Not all minimum wage laws are the same. Rules for overtime (OT) and rates of pay are not identical but vary by location.
A substantial minority of all American States have special overrides that offer superior worker treatment beyond the U.S. Department of Labor Wage-Hour Division Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) terms. Those with oddball pay rules add up to maybe 1/3 of the total at present but that count is constantly changing.
A handful of States have crafted specific exceptions worthy of another full free-standing article. Folks operating in the affected industries in those areas probably already know complete details of the local terms, but HR people everywhere should be aware of the broad types of variations. After all, workers come from all sorts of places where their pay would have been subject to different regulatory schemes and therefore may be puzzled by your particular practices. Different State (or Canadian Province) usually means different rules.
Keeping track of all existing local variations is a challenge. U.S. Federal wage rules are quite consistent, with only a few oddities: American Samoa was granted special exemption advantages for the movie industry, for example. Beyond having different minimum wage levels, some State overtime rules also vary by the kind of job involved.
States that run amok on their OT laws' occupational exceptions include DC, KS, MO, AK, CA, CO, and the Virgin Islands. They declare certain jobs exempt regardless of FLSA treatment. Here's a test: Guess which state makes prisoners exempt? Which say professional actors and babysitters are not entitled to overtime? And guess why?!
What: CO, CA, WV, WI WA and maybe IN declare certain jobs non-exempt overtime eligible despite their federal exempt status.
Why: Reasons are politically determined per the State. CA, CO, KS, MO, VT and VI follow the general pattern of exempting some or all workers in high-employment industries critical to their State economic welfare. Cynics may add that maybe some lobbyists are just more persua$ive than others.
Note that I haven't even addressed the local provisions based on the size of the employer.
Canadian minimum wage and overtime regulations might require a separate future article. Don't let the (fairly) common language fool you; different nations have different laws, cultures, practices and value systems. That all shows up in pay and therefore compels different HR approaches.
Canadian federal law is much weaker about specific minimum wages while extremely onerous in other respects. Canada forbids the exempt supervisor to do ANY of their nonexempt subordinates' work. Furthermore, the ten component Canadian provinces and three territories pretty much determine the norms and can make pay rules even more confusing there than in the United States.
Overall, states, provinces, cities and counties can all have their own separate minimum wage and overtime laws that exceed their respective federal rules. Feel free to correct my recollections or mention any unique provisions that I skipped over, especially those that made your professional life more interesting.
It's a legal jungle out there. Only way to be completely safe is to pay OT to every worker; but no one does that, do they? We just have to accept the hazards of dealing with ambiguity, where no one rule applies universally.
E. James (Jim) Brennan is an independent compensation advisor with extensive total rewards experience. After corporate HR jobs and consulting in every industry throughout North America, he was Senior Associate of pay survey software publisher ERI before returning to consulting in 2015. A prolific writer (author of the Performance Management Workbook), speaker and frequent expert witness, Jim testified in many reasonable executive compensation cases. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review.
Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor