On July 21, 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion directing County Counsel to prepare a “Countywide Minimum Wage Ordinance” to incrementally increase the minimum wage for Los Angeles County employees and employees working in unincorporated areas within the county. The motion calls for raising the minimum wage in ways that match the recently enacted Los Angeles City Minimum Wage Ordinance.1 If the county follows through, both Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County would require all covered employers to provide a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2021.
Under the County Board of Supervisors’ approved proposal, beginning on July 1, 2016, the minimum wage for all employers (including nonprofits and businesses) with 26 or more employees in unincorporated areas of the county will be $10.50 per hour and will increase annually to $12.00, $13.25, $14.25 and $15.00 by July 1, 2020. The proposed ordinance would set a similar schedule for employers with 25 or fewer employers, but increases would start one year later, on July 1, 2017, reaching $15.00 per hour by July 1, 2021.
Like the Los Angeles City Ordinance, the countywide proposed ordinance also provides that beginning on July 1, 2022, the minimum wage in Los Angeles County will increase annually in lock step with the Consumer Price Index. The county version however requires that the county’s Chief Executive Office determine the annual rate and announce the rate on January 1 of every year.
The approved motion requires County Counsel to prepare the Countywide Minimum Wage Ordinance within 45 days and submit it for the Board of Supervisors’ review.
The proposed county ordinance applies to unincorporated areas within the county and workers employed by the county. It does not apply to employees working in the City of Los Angeles, or those working in other cities within the county. Many of those cities, for example, Beverly Hills, Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Clarita, Torrance and Long Beach, do not have their own minimum wage ordinances and will not be affected by the county ordinance. Some others, for example, Santa Monica and West Hollywood are considering adopting their own minimum wage ordinances.
This piecemeal approach to increasing the minimum wage on a local level poses unique challenges to employers that operate throughout the State of California. As the wave of local minimum wage ordinances continues to spread, it is no longer enough for employers to concern themselves only with California’s statewide minimum wage. Given the number of cities within Los Angeles County, the minimum wage on one side of the street may well be different than the minimum wage on the other. Employers should be especially careful with employees that travel between cities in the county because differing minimum wage ordinances could require that employers pay travelling employees different rates, even during the same workday.
Employers should remain vigilant to ensure they are complying with all the minimum wage rules now in place and those likely to be enacted in the near future throughout California.