Minimum Wage Increases Advance in San Diego and Washington, DC

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 8, 2016

Two more cities are expected to join the growing ranks of municipalities around the country that have adopted local minimum wage hikes.

Voters in San Diego on June 7 approved a referendum to restore a minimum wage ordinance that had been passed by the city council in 2014 but was later repealed by petition.

The same day, the Council of the District of Columbia passed on first reading an ordinance that will raise the city's minimum wage to $15 by 2020, and then adjust it for inflation every year thereafter. The council is expected to hold a final vote next week, and Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she will sign it.

The San Diego Ordinance

Because California recently passed a statewide minimum wage increase, employers operating in San Diego will face a patchwork of requirements. The minimum wage most favorable to employees will apply, meaning that the governing minimum wage will vary depending on the year, the size of the employer, and whether the rate of inflation will result in San Diego's annual inflation adjustments outpacing the scheduled statewide increases:

Date San Diego California - 26 or more employees California - 25 or fewer employees
Current* $10.50 $10.00 $10.00
January 1, 2017 $11.50 $10.50
January 1, 2018 Adjusted for inflation $11.00 $10.50
January 1, 2019 $12.00 $11.00
January 1, 2020 $13.00 $12.00
January 1, 2021 $14.00 $13.00
January 1, 2022 $15.00 $14.00
January 1, 2023 $15.00
January 1, 2024 (and every January 1 thereafter) Adjusted for inflation
*The operational date of the San Diego minimum wage is not yet settled; see below for further details

The new ordinance also requires employers to provide employees paid sick leave. Sick leave will accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked up to a limit of 40 hours per year. After their 90th day of employment, employees may use their sick leave for illness, injury, medical conditions, diagnosis and other reasons. Employers that already provide paid time off, vacation or personal days are not required to provide additional earned sick leave beyond what the ordinance requires.

The operational dates for the ordinance are not yet settled.

"In order to determine when the San Diego Ordinance is effective, we must wait for the City Council to adopt a resolution declaring the election results," Liseanne Kelly, Special Counsel in the San Diego office of law firm Littler Mendelson, told XpertHR. "Once this happens, the law would be operational 10 calendar days later, unless an earlier date is specified in the resolution."

Kelly noted that this analysis is based on a legal memorandum regarding the ordinance's effective date previously issued by the City Attorney.

While the right to accrue paid sick leave (which originally had been scheduled to begin April 1, 2015) will begin on the effective date, the right for employees to begin using paid sick leave will not begin until 90 days later.

The District of Columbia Ordinance

If the District of Columbia's Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016 is enacted, the city's minimum wage will increase according to the following schedule:

  • July 1, 2016 - $11.50
  • July 1, 2017 - $12.50
  • July 1, 2018 - $13.25
  • July 1, 2019 - $14.00
  • July 1, 2020 - $15.00
  • July 1, 2021 (and every July 1 thereafter) - adjusted for inflation

Each year, the minimum cash wage for tipped employees would be gradually increased from the current $2.77 to $7.50 in 2022. Starting in 2023, the minimum cash wage for tipped employees would be 50% of the minimum wage for non-tipped employees, rounded to the nearest five cents.