Northern California Voters Approve Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Measures; San Diego Ordinance on Hold

In September we posted a discussion of the new California paid sick leave law, which takes effect on July 1, 2015. In last week’s general election, Oakland voters signaled they think the state’s paid sick leave mandate does not go far enough. They overwhelmingly approved a paid sick leave initiative modeled on one passed by San Francisco voters in 2006, and that goes well beyond the new state law’s requirements. And voters in both cities approved minimum wage increases that will raise their local minimum wages far higher than either the current federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, or the California state minimum of $9 per hour (scheduled to rise to $10 in 2016).

The Oakland initiative, Measure FF, requires employers to provide their Oakland employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked beginning in March 2015. Employers with fewer than 10 workers can cap the amount of paid sick leave at 40 hours per year, but employers with 10 or more workers must provide up to 72 hours per year. This is three times the state paid sick leave minimum of three days or 24 hours per year.

That same initiative will increase the minimum wage for employees working in Oakland to $12.25 per hour beginning in March 2015, followed thereafter by annual cost of living increases. The Oakland measure prohibits employers from funding required wage increases by reducing any non-management employee’s benefits. The initiative also requires hospitality employers that collect service charges from customers, including room service delivery chargers or baggage carrying charges, to pass those fees on to their hospitality workers.

San Francisco has long had a minimum wage higher than the state minimum. But in November that city’s voters approved Proposition J, which will raise the current city minimum wage still higher, from its current level of $10.74 per hour to $12.25 per hour on May 1, 2015; $13 per hour on July 1, 2016; $14 per hour on July 1, 2017; and $15 per hour on July 1, 2018, followed thereafter by annual cost of living increases.

Voters in nearby Berkeley approved Measure Q, which calls on the City Council to adopt an ordinance similar to the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance that San Francisco adopted in October 2013, which allows employees to seek changes to their working arrangements to care for family members with serious health conditions. Measure Q also authorizes the Berkeley City Council to send letters to federal and state officials asking for government employees to have the right to shorter work hours if doing so would not cause operational problems.

Meanwhile, in southern California the San Diego City Council’s minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinance, which we discussed in a July post, has hit a roadblock. In July the council voted to establish a city minimum wage of $9.75 per hour in January 2015, $10.50 per hour in January 2016, and $11.50 per hour in January 2017. The ordinance would also have required employers to provide up to five days or 40 hours of paid sick leave per year beginning in July 2015. The measure met with stiff opposition in the business community, which launched a petition drive to require the council to either rescind the ordinance or to allow the city’s voters to decide its fate. In October the measure’s opponents submitted more than enough signatures, and shortly thereafter the council voted to submit the issue to the voters. The measure is now on hold, and will take effect only if approved by the voters in the June 2016 primary election.

Municipal governments enacting their own minimum wage, paid sick leave and other measures is a relatively new trend that creates headaches for employers by requiring them to apply different rules to different groups of employees based on where they work. But the trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, so employers should take all necessary steps to stay abreast of, and comply with, these new local mandates.

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