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Minimum Wage in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK – In the election last fall, the voters of Arkansas approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage. It will rise to $11 an hour by January 2021.

Some non-profit organizations, small businesses, and others are concerned that a mandatory increase in wages will hurt their operations and even their ability to survive.

I understand their concerns. That is why I expressed reservations about the minimum-wage increase when it was on the ballot.

But the people have spoken.

Today, I wanted to remind all employers that relief is available based upon a provision in law that is already in place.

Current state law allows an employer to pay a full-time student at 85 percent of the applicable minimum wage under two conditions. First, a student who works no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session is exempt. And a student who works no more than 40 hours per week when school isn’t in session is exempt.

In order to take advantage of the exemption, an employer must obtain a certificate or waiver from the Arkansas Department of Labor.

Colleges and universities are also exempt from paying the state minimum wage to students who are enrolled at the school and also are employed at the school. The school must pay at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

These existing exemptions to the state minimum-wage law offer employers some flexibility. I have directed the Department of Labor to increase awareness of this waiver and to expedite approval of waivers for employers. You may call Lindsay Moore at the Department of Labor at 501-682-4534 or contact him by email at lindsay.moore@arkansas.gov with questions about the waiver.

I am confident that the existing provisions are sufficient to provide relief without doing damage to the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box last November.

The two-part exemption application is HERE. The employee and employer each must complete and sign the application. Applicants may deliver it in person or mail it: 10421 West Markham, Little Rock, 72205; email it: asklabor@arkansas.gov; or fax it (501) 682-4506.

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