What Is Minimum Wage in Florida?

The minimum wage in Florida has gone up this year, which is good news for those calling for a higher base wage, but for many it may not be enough. Minimum wage has been a hot-button issue all over the nation for years, with some people demanding that it be raised as high as $15 per hour. As the debate raises on at the federal level, many states are taking action on their own.

The new raise in minimum wage in Florida brings the wage from a prior level of $8.05 from 2016 up to $8.10. It's only a 5-cent increase, which is the fifth-smallest the state has seen since it first established a standard minimum wage back in 2005. It's also up less than $1 per hour since 2012, when it was $7.67. Incrementally, it's gone up to $7.79 in 2013, $7.93 in 2014, and $8.05 in 2015. There was no increase in 2016 due to cost of living and inflation calculations.

While the increase is far above the federal minimum wage of $7.25, it still amounts to only about 40 cents an hour for the average employee, or a net of roughly $2 per pay. Many people are worried that the price increases that will result from this pay increase will more than offset any additional earnings, though local businesses are attempting to assure people this won't be the case.

While the new minimum wage is calculated every year on September 30, based on the current inflation rate as represented by the Consumer Price Index, most employers claim to already pay more than this anyway. Direct wages for tipped employees must equate to $5.08 per hour — the state minimum wage minus the 2003 tip credit, which is $3.02.

Employer Responsibilities

Those employees who aren't currently being paid the minimum wage of $8.10 per hour should remind their employers of the increase. Employees who are not getting paid the current minimum wage must have the problem resolved, or they can sue their employers to recover both their back unpaid wages and attorney's fees.

Employers are required to post notices regarding the minimum wage in a widely visible place in every establishment. This poster is available from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity online. Failure to comply with these regulations can subject employers to a $1,000 fine for each violation of the law.

The $15/Hour Question

Many people from all over the nation are still asking for a $15/hour minimum wage. This issue is one that has dominated many economic and political discussions across the nation. Two of the largest economies in the nation, New York and California, have both passed laws which will raise their minimum wages gradually to $15 per hour over the next several years. 

This decision has been met with both criticism and support, but the real world effects will be watched closely all across the country. It's been debated by legislators in Florida even though it has yet to be passed. The nonpartisan watchdog group, Florida TaxWatch, has issued warnings that a $15/hour minimum wage would have serious consequences to the job and business market. About 2 percent of workers, or 183,000 people, across the state currently earn minimum wage.

Even still, such an increase in minimum wage would increase labor costs in the state by around $2 billion as employers would be forced to also raise other wages affecting up to 50 percent of the work force, or risk devaluing education and skilled labor. In addition, most minimum wage workers are employed in small profit-margin industries such as retail and restaurants. This would result in commensurate price increases which could offset the new earnings.

Independent Increases

Many opponents of the $15/hour mandatory minimum have pointed out that it's better for businesses to raise internal wages on their own. This is happening in a variety of businesses across Florida. As minimum wage is steadily, if incrementally, increasing, many businesses are choosing to implement company wages that are above both federal and state requirements.

Even still, most companies are on record as saying that they may not be able to absorb the consequences of such a hefty increase as $15 per hour. For a full-time employee, this level of wage would amount to $31,200 annually. It would also necessitate raising those currently earning up to this amount by a commensurate level, which would be a devastating increase in labor costs, particularly for small businesses.

Overtime Minimum Wage

Even those earning minimum wage are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. This overtime is at least 1.5 times the standard hourly wage for every hour over 40 that is worked. This is guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. Those employees who do not receive minimum wage can file a claim with the Florida Department of Labor to collect unpaid wages.

Training Wages

In addition, under federal and state law there are exceptions to minimum wage. Employees who are under 20-years-old can be paid $4.25 for training wages for up to 90 days. In addition, student workers who are in work study programs or similar programs can be paid 85 percent of the state's minimum wage — equating to $6.89 an hour — for up to 20 hours a week. Finally, those who earn tips for their jobs can be paid less than the total minimum wage, but the wage that they are paid, plus their tips, must equate to at least the current state minimum wage of $8.10 per hour, which the state sets as an hourly rate of $5.08 per hour plus tips.

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