On May 1, 2021, Virginia became the first southern state to increase its minimum wage following several years of advocacy from workers’ rights groups, labor unions, and progressive lawmakers. The previous minimum wage in Virginia was $7.25, which is the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) since 2009. However, Virginia’s new minimum wage law, known as the Virginia Minimum Wage Act, raises the minimum wage gradually until it reaches $15 per hour by January 1, 2026. In this blog post, we will cover all you need to know about Virginia’s minimum wage, including the hourly rates, exemptions, exceptions, enforcement, and economic impact.
The Virginia Minimum Wage Act outlines a five-year phase-in schedule for the minimum wage increase, with the first raise occurring on May 1, 2020. The following are the hourly rates for Virginia’s minimum wage law:
– May 1, 2020 – $7.25
– January 1, 2021 – $9.50
– January 1, 2022 – $11.00
– January 1, 2023 – $12.00
– January 1, 2024 – $13.50
– January 1, 2025 – $15.00
The hourly rates will apply to most employees who work in Virginia, including full-time and part-time workers, temporary and seasonal workers, tipped employees, and agricultural workers. However, some workers may be exempted from the minimum wage law or subject to different hourly rates based on their employer, industry, or job duties.
The Virginia Minimum Wage Act provides some exemptions from the minimum wage law for certain categories of workers who may be paid less than the hourly rates mentioned above. These exemptions include:
– Workers under 18 years old who work fewer than 40 hours per week
– Domestic service workers who live in the employer’s home
– Workers with disabilities who are enrolled in vocational rehabilitation or sheltered workshops
– Farmworkers who are paid based on the number of units they harvest (e.g., per bushel)
– Some apprentices and learners who receive training on the job for a limited time
– Employees who receive tips, such as restaurant servers, bartenders, and hairdressers
For tipped employees, the Virginia Minimum Wage Act establishes a lower minimum wage rate of $2.13 per hour, provided that the combined amount of their tips and wages equals or exceeds the minimum wage. If the employee’s tips do not reach the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference to ensure they receive at least the minimum wage.
In addition to the exemptions listed above, the Virginia Minimum Wage Act includes some exceptions that allow employers to pay different hourly rates to certain workers based on various factors. These exceptions include:
– Youth minimum wage – for workers under 20 years old during the first 90 calendar days of employment, the employer may pay a lower hourly rate of $4.25.
– Training wage – for workers who are enrolled in certified training programs approved by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, the employer may pay a lower hourly rate of 75% of the minimum wage for the first 90 calendar days of employment.
– Subminimum wage – for workers with disabilities who perform work that requires special skills or training, the employer may obtain a certificate from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to pay a subminimum wage based on a productivity level that is lower than the state minimum.
The Virginia Minimum Wage Act authorizes the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) to enforce the law, investigate complaints, and impose penalties on employers who violate the law. The DOLI may conduct audits and inspections of employers to ensure they comply with the minimum wage law and maintain accurate records of their employee’s wages and hours worked.
Employers who fail to pay the minimum wage or who retaliate against workers who complain about wage violations may be subject to civil penalties, fines, and injunctions. In addition, workers who have been underpaid may file a complaint with the DOLI or seek legal action to recover their back pay, liquidated damages, and attorney’s fees.
The implementation of Virginia’s minimum wage law has generated contrasting views from various stakeholders regarding its economic impact. Supporters argue that the minimum wage increase will provide a much-needed boost to low-wage workers’ income and alleviate poverty and inequality. They contend that higher wages will stimulate consumer spending, which in turn will create more jobs and benefit local businesses and the state’s economy.
Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the minimum wage increase will lead to job losses, reduced work hours, and higher prices for goods and services. They claim that small businesses, in particular, will struggle to absorb the higher labor costs and may have to cut back on hiring or close down altogether. They also warn that the minimum wage increase could worsen the unemployment rate, especially for unskilled and inexperienced workers, and create a disincentive to invest in automation and technology.
Virginia’s minimum wage law represents a significant milestone in the state’s labor history and signals a growing national trend toward raising the minimum wage to a livable wage level. The hourly rates, exemptions, exceptions, enforcement, and economic impact of Virginia’s minimum wage law reflect complex social, political, and economic issues that require careful consideration and analysis. As Virginia continues to implement its minimum wage law, it remains to be seen whether its benefits will outweigh its costs and whether it will serve as a model for other states to follow.