On Jan. 1, 2019, California will move one step closer to its ultimate goal of a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
In the new year, employers with 25 or fewer employees will be required to pay a minimum of $11 an hour, while employers who have 26 or more employees must pay $12 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which the state supersedes because it is higher.
This marks the third step in a five-year plan to gradually increase the minimum rate of pay statewide; the increases began in January 2017 and will end in January 2023. California’s adoption of a phased-in $15 hourly wage was hailed as a triumph by the Fight For 15 movement, which advocates for a higher minimum wage at both the state and federal levels.
Several California cities have a minimum wage that exceeds the state amount – the law provides that the higher minimum wage applies in cases of conflict. The UC Berkeley Labor Center maintain a list of cities with minimum wage ordinances as of Jan. 1, 2019:
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- Belmont ($13.50)
- Berkeley ($15)
- Cupertino ($15)
- El Cerrito ($15)
- Emeryville ($15.69 for 56 employees or more, $15 for 55 or fewer employees)
- Los Altos ($15)
- Los Angeles ($13.25 for 26 employees or more, $12 for 25 or fewer)
- Malibu ($13.25)
- Milpitas ($13.50)
- Mountain View ($15.65)
- Oakland ($13.80)
- Palo Alto ($15)
- Pasadena ($13.25 for 26 employees or more, $12 for 25 or fewer)
- Redwood City ($13.50)
- Richmond ($15)
- San Diego ($12)
- San Francisco ($15)
- San Jose ($15)
- San Leandro ($13)
- San Mateo ($15)
- Santa Clara ($15)
- Santa Monica ($13.25 for 26 employees or more, $12 for 25 or fewer)
- Sunnyvale ($15.65)
The law includes exemptions for “learners,” defined as employees with no previous experience during their first 160 hours, as well as employees who are mentally or physically disabled and nonprofit organizations that employ disabled workers.
However, restaurant owners may not use waitstaff tips as credit toward their minimum wage obligations.
Employees who are not compensated as the law requires may file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or file a lawsuit against their employer to recover lost wages. It is illegal for employers to discriminate or retaliate against an employee who has filed a wage claim.