Minimum wage law is enacted under the U.S. Department of Labor’s FairPay Rules that prohibits employers from hiring employees and workers for less than a given hourly, daily, or monthly minimum wage. Today, more than 90% of countries have some form of law for minimum wage earners. Minimum wage amounts vary from state to state and country to country.

The first moves to legislate wages did not set minimum wages. The laws instead created arbitration boards and councils to resolve wage disputes. The evolution of minimum wage into what it is today can be seen in the following timeline.

1896The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of New Zealand creates arbitration boards for wage disputes.
1899The colony of Victoria, Austria creates similar arbitration boards
1907Australia establishes a “living wage” for man, wife, and 2 children to “live in frugal comfort”, set by the Harvester Decision.
1909Trade Boards Act in the United Kingdom establishes 4 arbitration boards handling wage disputes.
1912Australia establishes a “living wage” for a man, wife, and 2 children to “live in frugal comfort”, set by the Harvester Decision.
1923Massachusetts and the United States set minimum wages for women and children.
1938National minimum wage standards were set as statutory in the United States with the introduction of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
1960’sMinimum wage laws were introduced in Latin America as part of the Alliance for Progress; however, their minimum wages are much lower than the U.S.
2007The Supreme Court strikes down a Washington, D.C. minimum wage law, finding that it impeded the worker’s rights to set their own price for their labor.

Current minimum wage law in the United States is mandated by the guidelines set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA Laws).  The Fair Minimum Wage Act, signed into law on May 25, 2007, has implemented three increases to the federal minimum wage set by FLSA.  The first increase was from $5.15 an hour to $5.85 per hour on July 24, 2007.  It then increased to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008, and finally to $7.25 an hour on July 24, 2009.

Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee are the only states that have not yet set a minimum wage law.

The first “wage” law was instituted in Australia and New Zealand in the 1890s.  However, this law did not set a minimum wage, rather it created arbitration boards. Frequent, bitter strikes from disgruntled workers created a need for a law that designated arbitration boards and counsels to settle wage disputes.  The colony of Victoria, Austria was not far behind, creating similar arbitration boards.  Still, a standard wage amount was never addressed until 1907 when Australia established a “living wage” for man, wife, and 2 children to “live in frugal comfort”. The U.S. and Massachusetts set a minimum wage for women and children in 1912, but it was not until 1938 that a statutory minimum wage was set as a national standard under the Fair Labor Standards Act

Minimum wages were first proposed as a way to control the proliferation of sweatshops and manufacturing industries. The current national standard for minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 an hour, however, there are a handful of states that pay even more than the standard minimum, and others that are set at less. If you are not being paid at least the minimum wage set forth in the FLSA minimum wage regulations, a minimum wage attorney may be able to help you recover the unpaid wages you may be entitled to receive.

Michael Lore is the founder of The Lore Law Firm. For over 25 years, his law practice and experience extend from representing individuals in all aspects of labor & employment law, with a concentration in class and collective actions seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages, to matters involving executive severance negotiations, non-compete provisions and serious personal injury (work and non-work related). He has handled matters both in the state and federal courts nationwide as well as via related administrative agencies. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Michael by using our chat functionality.