Which minimum wage applies – federal, state, or local?

Question:

I work in San Francisco as a dishwasher at a restaurant, but I’m confused about how much I’m supposed to get paid. I’ve heard that the city has a higher minimum wage than California. Which law should my employer follow?

Answer:

It can be confusing when you’re dealing with three different sets of laws: those of your city, your state, and the country. Fortunately, when it comes to minimum wage laws, the rule is simple: The highest minimum wage applies.

Federal law sets the base wage for all workers in the United States (A small number of workers are exempt from the minimum wage requirements; for more information see When Must Employers Pay the Minimum Wage?) Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. While states cannot go below the federal minimum, they can establish higher minimum pay rates. California has consistently done so, with the current minimum wage set at $9.00 per hour. Large cities, such as San Francisco, often set their own minimum wages to account for a higher cost of living. The minimum wage in San Francisco is currently $10.74 per hour. Your employer is required to post all three minimum wage rates at the workplace. And you’re entitled to earn the highest wage – in your case, $10.74 per hour because you work in San Francisco.

Because the minimum wage is constantly adjusted to account for inflation and other factors, you should regularly check with the local office of your state’s labor department for the current minimum wage.

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