A Portland, Maine, emergency minimum wage rate was activated over the weekend due to Hurricane Lee.
Under a referendum passed in the city during the pandemic, minimum wage workers must be paid hazard pay of 1.5 times the normal minimum wage during a public emergency, which the Maine governor declared Thursday, Sept. 14.
The state of emergency was suspended Sunday, Sept. 17.
Minimum Wage Management. Simplified.
Portland Emergency Minimum Wage
During a state of emergency, employers must pay minimum wage workers the Portland emergency rate, which currently is:
- $21 per hour
- $10.50 per hour for tipped employees
The increased rate should have been paid to minimum wage employees Sept. 14 through Sept. 17.
While many of the hazard and hero pay minimum wage regulations from the COVID-19 pandemic have been removed from laws, the provision in Portland was never repealed. Failure to comply can trigger civil liability, back pay and a minimum fine of $100 per day an employer is out of compliance.
The Portland, Maine, minimum wage ordinance defines an “employer” as an:
Individual, group of individuals, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any other entity or group of persons or entities who employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of any employee and who has a place of business within the city limits.
Meanwhile, an employee is defined as any “person who performs work for an employer for monetary compensation within the municipal limits of the city.” Therefore, most employees performing work within Portland city limits were eligible for the increased hazard pay minimum wage Sept. 14-17.
Employers should note, however, that Portland’s emergency minimum wage provision does not apply to “work performed under a teleworking arrangement, as defined under 5 U.S.C. section 6501, allowing the employee to work from home.”
As a reminder, the normal minimum wage in Portland, Maine, is:
- $7 for tipped employees
Those rates are effective as of Jan. 1, 2023.
Minimum Wage Compliance Resources
Managing Minimum Wage Rates
The unique situation with the Portland emergency minimum wage rate illustrates the challenges of managing compliance across the U.S.
From the potential passage of a minimum wage rate for fast food workers in California to the myriad local jurisdictions enacting their own ordinances, the complexities continue to grow. In fact, there are 130 jurisdictions with a minimum wage rate higher than the federal minimum wage:
- 31 states (including Washington D.C.)
- 45 counties
- 54 cities
Meanwhile, employers also have to monitor ballot measures, adjustments to existing laws (as was the case recently with Maryland minimum wage), industry-specific rates and more.
At the same time, the “Fight for $15” has shifted to the “Fight for $20” as a new minimum wage push. In the years since fast food workers in New York City walked off the job in an effort to secure higher wages, dozens of jurisdictions have passed new laws. And many of these are at the city level, where several rates have long since passed the $15 threshold (check out California minimum wage, for example).
With little movement on a federal rate increase, advocates and lawmakers are pushing for higher wages in New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere. (New York Minimum Wage Update.)
Plus, new rates often come with updated labor law posters. For examples, look to the July 1, 2023, minimum wage updates that required new posters.
Employers with locations in Portland, Maine, should ensure they were paying the correct minimum wage during the recent state of emergency.
The increased rate applied from Sept. 14 through Sept. 17, when employers were to pay $21 per hour and $10.50 per hour for tipped employees.