The Virginia General Assembly recently approved a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage. If signed by Governor Northam, most Virginia workers will earn at least $9.50 per hour beginning on January 1, 2021. While the original text of the bill provided for a gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 by 2026 with further increases based upon the U.S. Average Consumer Price Index thereafter, the compromise struck by legislators provides the wage will top out at $12 per hour on January 1, 2023. The legislation eliminates the existing law that exempts employers from paying minimum wage to domestic workers, home health care workers, pieceworkers and people with disabilities. It does, however, retain exemptions for agricultural workers, student workers, au pairs participating in a federal exchange program and temporary foreign workers. It also allows employers to pay workers less who are enrolled in on-the-job training but only for a maximum of 90 days.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not increased since 2009. Should the bill be signed into law, Virginia will join the majority of states who have raised their minimum wage due Congress’ failure to act on the federal level. Worker advocates argue that increasing the minimum wage will stimulate the economy by increasing consumer spending, decrease reliance on public assistance programs, and encourage greater worker productivity.