What Is a Wage Order? What Are the Compliance Requirements?

By Kris Janisch
Published Sept. 5, 2023

What Is a Wage Order?

What are the employment law compliance requirements for wage orders?

What is a wage order?

Employment law compliance continues to be a challenge for employers with locations across the country. And one sometimes-overlooked area is wage orders. What are they? Which jurisdictions have them? What are the compliance requirements?

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What Is a Wage Order?

Starting with the basics, wage orders are:

Regulations that set out certain requirements for employers, including workplace standards, meal and rest breaks, and/or wage rates (which may differ from the general minimum wage), for employees working in a specific industry.

Meanwhile, some wage orders also require covered employers in those industries to display the associated labor law poster. (They are generally lengthy documents.)

For the purposes of this piece, we will focus on the some of the specifics of wage orders in the three states that require an associated labor law poster:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • New York

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California Wage Orders

As might be expected, California leads the way in terms of wage orders. There are 17 industry-specific wage orders in all. Find more information on classification of employees and industries on California’s website.

In order to determine which Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Order applies to an employer or a business, it is first necessary to determine if a business is covered by an industry order. An industry order (IWC Orders 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13) regulates wages, hours and working conditions in specific industries. An order is an industry order if the title of the order contains the word “industry.” Otherwise, the order is an occupational order (IWC Orders 4, 14, 15, 16 and 17). Wage, hour and working condition regulations contained in an occupational order only apply when a business is not covered by an industry order.

Below are those specific industries, along with their related posters, which must be displayed in a conspicuous place. (There is also a wage order related to California minimum wage.)

Connecticut Wage Orders

Connecticut has far fewer wage orders than California, just two industries, though there are separate posters for organizations that employ minors:

  • Mercantile and Retail (Minimum Wage) and Mercantile and Retail – Minors (Minimum Wage)
  • Restaurant and Food Service (Minimum Wage) and Restaurant and Food Service – Minors (Minimum Wage)

Businesses that employ minors should also note that both of these wage orders were recently updated. While not as lengthy as the wage orders in California, those in Connecticut do contain a fair among of information, including minimum fair wage rates, penalties and more.

Learn more about Connecticut minimum wage.

New York State Wage Orders

Lastly, we come to New York State wage orders. Again, like the wage order posters covered above, they must be displayed by covered employers in a conspicuous place where employees can read them.

Notably, the state may have done away with its wage order for the apparel industry.

Based on the latest information on the New York State wage order website, a previous requirement regarding employees in the apparel industry seems to have been discontinued. Via the info from the state website as of Aug. 30, 2023, there are three active wage orders:

  • Hospitality Industry/Fast Food Workers
  • Farming Workers
  • Building Service Industry

As an active state in terms of employment law, New York State minimum wage has several items to consider (in addition to industry-specific labor law posters).

New York Hospitality Industry/Fast Food Workers Wage Order

Starting with the Hospitality Industry/Fast Food Workers wage order, the state provides several resources for employers:

Under the wage order, it includes many of the items seen above, including rates and tip credits, overtime, meals and lodging, etc. But there are several other items of note for employers in this sector to monitor, such as call-in pay, recordkeeping and more.

Farming Workers Wage Order in New York State

Again, New York State provides resources for employers:

The 16-page wage order for farm workers in New York State offers expansive definitions, information on rehabilitation and vocational programs, and posting and notification requirements.

Building Service Industry

Finally, in terms of the New York wage order regarding the building service, state officials outline the:

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What Is a Wage Order? Conclusion

What is a wage order? Something for compliance teams to monitor, for sure.

Those in charge of their organization’s labor law poster program might be surprised at the additional wage order requirements, especially in the states of California, Connecticut and New York.

As always, employers should consult legal counsel to fully determine the labor law poster and minimum wage requirements for their organizations.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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