Tonight the Senate loudly approved the bill that creates the Puerto Rico Minimum Wage Act, in order to allow the state minimum wage to prevail over the federal one for as long as it is higher, and establishes an increase of $9.00 per hour, following an amendment.
Previously, the measure -which is now returning to the House of Representatives after the amendments included- established a new base state minimum wage of $8.50 an hour, subject to the provisions of the bill. However, with the amendment introduced in court, the new base state minimum wage is $9.00 an hour.
House Bill 338 also provides for the creation of the Minimum Wage Evaluation Board attached to the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH by its Spanish initials), and provides protection for workers in local businesses not covered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Likewise, the bill declares as public policy adapting the minimum wage to workers' cost of living, based on the principle that no employee is below the poverty level, that every worker has enough income to cover basic needs, and ensure the process and improvement of living standards. Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has not been adjusted since 2009.
"The state minimum wage must be periodically reviewed and adjusted to the increase in the cost of living of workers. This will be the objective metric that will govern the Board's determinations on the minimum wage," reads Section 1.02 of the measure, titled 'Public Policy Declaration.'
Although the bill establishes that the state minimum wage in Puerto Rico will prevail as long as it is higher than the federal minimum wage, it is emphasized that, when applying the federal minimum wage, the provisions of federal legislation and regulations regarding how the minimum wage is paid will recognize: what are the hours of work, and which employees and occupations are exempt from the minimum wage.
"The Minimum Wage Evaluation Board may, by decree, establish a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage established by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, approved by the Congress of the United States of America on June 25 1938, as amended. However, you can never set one lower than this," the bill reads.
The bill mentions that 120 days after the entry into force of this law and until the Minimum Wage Evaluation Board issues a mandatory decree varying the same, the minimum wage in Puerto Rico will be increased at a rate of $8.50 per hour to all workers covered under U.S. Reasonable Labor Standards Act, including workers in the agricultural industry who are excluded from the aforementioned statute, except those employees of government agencies, instrumentalities, municipalities, and the judicial and legislative branches.
"The aforementioned increase will not apply to the so-called administrators, executives and professionals, as said terms are defined by Regulation 13 of the Minimum Wage Board. Regarding those workers subject to tip income, this increase will apply with respect to the minimum wage established in the U,S. Labor Standards Act, providing that the minimum wage set forth herein will be reached in combination with the federal minimum for these workers and tips," the bill adds.