Comments from Progress Virginia
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the implementation of Virginia's new minimum wage law. Progress Virginia strongly supports the General Assembly's action to raise Virginia's minimum wage to ensure everyone is paid fairly for their work and no one who works hard has to live in poverty.
There are several provisions of the proposed regulations we believe are positive:
1) We strongly support the provision that precludes employers from using the training wage in a manner that induces, encourages, or assists any displacement or partial displacement of other workers.
2) We support the provision that requires employers to make a good faith effort to continue to employ the employee after the training period of the training wage expires.
3) We agree that the training wage should never be applied where the goal of the “training” is merely to develop “manual dexterity and high production speed in repetitive operations.”
There are several areas where we believe the proposed regulations could be strengthened to better support working families.
1) Clarify The 90-Day Eligibility Period. The regulations should more clearly state that the 90-day training period can only be applied once per individual, and that any change in employment classification or duties by the employer does not extend the period. Additionally, the 90-day period should be based on calendar days, not business days.
2) Amend The “Degree of Skill” Language. The regulations, as currently written, state that the training wage only applies to occupations that “require a sufficient degree of skill to necessitate a learning period.” This language is overly broad and subjective, potentially making every occupation training-wage eligible. To create a more workable standard, that language should be narrowed (e.g., a sufficient degree of “technical” skill.)
3) Directly Address Seasonal Employment. While the regulations state that “[t]he employer shall not hire the employee at the training wage unless there is a reasonable expectation that there will be regular employment,” additional language should be included to more directly address the general inapplicability of the training wage to seasonal and temporary employment.
4) Specify An Age Limit. Given that most states with a training wage limit its application to youth workers, an untailored approach that applies it to the entire workforce, as these draft regulations do, is both unusual and harmful to Virginia's working families. This is a particular concern in the COVID-19 economy, in which many workers—of all ages—have been forced to find new jobs in new fields. Consistent with the approach of other states, any training wage should apply only to workers under the age of 18.
Thank you for your consideration of these recommendations.