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W.Va.: State Raises Minimum Wage

By Joanne Deschenaux  4/4/2014
 

W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed legislation April 1, 2014, that will increase the state’s hourly minimum wage by $1.50 an hour—from $7.25 to $8.75—over the next two years. The wage rate will go up to $8 on Jan. 1, 2015, and increase to $8.75 the following Jan. 1,

The bill is set to take effect June 6, but it needs more work to eliminate “some unintended consequences relating to overtime compensation and maximum hours worked,” Tomblin, a Democrat, said at the signing ceremony.

To address these issues, the state legislature will hold a special session set to begin May 19, the governor said.

Bill Limits Use of Federal Overtime Exemptions

Provisions in the current bill would prevent nearly all employers covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from using federal overtime exemptions, greatly increasing the number of employees who would have to be paid time and a half for work beyond 40 hours a week.

Employee classifications that would be affected include seasonal and recreational workers, firefighters, police officers, hospital and residential care employees, and computer professionals, Tomblin said, noting that this would put a financial burden on both the private and public sectors.

“To the extent that enactment of this bill causes concern to local governments, agencies and interests from the private sector, the House of Delegates stands willing to continue working with Governor Tomblin and the Senate to ensure that the increased minimum wage has no adverse impact on the overtime laws that employers in the state are accustomed to following,” Democratic House Speaker Tim Miley said in a prepared statement.

Miley and Senate President Jeffrey V. Kessler, also a Democrat, have said that the bill's “unintended consequences” will be resolved during the special legislative session, according to Tomblin.

Impact on Business

Although opposition to the bill focused on the overtime issues, some Republican legislators said that raising the minimum wage would increase the costs for West Virginia businesses and hurt firms that compete with businesses in other states.

The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce asked Tomblin to veto the minimum wage bill, saying its effects would be particularly harmful to businesses near the state's borders, adding that the wage increase would make West Virginia “an outlier among the states for economic development and job creation.”

The state minimum wage is applicable to all employers who have six or more employees, or smaller employers that are engaged in interstate commerce.

The West Virginia Senate passed the bill March 8 by a 20-14 vote; the House of Delegates passed it Feb. 12 on an 89-5 vote.

West Virginia has not increased its minimum wage since 2008.

Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., is SHRM’s senior legal editor.

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