California is poised to once again hold the title of state with the highest minimum wage. Assembly Bill 10, signed by Governor Brown this week, will raise the minimum wage to $9 beginning July 1, 2014 and again to $10 beginning January 1, 2016. The minimum wage was last raised to its current rate of $8 per hour back in 2008. The recent increase was a relatively popular proposal in the California state legislature. However, the same cannot be said of efforts on the federal level.
In February’s State of the Union address President Obama stated that the minimum wage should be raised to $9 an hour. However, Republicans took a hard stance against the efforts of House Democrats to increase the federal minimum wage in a fashion similar to California’s. Although whether the minimum wage increase would truly help the economy remains a divisive issue amongst some experts, many argue that increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour would lift thousands out of poverty. According to Assembly Speaker John Perez, the boost to $10 will increase earnings by minimum wage workers up $4,000 per year.
Although California’s recent minimum wage increase is nothing to scoff at, it probably won’t stay the highest minimum wage for long. For example, Washington, Oregon, and 6 other states currently index their minimum wage to account for inflation annually. This means that these minimum wages will likely surpass the California minimum wage unless future wage increases occur.
What Happens if an Employer Doesn’t Pay the Minimum Wage?
All too often employers get lax about minimum wage rules. However, California law is clear. You must pay workers for all time worked and at a level that is at least the minimum wage. When they do not they must pay the worker the difference. Additionally, the employer may be subject to penalties for each underpaid employee during a pay period. If an employee brings a private lawsuit against the employer they may be able to recover a portion of these penalties.
Often times when an employer fails to provide the minimum wage, they also fail to provide adequate meal and rest breaks. Employers must pay employees a premium for failing provide proper breaks. This can add up to a lot of unpaid wages over time.
If you suspect that your employer has not paid you for time worked contact the experienced California employment law attorneys of the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham, LLP to schedule a free case evaluation. Call (951) 213-4786 today.