Should Arizona Minimum Wage be Lowered for Young People?

Can the Minimum Wage in Arizona Change for Younger Workers?

The state of Arizona has been making strides when it comes to paying a living wage. The minimum wage here is now well above the national average, sitting at $11 an hour right now. In 2022, that rose to $12.80 an hour and many individual municipalities in the state are discussing raising it even higher.

Over the last few years, we have heard a bunch of discussions on the issue of minimum wage. Major politicians around the country have pushed for an increase in minimum wages and we have seen many states raise theirs. That includes here in Arizona.

There are some lawmakers in the state that want to make it legal to pay younger people a lower wage. The bill in the state legislature, HB 2523, would allow employers to pay as little as $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage to those who are full-time students under the age of 22 who work less than 20 hours per week. The bill just advanced out of the House Committee on Regulatory Affairs.

Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, says, “Ultimately if this passes, I believe this will actually increase the number of jobs that are available and get more people in the workforce and help lower the youth unemployment.

Short History Of The Minimum Wage

The Arizona minimum wage has been going up for a few years and will continue to rise for a few more.  The voters approved these changes, not the Arizona legislature. That has left many in the legislature a little bit ticked off because they believe they should be the ones making wage changes. Historically in Arizona and around the country, Republicans have argued against a higher minimum wage, saying that it is a job killer. As with the current HB 2523 proposal, they say that a lower minimum wage will encourage employers to hire more people.

However, Democrats have argued that, as a society, we are making a decision to set a wage that “allows folks that do apply and get positions to then be able to support themselves and live lives that we feel are adequate for the circumstances,” says Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix.

What Is Going On?

Some Republican lawmakers have proposed allowing the minimum wage for workers under the age of 22 to be paid just $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum wage.

Yes, you read that right – lawmakers want to be able to pay people less than the current laws allow.

There are a few problems with this proposal. One problem we see is that this would result in clear age discrimination. Why should anyone who is asked to work the same job at the same amount of hours be paid less than any other worker?

The Arizona attorney general told the lawmakers that they have another problem – he says that the only way this proposal could pass is with a three-fourths vote to meet state constitution requirements.

This is due to the Voter Protection Act that prevents lawmakers from changing voter-approved laws, which the minimum wage hikes were.

The House passed the proposal in February with a 31-29 vote without any support from Democrats. The Senate Rules Committee delayed a vote after they requested more legal analysis on the proposal.

Is This Fair?

There will certainly be a spirited debate over this issue. Many people may not like the legislature attempting to undo some aspect of what the people have already said should be a fair wage. That being said, we send our elected officials to make decisions for us and trust they will make the right ones. Currently, along with many House and Senate Republicans, this measure is supported by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the National Federation of Independent Business. Both of those groups attempted to block the 2006 and 2016 minimum wage hikes through litigation.

There are many questions about whether or not lawmakers can even make a change like this due to the fact that it is the voters who have approved the minimum wage increases in Arizona, not the legislature. That means that the wage may be protected by the Voter Protection Act, essentially barring lawmakers from touching the wages.

What You Need To Know

You have the right to be paid a fair wage if you work in Arizona. Yes, many states do have a lower minimum wage. Some even choose to follow the federal minimum wage. However, that is not the case here.

According to the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must follow the minimum wages set forth in the locality. Along with a fair wage, workers in Arizona are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week unless they are exempt by law.

Please note that neither federal nor state law requires employers to pay for breaks or meal times for their workers. However, if an employer CHOOSES to give breaks, they must pay for shorter breaks (typically under 20 mins).

How An Employment Attorney Can Help Your Case

When you work in the state of Arizona, you have certain rights that are protected by state and federal law. Please know that you do not have to put up with any of the following:

  • Discrimination based on race, color, sex, pregnancy status gender, national origin, disability, or genetic information
  • Sexual harassment, either physical or verbal
  • Not being paid a fair wage
  • Not receiving overtime

An Arizona employment attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve for all that you have been through. This can include:

  • lost income and benefits if you were fired
  • reinstatement to your position if fired or demoted
  • promotion if it is due
  • legal fees and court costs
  • pain and suffering damages
  • punitive damages against your employer

You have rights and by coming forward you can help ensure that nobody else has to go through what you did.


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