Question

As a small business, how should we handle the Fight for $15 campaign (minimum wage), especially if some of our competitors prefer to hire illegal (non-visa) immigrants?

Shawn Chhabra

Buy Back Queen

Answer

I would advise you to keep calm and carry on. Yes, the issue of raising the minimum wage continues to be a hot employment topic. But I say remain calm because Minnesota recently raised its minimum wage to $9 an hour and it goes up to $9.50 in 2016. Thus far, only the District of Columbia has a minimum wage rate that crosses the $10 mark ($10.50 an hour). If wages change, I suspect it will not be for a while. Will that change with the next election? It is possible, but a hard sell for many businesses, such as yours. Keep in mind, you will need to stay legally compliant with whatever changes occur at the federal and state levels. That includes paying the minimum wage that provides the “best deal” for employees.

Employees are valuable assets and resources, and as such, I am sure you have done your best to choose wisely when you hired. As for having to pay $15 an hour, should that happen, it will undoubtedly hurt employers, but I ask that you think about the other side, as well. Many employees are living paycheck to paycheck working in minimum-wage jobs. My most recent research shows that many women are eligible to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act (they have worked the necessary hours and their employer employs more than 50 employees), but the women do not have the financial resources to take the 12 weeks of unpaid leave to stay home with their newborns. In general, this group has no savings. Should an emergency arise, they have nothing to draw from. They are unable to save up for college tuition for their children or help their parents, who may have health issues.

As for your competitors, that is a different story. First, do you have proof they are hiring illegal workers? Names, addresses, pictures? If so, please contact the Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or visit www.ice.gov for more information.

About the author

Dawn Swink is an associate professor of ethics and business law at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.