Fast food work can often be a thankless job. It seems like everyone goes to fast food restaurants, but hardly anyone appreciates the hard work, long hours, and relatively low wages that fast food workers must put up with every day. In addition, fast food restaurants have often been under the microscope for employment law issues, from sexual harassment, to overtime violations, and other problems. This month, fast food workers are striking back and demanding higher wages for their painstaking jobs. The fast food worker strike brings up many questions about the federal minimum wage, and Washington State’s own minimum wage laws.
According to Q13 Fox, fast food employees all over the United States are planning a widespread strike to raise awareness about the pervasive low wages in the fast food industry and the less than glamorous working standards workers must endure. The strike will be coordinated by www.lopayisnotok.org, which is a group of fast food workers, and others who are concerned about low wages. The goal of the group is to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and to gain the right to unionize without retaliation. Fast food workers in Seattle have been walking out of the jobs to strike throughout the month of August.
According toCNBC.com, Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the United States, currently at $9.19. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) reports that the Federal Department of Labor minimum wage is currently set at $7.25. When states differ from the Federal Department of Labor standard as to their minimum wage requirements, the higher wage, that is the one most beneficial to the employee, will apply.
Washington’s Minimum Wage is Generally Calculated Based on Cost of Living
Washington’s minimum wage applies to both agricultural and nonagricultural workers. In 1998, Washington state voters approved Initiative 688, which requires the L&L to determine a new minimum wage each year. Initiative 688 established that L&I must make the minimum wage determination by making a cost-of-living adjustment based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, which is essentially an index of prices of goods and services that can be used to determine how much it costs for workers to live.
A recent Washington L&I press release notified Washingtonians of the minimum wage increase to $9.19 in January, 2013. The previous minimum wage was $9.04. The press release noted that the increase in goods and services was predominantly caused by the increase of gas prices.
Ten other states—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont—use the Washington method in calculating and adjusting minimum wage. Oregon has the second highest minimum wage, coming in at $8.95 per hour. It is important to note, however, that even in Washington, 14 and 15-year old employees may be paid a lower wage, at $7.81 per hour this year.
Minimum Wage and Employment Law Questions
The Washington Minimum Wage Act has numerous provisions that may be difficult to understand or navigate. If you have an employment law question, you should seek out the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney.Contact HKM Employment Lawyers today for a confidential consultation.