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Back wages? State won't say

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – The state of Missouri is not saying whether employers are on the hook for back wages after creating confusion over tipped workers' hourly wages.

The Blunt administration this week announced restaurants and other employers should pay tipped employees half of the state's minimum wage. That's $3.25.

The state's hourly minimum increased to $6.50 in January but the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations had advised employers to pay the old base pay of $2.13.

Labor Department spokeswoman Tammy Cavender says the agency cannot give advice on whether to pay back wages, but they will investigate workers' complaints.

"The recovery of back wages is between the individual employer and employee," Cavender said. "If an employee does not believe he or she has been paid the appropriate wage, they can contact our department to file a complaint and we will conduct an investigation."

But those who argued the state was misinterpreting regulations in the first place say the statute is also clear on back wages

"Regardless of what the state Department of Labor says, there's still a legal obligation for the employer to pay both back pay, as well as liquidated damages that equal the amount of back pay," Save Our Tips spokesman Jim Kottmeyer said.

Kottmeyer says the pay tipped workers missed out since January 1 adds up to about $55 million.


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