Few can quibble with the fact that 2015 has been a busy year for employment law. From historic pronouncements of the Supreme Court concerning fundamental and civil rights, to the Department of Labor’s release of guidance to curb misclassification and proposed new regulations to update the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” exemptions, to the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board’s warning that many employee handbooks and policies may be unlawful, it is difficult for employers to keep up with all the changes this year has brought. However, it is important for employers to recognize the trends and to implement changes as necessary to prepare their businesses for the future and to avoid liability in an era of ever-increasing regulation concerning the employer/employee relationship.
Perhaps one of the most significant trends to emerge in 2015, is a shift from a “minimum” to a “living” wage. This trend is evident from the Department of Labor’s proposed regulations significantly raising the minimum salary level for the “white collar” exemptions to the FLSA as well as by the push at the municipal, state, and federal levels to raise the minimum wage to $15.00/hour. Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco have already passed ordinances which will raise the minimum wage in their cities to $15.00/hour. And, just last month, New York’s fast food wage board recommended an increase to $15.00/hour for industry workers in that state. Simultaneous with that announcement, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced a bill which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15.00/hour by 2020, The “Pay Workers a Living Wage Act,” and Florida Sen. Dwight Bullard filed S.B. 6, which would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15.00/hour, effective January 1, 2017.