Understanding the Wisconsin Minimum Wage
This article doesn’t constitute legal advice. Please consult a lawyer or accountant in your state to learn more about minimum wage legislation as it applies to your business.
It may seem as if every year the minimum wage is changing. As a small business owner in Wisconsin, this may leave you wondering what you’re supposed to pay your employees.
To help clear up any confusion, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you understand Wisconsin’s minimum wage.
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What is the minimum wage in Wisconsin?
The minimum wage rate in Wisconsin matches the federal minimum wage rate, which is currently $7.25 per hour. This has been the minimum wage since 2008, when it went up $0.75.
Tipped employees and opportunity employees qualify for a special minimum wage. Tipped employees can earn $2.33 per hour and opportunity employees can earn $5.90 per hour. Opportunity employees are workers under 20 years old who have worked for less than 90 days with their current employer. Given Wisconsin’s large farming contingent and outdoor activities, there are a few other special minimum wage rules.
- All Wisconsin agricultural and farm employees, who are usually exempt from the minimum wage are guaranteed the full minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, are guaranteed the full minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
- Golf caddies (who are completely exempt in other states) are eligible for a special minimum wage of $5.90 per 9 holes and $10.50 for 18 holes.
- Camp counselors are also eligible for special minimum pay rates. Counselors’ (including minors) minimum rates are $210 per week with board and lodging, $265 per week with board only, and $350 per week with no board or lodging provided.
Keep in mind that counties, cities, and towns may have their own minimum wage laws. Be sure to check what local wage laws may apply to you.
Are there plans to change the minimum wage?
There are no plans to raise the minimum wage, which has been set since 2009. However, the majority of Wisconsin residents do support raising the minimum wage. If the federal minimum wage goes up in the coming years, as other states push toward $15, Wisconsin could be affected.
How should small business owners prepare for potential changes to the minimum wage?
Even though it may not seem like there are any immediate plans to raise the minimum wage, it is still beneficial to be prepared in case there is a change. Here are a few options you may want to consider:
- Audit your expenses: Check your cash flow in detail and create a hiring plan that you can afford. In some cases, you may find that hiring temporary workers as needed is less expensive than taking on full-time regular staff. Think of seasonal work on a farm, or peak golf season at a golf course.
- Make sure you hire and keep the right employees: Replacing an employee can cost a lot. You can decrease the total cost associated with recruiting and training when you hire (and then retain) the right people to do the job. Look for candidates with good track records, who come recommended, and who fit in with the company culture. Once employees are onboarded, make sure you build a relationship and provide paths for employee growth; this it makes it more likely that they will stay in their role.
- Update tech: Consider automating certain aspects of the work (like payroll), and find ways to reduce production costs.
As always, to make sure your business is prepared and stays in compliance, you should discuss Wisconsin’s minimum wage laws with your accountant and lawyer.
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