UPDATES FOR CALIFORNIA EMPLOYERS – JANUARY 2014

California’s New Minimum Wage

The minimum wage will rise in 13 states this week, and as many as 11 states and Washington, D.C., are expected to consider increases in 2014, according to the National Employment Law Project.  The trend reflects growing concerns about the disproportionate spread of low-wage jobs in the U.S. economy, creating millions of financially strained workers and putting too little money in consumers' pockets to spur faster economic growth.

On Jan. 1, state minimum wages will be higher than the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour in 21 states, up from 18 two years ago.  Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island legislatures voted to raise the minimum hourly wage by as much as $1, to $8 to $8.70.  In California, a $1 increase to $9 is scheduled July 1.  Smaller automatic increases tied to inflation will take effect in nine other states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Nannies, Maids in California to Get Overtime Pay

Nannies and other domestic workers in California will be entitled to overtime pay under a new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The law, which passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor, will require employers to pay time-and-a-half overtime to any nanny, housekeeper, maid or personal attendant who works more than nine hours in one day, or 45 hours in a week.

Suitable Seating Obligations

The Ninth Circuit is considering several class action appeals over California's "suitable seating" requirement contained in its wage orders.  Here is an example from Wage Order 7-2001, governing the retail industry:  14. Seats.(A) All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats. 

The Ninth Circuit is considering appeals in two cases.  One involves bank tellers.  One involves retail clerks.  In both cases, the employees argue that if an employee is engaged in a task that can objectively be performed while seated, the employer must provide the employee with a suitable seat. On the other hand, the employers say courts should discern the “nature of an employee’s work” by considering the entire range of tasks the employee actually performs in combination with the employee’s job description, the layout of the workplace, the employer’s business judgment concerning the employee’s job, and any other factors the court deems relevant.  Thus, employers argue that an employer would only be subject to Section 14(A) when all of these factors taken together reasonably permit the use of a seat.

The Court has the following questions:  Does the "nature of the work" in either or both cases reasonably permit the use of seats?  And who gets to decide?  The Ninth Circuit has requested that the California Supreme Court take up this issue.  However, the California Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will do so.

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