Nebraskans to vote on minimum wage hike

by Bonnie Boryca

After an attempt to pass a minimum wage increase in Nebraska came up short in this year’s legislative session, the issue is set to go to voters in the November election.

The Nebraska secretary of state’s office has announced that it has verified enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The proposal calls for the minimum wage to go from $7.25 per hour to $8 per hour on January 1, 2015, and then hit $9 per hour on January 1, 2016.

The effort to put the issue on the ballot was organized by Nebraskans for Better Wages, which claimed to have received more than 130,000 signatures. Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale was quoted in news accounts as saying that his office verified 89,817 signatures. At least 80,386 signatures were needed to get the proposal on the ballot. Under Nebraska law, citizens can petition to place a proposal on the ballot if the petition contains valid signatures from 7% of the state’s registered voters, with at least 5% of registered voters in 38 of the state’s 93 counties signing the petition.

The current statutory provisions regarding tipped employees and student-learners would remain the same under the ballot initiative. Therefore, they would simply increase in proportion to the regular minimum wage.

Under current law, employees who are compensated by gratuities or tips (e.g., restaurant servers) must be paid at least $2.13 per hour plus tips. The sum of tipped employees’ wages and tips must equal or exceed the regular minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Also, employees who qualify as student-learners and are part of a bona fide vocational training program must be paid at least 75% of the minimum wage.

For more iNE_BorycaBonnienformation on Nebraska’s minimum wage proposal, see the August issue of Nebraska Employment Law Letter.

Bonnie Boryca is an attorney with Erickson & Sederstrom, P.C. in Omaha, Nebraska.