Determining Minimum Wages For Federal Employees

Some state or local governments have minimum wages that are higher than the federal government. OPM explains how to reconcile the differences.

Some State and local governments are establishing or increasing a minimum wage higher than the Federal minimum wage established under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has received queries regarding the applicability of minimum wages established by State and local governments to Federal employees. OPM has now issued a memorandum to provide agencies with guidance on handline this issue.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) includes a minimum wage provision. This minimum wage standard is generally applicable to Federal employees unless they are exempt from the minimum wage requirements.

State and local government minimum wage laws are not binding on the Federal Government and its agencies because, under the preemption doctrine from the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Federal law supersedes conflicting State law. 

The FLSA minimum wage does not apply generally apply to employees who meet the executive, administrative, or professional exemption criteria; criminal investigators paid availability pay; certain computer employees; or border patrol agents. The FLSA minimum wage does not generally apply to employees who perform services during a workweek solely in foreign areas outside the United States. 

In the case of a Federal employee pay system such as the General Schedule where pay rates are fixed by statute, a statutory change would be needed to allow paying a State or local minimum wage. There is currently no administrative authority under which OPM could allow State or local minimum wages to supersede the GS statutory rates. 

When a Federal employee pay system gives an agency discretion in setting rates of pay, the agency may apply State and local minimum wages to covered employees as a matter of agency policy or through a collective bargaining agreement if this is applicable. However, the agency is being advised by OPM that it should make clear employees are not actually covered by the State or local minimum wage law or any appeal mechanisms established under such a law. 

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47