By Chris Olmsted, Esq., Ogletree Deakins
San Diego City Council members voted on February 8 to place a sick pay and minimum wage ordinance on the June 7 ballot.
If approved by voters, the ordinance would require an immediate local minimum wage rate increase to $10.50 per hour. Presently, the California statewide minimum wage is $10.00 per hour. In January of 2017, the city’s minimum wage would increase to $11.50 per hour. Thereafter, beginning in 2019, the minimum wage would increase on an annual basis as determined by a consumer price index. The ordinance would apply to all private sector employers that would be required to pay the minimum wage only to employees who work 2 or more hours per calendar week within city limits.
Additionally, the ordinance would obligate employers to offer sick pay to employees working within city limits. Generally, the ordinance would require sick pay to accrue at the rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked within city limits, with a maximum accrual of 40 hours per year. Unused sick pay would be carried forward into the next year. Sick leave could be used for tending to an employee’s own illness or medical appointments, caring for family members, and taking time off due to domestic violence and related incidents. Generally, employers would be permitted to require employees to produce medical documentation excusing absences exceeding 3 days.
Statewide, California employers must already provide sick pay benefits under the Healthy Workers, Healthy Families Act of 2014. The California law requires a minimum of only 24 hours of sick pay per year. The San Diego ordinance’s more generous accrual rate, along with other differences between the state law and the proposed local ordinance, would make compliance with both legal mandates challenging for local businesses.
The San Diego City Council originally passed the sick pay and minimum wage ordinance in July of 2014. The mayor vetoed the ordinance, but the Council overrode the veto. Then a petition driven by San Diego business leaders forced the Council to place the matter on a ballot.
If voters approve the ordinance, San Diego will join San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville, which also have local sick pay ordinances. Other California cities with minimum wage ordinances include Berkeley ($11.00), El Cerrito $11.60 as of July 1), Emeryville ($12.25 for small businesses and $14.44 for large businesses), Mountain View ($11.00), Oakland ($12.25), Palo Alto ($11.00), Richmond ($11.52), San Francisco ($12.25), San Jose ($10.30), and Sunnyvale ($10.30). Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Santa Clara will join the mix in the near future.