Min wage for exempt ‘white collar’ employees in American Samoa set
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US Labor Department (USDOL) has issued a final rule — effective Jan. 1, 2020 — that sets by federal law the “special salary level” at $380 per week for salary workers — who are considered exempt ‘white collar’ employees in American Samoa.
USDOL’s 245-page final rule issued early this week updates and revises regulations for the US issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), implementing the exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees.
Under the final rule, USDOL will set a special salary level of $455 per week for the US territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. For American Samoa, the special salary level will be $380 per week.
USDOL says it has “historically applied a special salary level test to employees” in American Samoa because minimum wage rates there have remained lower than the federal minimum wage.
While federal minimum wage law from 2007 has been amended over the years to increase the minimum wages for American Samoa, the disparity with the federal minimum wage is expected to remain in the foreseeable future.
USDOL explained that the special salary level test for employees in American Samoa has historically equaled approximately 84% of the standard salary level. And it proposed early this year to maintain this percentage and considered whether to set the special salary level in American Samoa equal to 84% of the proposed standard salary level ($679 per week) —resulting in a special salary level of $570 per week — or to set it equal to approximately 84% of the proposed special salary level applicable to the other U.S. territories ($455 per week) —resulting in a special salary level of $380 per week.
USDOL had proposed early this year the special salary level of $380 per week, noting that this approach would not only maintain the special salary level that the Department is currently enforcing in American Samoa, but would also ensure that American Samoa, which has a lower minimum wage than the other U.S. territories, would not have a higher special salary level.
According to USDOL, no comments were received during the comment period to maintain the $380 per week salary, which does not apply to federal employees in American Samoa. There are 17-different minimum wage levels in American Samoa, depending on the industry.
The proposed final rule came after the federal agency was sued in federal court in Texas, prompting USDOL to rescind a 2016 final rule, which proposed much higher special salary levels for US states, the territories, and American Samoa — which was given a proposed final rule of $767 per week.
The Lolo Administration at the time had serious concerns with the “special salary level” hike for American Samoa, because of its impact on local revenues, when it came to supervisors and management level employees. Some in the private sector were also concerned.