After a few months of unemployment, you get a job offer. It pays minimum wage. Happy to have some income again, you gladly take it.
Then your new employer starts paying you just $7.25 per hour. This feels too low to you, but you realize you’re not sure what they’re obligated to pay. Is this fair and legal?
It is not. Technically, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour. This is the minimum that all states have to meet. Some employers may try to use this as an excuse to pay you so little.
However, the minimum wage in New Jersey is set at $8.60 per hour. In a case where the two are not the same, you generally need to get paid the higher wage. This means you have to get at least $8.60, regardless of what your employer says about federal requirements.
In some states, they simply set the state minimum wage at the exact same amount as the federal wage. In others, they have no state laws at all, so it defaults to the federal wage. Most states, though, have their own minimums in place, and they are often higher than the federal limit.
For instance, the minimum wage in New York is $10.40 and the wage in Washington state is $11.50 per hour.
New employees often feel nervous to speak up when they think something is wrong, and some employers may try to take advantage of this situation. You absolutely need to know all the legal options you have if wage and hour laws are violated.