General Question

augustlan's avatar

Can a state legally have a lower minimum wage law than the federal requirement?

Asked by augustlan (46582 points ) February 26th, 2012

Or no minimum wage law at all? This map seems to indicate that it’s possible. How can that be?

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13 Answers

ScurvyChamp's avatar

I think so! Federal law is below state law, which means states can choose(?) whether or not they adopt the views of the union.

whitecarnations's avatar

I’m guessing it has to do with a loophole in the “separation of powers” clause?

funkdaddy's avatar

So, two things I noticed from your link.

Note: Where Federal and state law have different minimum wage rates, the higher standard applies.

Which I would read to mean the Federal rates apply in those states. (just my interpretation).

And a footnote

Like the Federal wage and hour law, State law often exempts particular occupations or industries from the minimum labor standard generally applied to covered employment. Particular exemptions are not identified in this table.

So perhaps the cumulative effect is that the state laws cover some areas federal laws don’t, and these would be the only things really affected by a lower rate?

edit: also this which is a bit clearer

Federal minimum wage law supersedes state minimum wage laws where the federal minimum wage is greater than the state minimum wage. In those states where the state minimum wage is greater than the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage prevails.

augustlan's avatar

@funkdaddy Thanks for that explanation. I guess I should have read a bit more of the info, huh? ;)

funkdaddy's avatar

@augustlan – not at all, it’s a confusing graphic, with unnecessary legalese, and then the clear stuff is buried way at the bottom. I wasn’t sure even after reading all that.

“good enough for government work” isn’t just a saying, it’s a valid excuse ;)

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
JLeslie's avatar

I can’t imagine a state can be lower than federal requirements? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Federal law is the law for the country. If the state wants to do better, more pay and benefits, they are able to, but federal should be the minimum requirement. States sometimes try to get around laws by classifying things differently, and then we have to wait for it to be challenged and deemed illegal.

States with lower minimums probably just have not technically changed their minimum, but follow the federal law.

GracieT's avatar

What I find the most interesting is the map. All of the states with lower minimum wage than the federal are in the South East. Also, the fact that most of the states with a minimum are in the East except for Montana and one other- I forget which one.

JLeslie's avatar

@ScurvyChamp So you think a state can go against federal law?

keobooks's avatar

There are some industries that don’t have to pay minimum wage. Agriculture is one. The restaurant industry is another.

And this isn’t recent, but about 25 years ago in my State, they finally mandated that domestic servants had to be paid minimum wage. They used to be exempt. This leads me to believe that at least 25 years ago, States could decide that certain industries were exempt, but they couldn’t make a blanket “lower than minimum wage” clause.

john65pennington's avatar

When there is a question as to which law governs, Federal Law always comes first, state laws come second. A good example are handicapped parking slots. These slots are governed by Federal Law, not local or state. Private property owners may not want them on their property, Federal Law reins first.

Nullo's avatar

@john65pennington Does that mean that, as with embassies and mailboxes, offenses committed therein are under federal jurisdiction?

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks I thought there were federal minimums for waiters and ag? I know waiters make a lower minimum in most, maybe all, states compared to the general minimum wage, but I had assumed there was a federal rule for it as well.

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