Sub Minimum Wages

Written by Kimberly Clark
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Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to pay their employees a federal minimum wage. The Department of Labor (DOL) mandated that beginning on September 1, 1997 that this wage be $5.15 per hour. As with most things, though, there are exceptions to this rule.

The FLSA has a provision in it which grants employers permission to pay certain workers wages below the federal minimum. This allowance is often referred to as sub minimum wages (SMW). Pay at this rate is permitted in hopes of preventing the loss of employment for these particular types of workers.

Youth Minimum Wage

The youth minimum wage is one example of a SMW. It allows employers to pay workers under the age of 20 an hourly wage of $4.25, but only for a limited amount of time. After the first 90 calendar days following the initial start of employment, the employer can no longer legally pay the youth worker the SMW.

Mentally and Physically Impaired

The FLSA also gives employers the right to pay some mentally and physically impaired individuals a sub minimum wage, based on their personal production level. Basically the provision applies to any impairment that hinders the person's ability to be productive on the job, thus the disability could be related to age, injury, addiction or genetics. To qualify for this exemption, the employer has to receive a special certification from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division, granting them sheltered workshop status. These organizations typically need to be mindful of keeping exact records of pay and hours worked in order to be able to prove compliancy; integrated software suites that track pay and productivity are usually the best way to guarantee accountability.


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