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How Michigan’s Minimum Wage Laws Protect Employees

Jan 3, 2022

Michigan’s minimum wage laws are the state’s way of creating a fair balance between the rights and duties of its employers and employees. Your employer is legally obligated to pay you the wage rate set out by your state. The wage rate is typically adjusted annually in Michigan, with the next scheduled increase set for January 2022.

What is the Standard Minimum Wage?

Michigan has a statewide minimum wage. The payment rate for 2021 under the Michigan Workers Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA) is $9.65.

Under WOWA, an employee who works over 40 hours a week must be paid overtime.

The current rate for overtime is one-and-half times the individual’s regular pay. This equates to a minimum rate for overtime of $14.48 per hour.

Before 2015, some cities and counties created living wage ordinances. The Michigan government banned this practice. Since January 1, 2015, cities and counties are not permitted to set their own rates. However, living wage ordinances that were in existence before that date may be enforced through the appropriate city or county agency. In some cases, the complainant may file a claim in court.

Are There Special Rules for Tipped Employees?

There are special rules for employees who regularly receive tips, like servers or bartenders. They must be paid the minimum wage and overtime. The current minimum pay rate for tipped employees is $3.67 per hour.

However, the employer may offset what is known as a tip credit from the minimum wage figure. The employee, therefore, receives some of their pay from the employer and the rest from tips. Tipped rates for employees in Michigan must be no less than one and half times the minimum wage rate of $3.67 per hour.

The employee’s total payment from tips and wages must still equal the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the state’s laws. This can lead to disputes between employers and employees.

Are There Other Special Employee Groups?

WOWA does permit a lower minimum wage for some specific groups of employees.

Michigan employers may pay 16- and 17-year-old employees $8.50 per hour (which is 85% of the standard rate).

16- to 19-year-olds may be paid $4.65 for the first 90 days of employment during training. The state’s laws protect employees paid at the minimum wage rate by banning employers from replacing them or reducing their hours with minors or low-paid trainees.

What Are the Most Common Wage Violations?

There are two types of wage violations that can occur in Michigan. These are direct and indirect violations, both serious, and require you to seek legal representation.

  • Direction violation: You are paid less than the minimum wage applicable to you
  • Indirect violation: Your employer pays you at the correct rate but makes improper deductions

Common wage violations include:

  • Payment below the required minimum wage hourly rate
  • Payment below the required hourly rates of overtime pay
  • Taking improper deductions that reduce an employee’s wages below minimum wage
  • Failure to pay the employee for all the hours they worked
  • Failure to make up the difference when tips earned by tipped employees do not reach the minimum wage
  • Improperly charging employees for items such as uniforms, cash register shortages, store losses, or equipment
  • Misclassifying workers to make them exempt from overtime requirements

Don’t settle for less than the wages you are legally owed. Your employer cannot fault you for seeking legal counsel if they fail to pay you the agreed-upon wage or the minimum wage set out by the state.

What Can I Do If My Minimum Wage Rights are Violated?

If you have been paid less than you are due, you may file a lawsuit against your employer. If the amount is $6,000 or less, you are entitled to file a small claims suit under WOWA. If the amount is over $6,000, you may be able to file in the state’s courts.

You also have the option, under WOWA, to file a claim with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program.

Hire an Attorney to Protect Your Wages

These legal processes can be complex. Your choice of which court or authority to file in determines what legal documents are required. They may not be the same for each court. It is a good idea to seek legal advice before filing your claim.

Michigan employment law attorneys at Fieger Law can help you understand the processes for recovering your underpaid wages. Our employment law attorneys have experience in these types of cases across the U.S. and are passionate about ensuring employees’ rights are protected.

If your minimum wage rights have been violated in Michigan or elsewhere in the U.S., contact one of our lawyers to schedule a no-obligation consultation.