UPDATE: Concerns about Overtime Provision in W.Va. Minimum Wage Law

By: Andrew Colegrove; Olivia Fecteau Email
By: Andrew Colegrove; Olivia Fecteau Email
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UPDATE 4/2/14 @ 5:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Minimum wage workers in West Virginia will be getting bigger paychecks starting Jan. 1, 2015, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a minimum wage bill into law this week.

But it could cost cities hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay to workers in certain professions starting in June. Cities say that's a cost they can't bear.

"They can raise it to $30 an hour for all I care. It has nothing to do with us," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said of the minimum wage hike.

Instead, he is worried about a section of the bill that deals with overtime provisions. The new law would require all workers to be paid for overtime if they work more than 40 hours in one week.

"They get paid while they're asleep," Jones said, referring to firefighters. "So, the federal government recognizes different rules for people like that."

Currently, workers like firefighters, health care workers and seasonal workers with unusual schedules are exempt from laws that require that overtime. Firefighters, for example, work 24-hour shifts and are typically scheduled for two shifts each week, so their workweek is 48 hours.

When the new law takes effect, they would be "eligible for overtime quicker, and it's going to cost us more," Charleston City Manager David Molgaard said.

Firefighters would receive at least eight hours of overtime pay each week under the new law, and as many as 32 hours of overtime if they work an additional shift. Molgaard said the city would have to reduce the number of hours firefighters work to afford the extra cost.

"They would probably take a haircut, if we have to -- if we're forced to implement this schedule," Molgaard said.

Tomblin said the exemptions have been in place for 30 years, and his goal is to fix that part of the law before it takes effect in June.

"It's very important that we put those exceptions back in the bill to keep from really upsetting many professions out there," Tomblin said.

Tomblin said he plans to call a special session to fix the wording of the overtime provision when the state legislature meets in May.

The new minimum wage law will increase minimum wage in West Virginia to $8.75 during the next two years. That will take effect Jan. 1, 2015.

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ORIGINAL STORY 4/1/14 @ 10:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than 100,000 minimum wage workers in West Virginia can soon expect to start getting bigger pay checks.

However, some are concerned about the fine print on overtime changes in a bill Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law Tuesday evening.

Tomblin is asking state lawmakers to change the law before it takes effect because of what he calls unintended consequences.

"Basically what we'd always operated under was the federal exemptions, that being for seasonal employees, places like hospitals, nursing homes,” Tomblin said at the Capitol before he signed the bill. “There's a problem there. There are a lot of problems with our police departments and fire departments."

Critics, including Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, have criticized the overtime language in the law, which overrules federal exemptions and would cost cities hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jones says the law would cost Charleston an extra $700,000 in the overtime it would have to pay firefighters.

“We don’t have it, and we’re not going to spend it,” Jones said.

Tomblin said he'll call a special session in May to address those overtime concerns and make changes before it goes into effect in June.

The law increases minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 by 2016. It's the first such increase in West Virginia since 2008.

Peter Ambler works in marketing but has a side job at Starbucks making minimum wage, bringing in extra cash to provide for his family.

Ambler is not necessarily in favor of a minimum wage increase.

"Wherever the extra money is coming from has to be paid for by someone," Ambler said.

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