Florida’s minimum wage increases tomorrow to $7.31 per hour — a six cent increase. The minimum wage for tipped workers also increases by six cents, to $4.29 per hour. These increases are the result of a recent circuit court decision in Leon County ruling that the state’s method of calculating minimum wage was incorrect under the Florida Constitution.
The Florida Constitution and the Florida Minimum Wage Act require the state to annually “calculate an adjusted state Minimum Wage rate by increasing the state Minimum Wage by the rate of inflation for the twelve months prior to each September 1 using the consumer price index (CPI) for urban wage earners and clerical workers….” Neither the Constitution nor the Act specifically addresses deflation in the computation of the minimum wage. Yet, due to a slight cost of living decrease during the 12-month period preceding September 1, 2009, the state lowered the state minimum wage rate in 2010 from $7.21 to $7.06, dropping it below the federal minimum wage. Then, in determining the 2011 rate, the state calculated an increase to $7.16 (still below the federal rate) based on a 1.4 percent cost of living increase during the 12-month period preceding September 1, 2010.
The court found that the state’s method for calculating the state minimum wage rate was incorrect because, based on the constitutional language, the minimum wage cannot be decreased. Soon after the ruling, a Florida Senate bill intended to amend the Act consistent with the state’s approach was withdrawn from consideration.
When the federal and Florida minimum wage rates differ, Florida employers are required to pay the higher rate. Tomorrow’s increase raises the Florida minimum wage above the $7.25 federal minimum wage rate. Thus, employers currently paying federal minimum wage to eligible workers in Florida must adjust their pay practices accordingly.