. Supporters claim that the business community will be harmed if minimum wages vary from region to region. Opponents to the new law state that decisions about minimum wages should be left up to individual communities.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Senate Bill 102 was recently filed seeking to raise the state minimum wage to either $10.50 or the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. It’s impossible to predict whether this bill will pass and be signed into law, but it does bring further attention to the problem.
Has your employer tried to pay you less than minimum wage or refused to pay overtime? If you feel you have an employment issue, you need advice from people who know labor laws.
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