It’s time for a $15 minimum wage in Texas

The Texas Minimum Wage Act establishes minimum wage for nonexempt employees in Texas. It has adopted the federal minimum wage, and currently minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. This is too low for anybody to live on, and it is shocking when you consider how much exempt employees such as CEOs of corporations and professionals can make. Since the federal minimum wage hasn’t been changed since 2009, it has not kept pace with inflation, and what that $7.25 minimum wage represents is much less than what it previously meant.

The Texas Minimum Wage Act also provides for agricultural piece rate workers, exempts certain employers, allows employers to count trips and the value of meals and lodging toward their employees’ minimum wage, and specifies civil remedies for violations.

With specified restrictions, employers may use an employee’s tips and the value of meals and lodging toward the minimum wage that must be paid. The law also specifies that those who live at the job site for on-call time do not need to be paid in addition to their assigned working time. Certain other employees who have productivity impairments, have mental health or development problems, or are of a certain age may also be paid sub-minimum wage.

Those covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are exempted from the Texas Minimum Wage Law, as are certain other employees, including those employed by nonprofits, professionals, salespeople, public officials, domestic help, certain youths, inmates, amusement and recreational workers, those in production of livestock, and employees at sheltered workshops.

Under the existing minimum wage, workers protected only by the Texas Minimum Wage Act need to take on second jobs to get by. There is no prohibition against employees bargaining collectively to get a better wage, but this ignores the hardship imposed on workers at small businesses who will still be left with a minimum wage that ignores cost of living increases. A higher minimum wage is a primary reason for wage inequality between lower- and middle-income workers.

In the coming years, California and New York will have minimum wages of $15. In the short term, this may seem like it’s good for the economy because there may be a certain initial movement by coastal employers to Texas. However, these employers will not be able to find sufficient qualified workers to do necessary and important jobs, since those workers will move to California or New York in search of a better wage. The wealth inequality in Texas will only grow and produce more resentment.

Workers in lower wage industries such as food service and retail, who already face significant hardships in connection with obtaining fair pay under the law, will see their standard of living deteriorate further. This is going to motivate those workers to move, resulting in a decline in the quality of leisure and hospitality businesses in Texas.

Ultimately, this decline in quality affects the quality of life for other workers in Dallas, including professionals and business people who are paid far more than $15/hour. The more workers who have disposable income, the more they spend on goods and services, which results in businesses having more customers and being able to afford to hire more workers.

Those who believe they have been paid lower than what the law requires can file suit. You have two years from the date you’re owed wages to file a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages plus liquidated damages. It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced minimum wage lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.

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