The attorneys at GillespieShields practice family, employment, civil, criminal, and immigration law.
As a wage-earning employee, the law guarantees you certain rights.
Attorney Christopher Houk has served as an employment attorney since 2005, representing many hard-working individuals. As an employee, it’s important for you to know and understand your rights. Your time is valuable, and you deserve to be compensated for the time you put in at work.
1. What is the Minimum Wage in Arizona?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal minimum wage law. Under the FLSA, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, and has remained so since 2009. However, Arizona’s minimum wage law, which was passed in 2006, requires Arizona’s minimum wage to increase annually with the Consumer Price Index—a measure of the average cost of living. A.R.S. § 23-363. Because the minimum wage under Arizona law is more generous, it takes precedence over the federal minimum wage.
Until 2016, the minimum wage in Arizona was $8.05/hour. As of January 1, 2019, Arizona’s minimum wage is now $11/hour, with an anticipated increase to $12/hour expected by 2020.
2. Are There Any Exceptions to the Minimum Wage?
Certain professions are exempt from receiving Arizona’s higher minimum wage. For example, neither a family member working for a family-run business nor a person who provides casual babysitting services can claim compensation under Arizona’s minimum wage law. Waiters or other workers who receive tips in addition to their wages may be paid up to $3 an hour less than the new minimum wage, as long as they earn $11/hour when tips are included. Federal, state and tribal workers are also largely exempt from Arizona’s higher wage.
Residents of Flagstaff, on the other hand, must be paid a minimum wage of $12/hour, which will be adjusted up to $15.50/hour by 2022. This is because residents of that city voted for higher increases to their minimum wage than the new state regulations required. Just as Arizona’s minimum wage is higher than the Federal minimum wage and therefore takes precedence over it, Flagstaff’s minimum wage law takes precedence over Arizona’s minimum wage.
3. What if my Employer Won’t Pay Minimum Wage?
Employers are required to follow all state and federal laws when paying their employees’ wages. Your employer cannot require you to work for less than the required minimum wage except in certain exceptional situations like those described above. Some employers may attempt to coerce their employees to make a verbal or written agreement to waive their right to a minimum wage. Any such waiver is automatically invalid and unenforceable.
If you believe you are owed less than $5,000 in unpaid wages, you may file a claim with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) within one year from the date the wages were due. If the ICA issues a decision and your employer does not comply with it within ten days, the penalty triples.
If, on the other hand, you believe you are owed more than $5,000, your only option is to file a claim in court within two years from when the violation last occurred (or within three years if the claim is willful). Thanks to a 2009 decision by the Ninth Circuit, Arizona employees can even sue their individual managers in their personal capacities under federal law for failing to pay their minimum wages. Boucher v. Shaw, 572 F.3d 1087, 1091 (9th Cir. 2009). If your claim is successful, your employer must pay you twice the wages owed, with interest. You will also automatically recover your attorney’s fees and the costs of the lawsuit. Typically, however, your employer will attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with you well before trial, assuming your suit has merit.
Employer retaliation against an employee who files a minimum wage claim is against both Arizona and Federal law. Arizona law also protects employees from retaliation who assist others in asserting a minimum wage claim.
Under Arizona law, an employer who fires an employee within 90 days after they file a minimum wage claim is presumed to have violated the law and will typically be required to pay no less than $150 for each day the violation continued plus unpaid wages, unpaid earned sick time, and attorney’s fees and costs. Under federal law, a wrongfully terminated employee may be entitled to get their job back, as well as back pay and “an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Contact an Attorney
If you are concerned that your employer may have violated the law when paying your wages, you should consider retaining a qualified employment attorney. Schedule a consultation with Christopher Houk today!
In addition to employment law, the attorneys at Gillespie, Shields, Goldfarb, Taylor and Houk are skilled in family, civil, criminal, probate, and immigration law. They are a fixture of the community and serve the Phoenix and Mesa areas. Schedule your consultation today.
The information contained on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for legal advice concerning your individual situation. We welcome you to contact us via phone, electronic mail, or through this website. However, contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send us confidential information until such time as an attorney-client relationship is established.