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Wages Still an Ongoing Issue in the United States
Until the day arrives that people aren’t remunerated for their work (whether that’s through the elimination of either a pay or barter system), debates on how earnings should be divvied out will still take place. Two recent bits of news caught our attention, with one being Maryland raising its minimum wage and the other being the Senate blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Maryland Makes Itself Number 22

Three days ago, the Maryland General Assembly enacted a new piece of legislation called the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014, which acted on raising the state’s minimum wage. Instead of residing at the 5-year-old minimum wage level of $7.25 an hour, Maryland raised it by almost $3 to $10.10, which it will implement in the next three years:

 

  • January 1, 2015: $8.20 an hour
  • January 1, 2016: $9.15 an hour
  • January 1, 2017: $10.10 an hour
  •  

    How it works is covered employees are paid “the greater of the highest minimum wage under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the state minimum wage rates set forth…”.

    Tipped Workers and Other Employees

    Tipped workers, such as those who work in restaurants, bars and clubs, almost always receive less than the federal minimum wage, or whatever the minimum wage has been set at in a particular state. Six exceptions to this are the states of Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, where the minimum wage is the same for both regular and tipped workers (note: large employers in Minnesota, defined as having annual receipts greater than $625,000, pay their tipped workers 90 cents an hour more than the minimum wage).

    Under Maryland’s new Act, a tip credit is in place that’s correlated to what the minimum wage is. So, if an employee usually gets more than $30 a month in tips, the tip credit drops down to Maryland’s minimum wage (less $3.63).

    Other workers affected by the new act include those in hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, private country clubs and non-profit home health companies, as the Act will repeal provisions that exempted them from state overtime requirements.

    But true to America’s litigious nature, “the employee may bring an action to recover the difference between the wages paid and those required under the Act, plus an additional amount equal to such difference as liquidated damages…if an employer pays an employee less than the wages due under the Act.”

    Paycheck Fairness Act

    Another issue with employment in the United States is that of ensuring fair and equal pay, something that companies like Jared the Galleria of Jewelry blatantly disregard by paying higher wages to men than women. The Paycheck Fairness Act, thrice brought to the Senate, was knocked down and couldn’t move forward.

    What the Act would have done is amend the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act in an effort to bring male and female wages more closely in line with each other. But while three times may often be the charm in so many other cases, it wasn’t so with the Paycheck Fairness Act: it didn’t get the necessary 60 votes that would have garnered a floor vote.

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