City of San Diego adopts its own minimum wage and sick leave law

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By ballot vote on June 7, 2016, the citizens of the City of San Diego passed a minimum wage and sick leave law that exceeds the California enhancements in these areas. This new law’s effective date is still unknown until the ballot vote is finalized and certified, but it is expected to take effect during the month of July…stay tuned, we will provide a further update.

An employee is covered under this law if in at least one calendar week of the year the employee performs at least two hours of work within the geographic boundaries of the City and is otherwise entitled to receive minimum wage pay under California law.

San Diego Minimum Wage

For each hour worked within the geographic boundaries of the City of San Diego, the following minimum wage rates apply:

1/1/16 - 12/31/16 — $10.50

1/1/17 - 12/31/17 — $11.50

1/1/19 and thereafter — Increased based on prior year’s cost of living increase, if any. Increases will announced by the City no later than October 1st of the prior year

Where differing minimum wage rates from multiple jurisdictions are applicable to an employer, the employer must comply with the highest rate. This new municipal law includes an automatic increase, such that if the federal or California minimum wage is increased to exceed San Diego’s minimum wage level, the San Diego minimum wage will automatically increase to match the higher wage, effective on the same date as the federal or California increase.

San Diego Sick Leave

Employers must provide each covered employee with one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked by the employee within the geographic boundaries of the City, although employers are not required to provide an employee with sick leave in less than one-hour increments for a fraction of an hour worked. One important difference between the San Diego and California sick leave laws, is that the San Diego law does not currently provide for a for lump-sum (or “front-load”) non-carryover structure for providing sick leave time. In fact, the San Diego law makes no reference whatsoever to the lump-sum structure, and it further states that unused accrued sick leave must be carried over to the following benefit year. It is possible that the implementing ordinance may clarify other specific methods used to satisfy the requirements of the law, but as it is currently written, there is no allowance for any method other than accrual of leave time based on hours worked. The employer may limit an employee’s use of accrued sick leave to 40 hours per year (as opposed to 24 hours under the California law), and unlike the California law, there is no cap on the total amount of sick leave an employee may accrue.

The San Diego sick leave law most notably differs from the recently-enacted California sick leave law as follows:

  • An employer cannot require advance notice of the need to use a sick day of more than seven days.
  • An employer may require reasonable documentation from a health care provider of the need for the sick leave for an absence of more than three consecutive work days.
  • Sick leave can be used for: illness/injury/medical condition or diagnosis of an employee or the employee’s family member; reasons related to the employee or family member being the victim of violence, sexual assault or stalking; or where a public health emergency causes the closure of the employee’s place of business or the closure of the employee’s child’s school or child care provider.

The law carries posting and notice requirements for both its minimum wage and sick leave provisions; the City will publish notices sufficient to meet these requirements.

This update merely summarizes many of the highlights of these laws and is by no means a comprehensive description of all provisions of these laws. Employers who have employees who perform any work within the City of San Diego should seek legal advice from qualified legal counsel as to the application and effect of these provisions.

In Coffee Break episode 1, we discuss the nuances of the San Diego wage ordinance and issues to watch for compliance.