Maryland will raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour at the beginning of the year, leaving some local businesses trying to figure out how the change will affect them.
The Maryland General Assembly approved the increase, which will eventually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, in its most recent session.
The Downtown Frederick Partnership held a workshop Friday for businesses to get an idea of what the new rules are and how they will impact business owners.
Allen Griffith Jr., a wage and hour investigator from the Maryland Department of Labor, briefed business owners on some of the things they should keep in mind, from exemptions to who qualifies for the minimum wage to wages for tipped employees.
After rising to $11 an hour in January, the minimum wage will rise to $11.75 an hour in January 2021 for businesses with 15 or more employees, and $11.60 for businesses with 14 or fewer employees.
If you own several businesses under one corporation, the state counts the total number of employees, whether they’re full-time, part-time, seasonal or otherwise, Griffith said.
“A person’s a person,” he said.
Cailey Locklair, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, told the group that getting the bill’s rules for tipped workers was “a huge fight,” and her group and others lobbied hard to make sure that the current enforcement rules stayed in the bill.
Under the law, businesses must pay tipped employees who earn more than $30 a month in tips at least $3.63 an hour.
But the amount plus tips have to be at least equal to the state minimum wage, and employers must provide workers with a statement for each pay period proving that their pay equals the minimum rate.
Locklair said her organization didn’t support the overall bill, objecting to what she called a one-size-fits-all approach to increasing the wage.
Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, said that her conversations with the retail community showed either a lack of awareness of the changes, or how they would affect businesses.
The partnership wants to make sure that businesses have all the information they need to be successful, she said.
Whitney Dahlberg, who owns The Muse on North Market Street, said that the session was helpful.
When you read about new laws, there’s often so much information that it’s hard to tell what applies to you and what doesn’t, she said.
Dahlberg said her store pays above the minimum wage, so she attended the session mostly for informational purposes.
Mike Winder, owner of Frederick Coffee Co. & Cafe as well as several other businesses in Frederick, said he has been following the minimum wage situation but wanted to make sure he was clear on the new law.
Winder said he hires a lot of teenagers and young adults at his stores.
Increases in the minimum wage raise the base wage rate, as well as the contribution that employers contribute to workers’ state and federal taxes.
The increase has to be paid for and sometimes an employer can absorb the raise, but eventually it gets passed on to customers, Winder said.
“The cost of a cup of coffee is going to go up,” he said.