The City of Los Angeles recently assessed Carl’s Jr. Restaurants $1.45 million in fines for violation of the City’s minimum wage law ordinance.  The City sought these penalties against Carl’s Jr. for allegedly failing to pay 37 employees the applicable Los Angeles minimum wage rate of $10.50 per hour from July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.  The city also claimed that the company failed to post the required notices required by the ordinance and did not allow investigators access to two locations.  This astronomical fine imposed by the city seems out of proportion for the size of the number of employees affected, but it is a stark reminder for employers about how serious any violations of the local ordinances could be.  Here are five lessons for Southern California employers from this incident:

1. Enforcement of local ordinances is taking place.

The cities that have passed local ordinances are enforcing the laws strenuously.  The City of Los Angeles has especially been active in investigating potential violations.  First hand I have had a number of clients who have been contact by the city seeking information about compliance with the ordinance.  The investigators have appeared at workplaces in person and also contacted the employers over the phone. As discussed in item number five below, it is important for employers to train staff about how to appropriately respond to questions with people entering the workplace asking for information about the employer’s employment practices.

2. Review pay rates to ensure compliance with local ordinances.

Employers need to remember that even if their business is not located in a city or county that does not have a minimum wage or paid sick leave requirement, this does not mean your company can ignore the new laws.  Most of the ordinances require compliance with their local laws if any employee works two hours within the city or county even if the employer is not based within that city or county.  For example:

  • Santa Monica:  Law applies to any employee working a minimum of two hours within Santa Monica in a given week (even if employer is located outside of Santa Monica).
  • City of Los Angeles: Ordinance applies to “[a]n employee … who performs at least two hours of work in a particular week within the City of Los Angeles….”
  • County of Los Angeles: Ordinance applies to “[a]nyone who works at least two hours in a one-week period within the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County is entitled to the County minimum wage for the hours worked in the unincorporated area of the County.”
  • Pasadena: Applies to employees who perform at least two hours of work in Pasadena.
  • Malibu: “This ordinance applies to employees who perform at least two hours of work in a particular week within the Malibu city limits.”

3. Penalties for non-compliance are substantial.

An employer who violates the City of Los Angeles’ minimum wage requirements is liable to the employee for payment of back wages and an additional penalty of $100 for each day that the violation occurred or continued.  Where retaliation has occurred, the employee is entitled to reinstatement and a trebling of all back wages and penalties.

In addition, employers are subject to administrative fines as set forth below:

Failure to post notice of the Los Angeles Minimum Wage rate

$500 per day per employee
Failure to allow access to payroll records $500 per day per employee
Failure to maintain payroll records or to retain payroll records for your years $500 per day per employee
Failure to allow access for inspection of books and records or to interview employees $500 per day per employee
Retaliation for exercising rights under the ordinance $1,000 per day per employee
Failure to provide employer’s name, address, and telephone in writing $500 per day per employee
Failure to cooperate with the Division’s investigation $500 per day per employee
Failure to post Notice of Determination to employee $500 per day per employee

4. Ensure all poster and notice requirements are complied with.

The cities and counties that have local minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinances are making the notices relatively easy to obtain from their websites.  For example, here are a few links published by various cities in the Los Angeles area:

Santa Monica notices:  https://cityofsantamonica.app.box.com/s/nuccal4on935m43p0nhmuzgy65f5mbwl

City of Los Angeles notice: http://wagesla.lacity.org/#information

County of Los Angeles notice: http://file.lacounty.gov/dca/cms1_245570.pdf

Pasadena notice:  http://www.cityofpasadena.net/minimumwage/

Malibu: http://www.malibucity.org/minimumwage

5. Implement policy and train staff and managers about how to respond to investigators.

All staff should receive training about how to respond if contacted by anyone who indicates that they are from a government office and are seeking information about the workplace.  It is important for the employer to be able to identify and confirm that the investigators are who they are reporting to be and that they are actually working for the federal, state or local government.  Once their identify has been confirmed, employers need to designate who from the company will gather and communicate the relevant information to the investigators in a timely manner.  The person designated by the employer should have experience in dealing with investigations, an understanding of the company’s policies and the local legal requirements.  Finally, the employer should address whether they need the assistance of legal counsel to assist in the investigation.

Many cities and counties across California are set to increase their minimum wages in July 2017, and employers need to start preparing now.  For example, Los Angeles City and County are increasing the minimum wage for employers with 26 or more employees to $12 per hour on July 1, 2017 (currently at $10.50 per hour). This Friday’s Five video covers five issues that employers should start to review in order to comply with these increases in the minimum wage.

For more information about the local minimum wages in place throughout California:

San Diego: http://www.californiaemploymentlawrep…

Los Angeles: http://www.californiaemploymentlawrep… and http://www.californiaemploymentlawrep…

Southern California overview of various minimum wage requirements: http://www.californiaemploymentlawrep…

Sample model pay stub: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/PayStub.pdf

 

Next week Los Angeles employers need to comply with new minimum wage and paid sick leave requirements.  I have written about the new laws a lot recently, but wanted to provide five items in today’s Friday’s Five to review in ensuring your company is ready for the new laws for next week’s deadlines:

  1. Understand where your employees work and which laws apply to them.

Just because your business is not located in the City or County of Los Angeles, Pasadena, or Santa Monica does not mean your company can ignore the new laws.  The ordinances passed all include similar provisions that state if an employee works two hours within the City or County the employer must comply with the law:

  • Santa Monica:  Law applies to any employee working a minimum of two hours within Santa Monica in a given week (even if employer is located outside of Santa Monica).
  • City of Los Angeles: “An employee is an individual who performs at least two hours of work in a particular week within the City of Los Angeles….”
  • County of Los Angeles: “Anyone who works at least two hours in a one-week period within the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County is entitled to the County minimum wage for the hours worked in the unincorporated area of the County.”
  • Pasadena: Applies to employees who perform at least two hours of work in Pasadena.
  1. Don’t assume Los Angeles City’s paid sick leave requirements are the same as state law.

As of July 1, 2016, the City of Los Angeles requires employers with 26 or more employees to provide employees with 48 hours of paid sick leave.  Employers within the City of Los Angeles must review the new law carefully to ensure they are following the City’s paid sick leave requirements, and while there are some similarities with California’s paid sick law, there are many differences.  The City of Los Angeles has very specific requirements about the accrual methods and caps on accrual.  For example, California’s state law allows employers to require employee to use paid sick leave in two hour increments, but the City of Los Angeles does not permit this, so if an employee uses less than two hours the employer can only deduct the actual amount of paid sick leave used by the employee from their sick leave bank.  Also, the City’s law allows employees to use paid sick leave to take care of “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”  Who is someone with the “equivalent” of a family relationship?  Good question.  Employers must review the new requirements carefully to ensure compliance with these new requirements (and update handbooks and policies if necessary).

  1. Don’t forget to post new notices.

Santa Monica notices:  https://cityofsantamonica.app.box.com/s/nuccal4on935m43p0nhmuzgy65f5mbwl

City of Los Angeles notice: http://wagesla.lacity.org/#information

County of Los Angeles notice: http://file.lacounty.gov/dca/cms1_245570.pdf

Pasadena notice:  http://www.cityofpasadena.net/minimumwage/

  1. Need to know if you are in an incorporated or unincorporated city within Los Angeles County.

Employers who have workers working in any unincorporated area in Los Angeles County must comply with the County’s ordinance.  If workers work in an incorporated city within the County, the incorporated city’s laws would apply, and if the city does not address minimum wage or paid sick leave, then the employer must follow California state law.  However, if an incorporated city, such as Santa Monica, implemented a law, employers must comply with the law that provides the employee with the most benefits and protection.

Click here for resource to determine if your workers work in an incorporated or unincorporated city within Los Angeles County.

  1. Review new hire packets to ensure you are providing all required notices to employees.

 The new laws have some intricacies that employers need to be aware of.  For example, the County of Los Angeles’ new law requires that employers provide employees with written notices setting forth the employer’s tip policy, including any tip sharing, pooling, or allocations policies, if applicable.

Likewise, Santa Monica’s law also sets out requirements pertaining to service charges collected by employers.  Santa Monica requires that all service charges must be distributed to workers who generally performed services for which the charge was collected, and it permits employers to share the service charge with back-of-house employees.  Employers must inform employees of the service charge distribution keep records of the distributions.