IR # 97-13
Thursday, February 27, 1997

Rick Rice
Troy Swauger
(415) 972-8835

California Minimum Wage Increases to $5 per hour March 1, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO -- California workers who earn minimum wage will see their pay increase to $5 per hour starting this Saturday, March 1, 1997. The increase comes following the formal adoption of mandated minimum wage levels late last year by the California Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC), resulting from passage of Proposition 210 and from a change in the federal minimum wage law last year.

The IWC, which sets standards for wages, hours and working conditions in California, adopted the new federal minimum wage last summer that increased the wage to $4.75 effective October 1, 1996. Following the next increase on Saturday, which brings the minimum wage to $5 per hour under the provisions of Proposition 210, another federally mandated increase will occur on September 1, 1997, bringing the minimum wage to $5.15 per hour. Additionally, the final scheduled increase provided by Proposition 210 will lift the California minimum wage rate to $5.75 per hour on March 1, 1998.

"We anticipate questions and perhaps some confusion in the workplace because California is experiencing four changes in the state’s minimum wage during a period of 17 months," California Labor Commissioner Roberta Mendonca said. "This many changes can create some basic misunderstanding of when the higher rate should be paid if a pay period straddles the change in wage rate."

In all cases, employers must pay their workers the increased minimum wage rate for work performed on and after the effective date of the wage rate increase, Mendonca said. Work performed prior to the effective date would be paid at the old rate.

To help forestall any problems the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has opened a toll free phone line to offer detailed information for both employers and employees. The number is 1-888-ASK-WAGE (1-888-275-9243) and will be available in English, Spanish and Chinese versions. Anyone who dials the number will hear a recorded message that summarizes the changes in the minimum wage. The hotline also provides information on applicability of the state’s opportunity wage, meal and lodging credits, and how the new minimum wage affects tipped employees. In addition, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement can provide information for individuals who are not being paid at the appropriate rate and need to file a wage claim. The telephone number for the nearest office is listed in the government pages of local directories under California State Government, Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (State Labor Commissioner).

The official notice of the increase in minimum wage was mailed in early December to every California employer that is registered with the State Employment Development Department. Anyone who wants a copy of the notice may call the Industrial Welfare Commission at (415) 975-0761.