Hold On, Small, Independent Restaurants in Emeryville! Minimum Wage Pause in Flux

Stand by! Emeryville’s minimum wage ordinance amendment for small, independent restaurants is in flux.

As previously reported, Emeryville had pushed the “pause” button for a very specific group of employers that would otherwise be subject to the July 1 local minimum wage increase. On July 1, Emeryville’s small, independent restaurants would only pay $15 per hour, instead of the new local minimum wage rate of $16.30 per hour, and thereafter, would have much slower wage increases than the rate paid by all other businesses.

However, on June 25, 2019, a referendum petition on the minimum wage ordinance (MWO) amendment for small, independent restaurants was submitted to the Emeryville City Clerk, who then submitted it to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters (ROV) to check and certify the validity of the signatures. Under the referendum process, citizens can refer a recently passed law to the ballot for voters to decide whether to uphold or repeal the law.

What does this mean for businesses preparing to comply with Emeryville’s MWO, including an hourly wage increase on July 1?

First and foremost, nothing has changed for those businesses not defined as a small, independent restaurant under the MWO amendment. Those businesses will pay $16.30 per hour beginning July 1, 2019. However, for small, independent restaurants defined in the MWO amendment, the MWO amendment will be in effect on July 1, 2019, but only until the Emeryville City Council approves the referendum petition certification results. Once the city council accepts the certification, the MWO amendment will be suspended and the minimum wage rate will be $16.30 per hour for all businesses.

After that, the Emeryville City Council could possibly:

  1. Repeal the MWO amendment entirely; or
  2. Place the matter before the voters at an election, either at the next regular municipal election or at a special election called for that purpose. If the matter is placed before the voters at an election, the amendment would not be in effect pending the outcome of the election.
    • If the referendum passes, the MWO amendment would not go into effect and all businesses would be required to pay their employees the $16.30 per hour rate.
    • If the referendum does not pass, the MWO amendment would go into effect, applying a lower minimum wage rate of $15 per hour for small, independent restaurants.

According to the Emeryville website, the next city council meeting could be as early as July 9. Therefore, beginning July 1, 2019, and until the city council approves the certification of the results of the referendum petition (as early as July 9, 2019, or at a later City Council meeting), small, independent restaurants can pay their employees $15 per hour — keeping in mind, however, that once the MWO amendment is suspended, they will need to pay the higher rate of $16.30 per hour.

CalChamber will be closely monitoring this process and keep you updated of further developments. You can also find more information on the Emeryville website. Stay tuned to HRWatchdog for updates!

Bianca Saad, Employment Law Subject Matter Expert

Confused by local minimum wages and other local ordinances? CalChamber members can read more about local ordinances, including Emeryville’s Fair Workweek and Paid Sick Leave Ordinances, on HRCalifornia. Not a member? See what CalChamber can do for you.

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