Minimum Wages: State Rate Applies If It is Higher than U.S. Figure

Posted on August 1, 2003 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Q: What is the difference between the federal minimum wage and the state minimum wage. And which rate should I paying?
A: The federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act is $5.15 an hour. Some states, however, have set a rate that is higher than the federal minimum wage.

Connecticut’s, for example, is $6.90 an hour, Masschusetts’ is $6.75 an hour, and Washington’s is $7.01 an hour. In cases like these, the employee is entitled to the higher, state rate.

The U.S. Department of Labor Web site,, can provide more information on federal and state regulations.

Q: What is the federal law pertaining to overtime, vacation and sick time?
A: Overtime pay of at least 1½ times employees’ regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a work week. The federal FLSA, however, does not require severance pay, sick leave, vacations, or holidays.

Q: I heard of something called the Eight-Hour Day Restoration of Workplace Flexibility Act. What is this and should I worry about it?
A: This is a California law. It provides for overtime pay for time worked beyond 40 hours a week and overtime for any time that extends beyond an eight-hour workday, even if the employee’s work week does not extend past 40 hours.

Q: Am I required, in California, to provide my employees with meal and rest periods?
A: Employers may be penalized if you do not provide meal and rest periods for non-exempt employees. California employers who do not provide the required meal or rest period must pay the employee one hour extra pay for the day for each meal period violation and one hour extra pay for all rest-period violations.

Q: What does the California law say are the requirements for meal and rest periods?
A: Non-exempt employees are entitled to at least one half hour of unpaid meal break for every work period of more than five hours. If an employee works less than six hours in a day, the employee may agree to waive the meal period.

In addition, the meal period must be in the middle of each work period, except in extremely unusual circumstances where doing so is impractical because of the employee’s job responsibilities.

Attestment forms used by the employer are a way of establishing that meal periods and rest periods were taken (one period in the morning part of the shift and one period in the afternoon part of the shift in a typical eight-hour work day).

Q: How do I set up alternative workweeks for my employees?
A: Alternative workweeks must contain shifts of no more than ten and no less than four hours. These alternative workweek schedules must be approved and voted on by the affected employees after proper notice is provided to them.

Michael Drenan is an attorney specializing in employment law issues with the Dan Diego firm of Oliva & Drenan. Contact him at (858) 385-0491 or

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