San Diego Minimum Wage Hike Goes Into Effect

Minimum wage will go up to $10.50 an hour by June 11th and $11.50 an hour by January 1, 2017.

If you work at a job that pays minimum wage in the City of San Diego, you just got a raise. 

Monday, the minimum wage for workers at small businesses in the City officially increased to $10.50 an hour. 

San Diegans voted to approve Proposition I during the June 7 primary and the measure passed with 63 percent approval. By January 1, 2017, the minimum wage will increase to $11.50 an hour in San Diego, making it higher than California’s minimum wage requirement.

The ordinance will also require employers to give workers a minimum of five paid sick days a year.

The City is now working to ensure the law has teeth. Councilman Todd Gloria, who authored the legislation, wants to make sure business owners follow the new rules. Monday, officials also approved an implementing ordinance for the new law. 

The councilman says $400,000 will now be directed to the city treasurer to create an 'enforcement' office, which will receive and adjudicate complaints, provides noticing standards to employers and sets penalties for non-compliant businesses. 

Employers who violate the law are subject to a civil penalty no less than $500 and no more than $1,000 per violation, with a maximum fine for first-time offenders. Further details on enforcement can be found on the City's website here. 

"Wage theft is a huge problem and that's been true before our local ordinance was passed," Gloria said. 

He said the City is working with community based organizations to let local businesses know that those who evade the law could face fines or even have their business license suspended.

San Diego’s Office of the City Treasury will enforce these rules.

"If it is identified that an employee was short-changed, the City would work with the employer to recoup those lost and back wages. If it's identified that the employee not only short-changed the worker, but retaliated against the worker, there would be additional fines associated with that," Gloria said. 

But he said their goal is to also educate business owners about their rights.

The minimum wage hike is getting mixed reaction from some local small business owners.

"It's just one more layer of burden I don't want," said Jamie Newbold, who has owned Southern California Comics for 19 years. 

He has 10 employees and pays new hires $12 an hour, so the new minimum wage law is not a problem, for now. 

But when it goes up next year to $11.50 an hour and, eventually, $15 an hour, as ordered by the state, he says he will be concerned.  

"At the level that my store operates now, if everybody I have working for me went to 15-dollars an hour, then it could be a burden," he said.

The new Enforcement office will establish a system to handle employer complaints and figure out how to fine violators.

The new oversight isn't something Newbold is thrilled about.

"It's more interference from the government. It's me being scrutinized by agencies or people that I never even projected entering my life. It's more hassle," he said.

Another business owner said she is happy to pay her workers a higher wage.

“The backbone of my business is my employees,” Alma Rodriguez, founder of Queen Bees, said. "For me, the advice for other business owners like myself, is to keep them motivated, keep them doing the right thing. It's just good karma for all of us."

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