Missouri Minimum Wage Law
Phillip Murphy firmly believes that all workers are entitled to receive at least minimum wage for each and every hour worked, plus time and a half for every hour of overtime. Employers, in their attempts to maximize production and minimize cost, often forget to take their employees’ rights into consideration. As a result, many of their payment practices are illegal.
In Missouri, the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (MMWL) serves as the state law companion to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the law, employers are required to pay all non-exempt (hourly) employees minimum wage for the first 40 hours of work, plus time and a half for all overtime. In addition, the MMWL provides for attorneys’ fees, as well as liquidated damages in the amount of twice the employee’s unpaid wages. As with the FLSA, the MMWL defines “employee” very broadly, and employers often misclassify employees as independent contractors.
The following workers are the most common victims of wage theft: Waiters and bar tenders, manufacturing workers, assembly line workers, mortgage brokers who work on commission, drivers of cars and couriers, and people who do work as independent contractors.
If you have been a victim of wage theft, do not hesitate in setting up a consultation. Phillip Murphy is very experienced in handling wage and hour cases and obtaining very favorable results for his clients.
What is the Minimum Wage in Missouri?
While the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, Missouri laws ensure workers receive at least a $12.00 per hour wage. That includes employees who work for tips, like waiters. In Missouri, employers are allowed to pay tipped workers half the minimum wage rate – $6.00 per hour, so long as they follow certain rules. In short, employers must provide the following notice, and they must comply with its requirements:
- The amount of the direct (or cash) wage the employer is paying a tipped employee, which must be at least $6.00 per hour;
- The additional amount claimed by the employer as a tip credit, may not exceed $6.00 (the difference between the minimum required direct (or cash) wage of $6.00 and the current minimum wage of $12.00);
- The tip credit claimed by the employer cannot exceed the amount of tips actually received by the tipped employee;
- All tips received by the tipped employee are to be retained by the employee except for a valid tip pooling arrangement limited to employees who customarily and regularly receive tips; and
- The tip credit will not apply to any tipped employee unless the employee has been informed of these tip credit provisions.
Employers who fall short (either intentionally or unintentionally), and do not pay the minimum wage, can be sued by employees to collect the full amount of back wages due, plus twice the amount they were shorted as liquidated damages. In Missouri, the employer is also liable for the costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the employee.
Note that the Missouri Division of Labor Standards is not authorized by law to pursue an employee’s wage claim in Court. Instead, an employee is entitled to hire a private attorney to pursue an action to collect any unpaid wages.
Understanding Missouri Wage Laws
For the most part, the federal law applies to nearly every workplace compensation-related issue in Missouri.
Overtime Pay for Missouri Workers: Like the FLSA, Missouri state labor laws on overtime pay require employers to pay time-and-a-half for all hours worked over 40 per week, unless an employee is classified as exempt (salaried). Notably, an employer doesn’t violate overtime laws by requiring employees to work overtime, (ie “mandatory overtime”), as long as they are properly compensated in accordance with labor laws.
Independent Contractors: Missouri employers are not allowed to mischaracterize employee roles to avoid paying overtime compensation. Giving a worker an independent contractor title, or even entering into a written contract for services, is not enough to avoid the labor laws on overtime pay. While there is no single definition of “independent contractor” under Missouri labor laws, there are several factors to be considered in determining if a worker is a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor. If a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor, they are typically only eligible for the specific compensation agreed to in their service contract. Here are some of the common factors that courts use to analyze whether workers are employees or independent contractors:
- The extent to which the services rendered are an integral part of the principal’s business.
- The permanency of the relationship.
- The amount of the alleged contractor’s investment in facilities and equipment.
- The nature and degree of control by the principal.
- The alleged contractor’s opportunities for profit and loss.
- The amount of initiative, judgment, or foresight in open market competition with others required for the success of the claimed independent contractor.
- The degree of independent business organization and operation.
“Salaried” Workers: Employees engaged in executive, administrative, or professional capacities (and paid at least $35,568 annually) are exempt from the overtime requirement. This, however, is another area in which employers commonly misclassify their workers. To qualify for the exemption, the following criteria must be met:
- The employee must be compensated on a salary basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $684* per week;
- The employee’s primary duty must be managing the enterprise, or managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise;
- The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent; and
- The employee must have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or the employee’s suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees must be given particular weight.
If you have questions about this, or if you think your employer may have misclassified you, please contact us.
Work Breaks: Missouri labor laws do not require employers to provide employees a break of any kind, including a lunch hour. Break times are provided only at the discretion of the employer. There is one exception to this rule: the entertainment industry DOES require breaks and rest periods for youth workers. A youth cannot work more than five and one-half hours without a meal break. Additionally, a 15-minute rest period (which counts as work time) is required after each two hours of continuous work for youth in the entertainment industry.
All of this stated, if your employer requires you to work through your scheduled break time, and fails to pay you for it, this is illegal. If your employer has you performing work-related activities during break time, in order to keep your hours under 40, this, too, is illegal.
Vacation Days: Missouri state laws do not require that employers offer vacation days or unpaid leave to employees.
Statute of Limitations: Like Kansas, the deadline for filing an overtime claim in Missouri adheres to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that employees file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the employer’s wage violation. For example, a lawsuit filed today to seek recovery of back overtime would only apply to the overtime accrued in the prior 2 years. The statute of limitations may be extended to three years if an employer’s violation of the FLSA was willful. An FLSA violation is deemed willful if the employer knew that its conduct was prohibited by the FLSA or showed reckless disregard.