Increase in Wages for California Workers

By Assaf Lichtash

Last year, the California state legislature passed a new labor law that went into effect on July 1, 2014. As of that date, all California employees must be paid at least a minimum wage of $9.00 per hour, which is one dollar more per hour than the previous minimum wage. The increase shows that California is one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to paying employees, as only three states have current minimum wages higher than $9.00. Those states are the District of Columbia, Oregon, and Washington State. Additionally, this is only the first installment of the law. Another increase will go into effect on January 1, 2016, raising the mandatory minimum wage another dollar to $10.00 per hour.

In addition to hourly wages, the increase also directly affects overtime rates. Overtime rates are one and a half times an employee’s regular hourly rate, so many employees who receive minimum wage also received a boost in overtime pay—from $12.00 to $13.50 per hour.

Does Your Employer Have to Raise Your Wages?

If you are a minimum wage employee in California, you are probably wondering whether your employer must comply. The answer is likely “yes,” since the minimum wage laws apply to almost all employers and employees in the state. In fact, your employer should have planned ahead and should have increased your rates in compliance with the law starting at the beginning on July. If your employer is dragging its feet and you have not yet seen your deserved raise yet, you have the legal right to receive those unpaid wages.

Very few types of employees are outside of minimum wage laws. These exceptions include the following:

People who work for a parent, spouse, or child;
Sheepherders, who have a law directly addressing a different minimum wage;
People in outside sales;
Learners or apprentices that qualify for the State Division of Apprenticeship Standards; and
Certain physically or mentally disabled people who work for nonprofits that have a particular license that allows them to compensate for less than the standard minimum wage.

If none of these exceptions apply to you, you should be receiving at least $9.00 per hour at this time. If your employer continues to refuse to comply with the new law, they may face not only lawsuits for unpaid wages by employees, but also serious sanctions by the California Department of Industrial Relations.

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