Eleven San Diego businesses have paid more than $107,000 to workers who were paid less than required under the city’s minimum wage ordinance.
The City Treasurer said those payments were made to 259 employees who complained they were underpaid or deprived of earned sick leave.
Those businesses include Sand ‘n Sea Liquor in Point Loma and the El Pollo Loco restaurant on Main Street in Barrio Logan.
Management at both those businesses said the underpayments were an innocent mistake based on a book-keeping or other, similar errors. In one case, the owner said his accountant incorrectly told him that the minimum wage in the City of San Diego was $10.50 an hour.
An employment law expert told NBC 7 that California’s minimum wage laws can be confusing.
Under state law, the minimum wage in California is $10.50 an hour, but cities and counties can establish higher minimums, and many have done so. In San Diego County, some cities have maintained the $10.50 minimum but the City of San Diego’s ordinance grants workers a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour and more earned sick leave (five days per year) than the state minimum (three days).
Other California cities have even higher minimum wages, including Palo Alto ($13.50) and Berkeley ($13.75).
"There all these different places that have these different patchworks [of ordinances], and if you're not really paying very, very close attention, even from year to year, it can cause problems,” said attorney Daniel Eaton, an employment law specialist at the Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek law firm.
The City of San Diego offers detailed information about its minimum wage ordinance on its website.