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City Council bolsters living wage law

The San Diego City Council voted on Tuesday to bolster requirements for contractors to pay a "living wage" to workers, currently pegged at $13.99 per hour.

Among other things, the council voted to increase the fines and penalties on companies that repeatedly fail to meet the wage requirements.

The amendments authorize the city manager to take action to secure compliance and require the city to report violations to appropriate state regulatory agencies. Employees will have three years to file suits over back wages, compared to the current limit of one year.

In addition, two more workers will be added to the two-person staff now charged with monitoring the wages.

"Today’s amendments will make San Diego’s living wage ordinance enforcement among the strongest in California,” said Interim Mayor Gloria.

The living wage ordinance, which aims at requiring contractors to pay salaries that can cover their workers' cost of living in San Diego, has been in effect since July 2006. But partly because of the complexities of the law, a number of contractors have failed to comply.

A review by the city's Purchasing and Contracting Department found that nearly half of the contractors surveyed were out of compliance with the ordinance, whether by underpaying wages, failing to allocate paid leave, failing to track accrual of leave time or failing to notify covered employees of their living wage rights. The department has recovered $317,979 in back wages for employees.

"Employers need to know that the costs of not following the policy is more costly than the costs of following it," Robert Nothoff, research and policy analyst at San Diego's Center for Policy Initiatives, told the Council during its deliberations.

The amendments adopted Tuesday would streamline some of the ordinance's outdated or murky language, as well as broaden the ordinance to apply to all service contracts and city facility agreements.

Under the original language, the ordinance only applied to service contracts worth $25,000 or more and facility agreements that generated at least $350,000 in gross receipts for the business.

The amendments will also provide definitions for how the law defines compensated leave, health benefits and prime service contractors and what constitutes willful violation of the law.

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City of San Diego

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San Diego, CA 92101

City of San Diego Executive(s):

Sherri Lightner

  • Council President Pro Tem

Kevin Faulconer

  • Mayor

Todd Gloria

  • Council President

Myrtle Cole

  • City Council Member

Mark Kersey

  • City Council Member

Lorie Zapf

  • City Council Member

Scott Sherman

  • City Council Member

David Alvarez

  • City Council Member

Marti Emerald

  • City Council Member

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