As the New Year begins, workers in Santa Clarita will wake up to a small but significant change: an increase in the minimum wage to $16 per hour. This adjustment, as reported by the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), aligns Santa Clarita with the statewide minimum wage for California, which also increased as of January 1, 2024, to $16 per hour.
While some cities within the Golden State offer higher wages, Santa Clarita sticks to the state’s rate. For workers in Santa Clarita, your new minimum wage will be $16 per hour in 2024. However, it falls slightly short when compared to LA County’s minimum wage of $16.90.
Despite being geographically nestled within Los Angeles County, Santa Clarita has aligned with the state’s minimum wage. In contrast, unincorporated areas of LA County have set their minimum wage at $16.90 per hour as of July 1, 2023.
The difference, albeit minor, is due to a critical distinction in governing laws. LA County has a county ordinance that allows it to set its own minimum wage for unincorporated areas, giving it the liberty to incrementally increase the wage each year. Santa Clarita, being an incorporated city, has opted to follow the state’s wage guidelines. This means despite its location within LA County, Santa Clarita isn’t subject to the county’s wage ordinance.
What does this mean for workers? If you’re employed in Santa Clarita proper, the city’s adherence to the state minimum wage applies to you. However, if your workplace falls within the unincorporated areas of LA County, you’re entitled to the slightly higher county minimum wage. Understanding these distinctions is vital in ensuring you’re receiving the correct compensation for your hard work.
An exempt employee is one who is exempt from the state’s minimum wage and overtime laws. They’re typically salaried workers in executive, administrative, or professional roles. Nonexempt (or hourly) employees are paid at least the state minimum wage and are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked beyond a 40-hour workweek, and in California, hours worked beyond eight in a single workday.
California law requires an exempt employee must earn a minimum salary equivalent to twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment. Given the new minimum wage of $16 per hour, this means that an exempt employee must earn at least $66,560 annually (that’s $16 x 2 x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks). If you earn less than this, your employer is supposed to classify you as nonexempt.
What does this mean for workers? If you’re an exempt employee earning less than $66,560 annually, your employer is in violation of California law. You should be classified as nonexempt and entitled to the protections that status offers, including overtime pay.
In California, nonexempt employees are entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond eight in a day or 40 in a week, and for the first 8 hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. Double time is owed for all hours worked beyond 12 in a day and beyond eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. So, if you’re working more than these hours and not receiving overtime pay, your rights are being infringed upon.
The Santa Clarita Minimum wage of $16 sounds like a step forward. But what does it really mean for your annual earnings and standard of living?
Here’s the math: If you’re working full time, meaning 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year (no vacations, remember), you’ll earn $33,280 annually before taxes. On paper, that might seem like a fair sum. But let’s apply some context.
California has one of the highest costs of living in the United States. The state’s housing costs are sky high, with the median home price over $800,000. Rent isn’t much better, with the average apartment going for over $2000 a month. Then there’s food, transportation, healthcare, and other essentials, which all tend to be more expensive than the national average.
So, where does a $33,280 annual income place you? Sadly, below the poverty line. According to the California Poverty Measure, a more comprehensive tool than the federal poverty line, a family of four in LA County needs an income of just under $40,000 just to cover basic expenses. And that’s assuming no major unexpected costs come up, like a car repair or medical bill.
The reality is stark: A $16 hourly wage can leave you scrambling to make ends meet. You might find yourself choosing between paying the rent and buying groceries, or skipping a doctor’s appointment to save on co-pays. It’s a precarious balancing act, and one missed step can lead to financial disaster.
This isn’t about painting a grim picture. It’s about facing the facts and fighting for fair compensation. If you’re working full time, you deserve a wage that not only keeps you above the poverty line but allows for a decent standard of living. Anything less isn’t progress—it’s perpetuating a problem.
California law provides robust protections for workers, and if your employer isn’t paying you appropriately, you have options. For starters, you can file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. This office serves as an advocate for workers and has the power to investigate employers and enforce labor laws. If your claim is validated, they can recover your unpaid wages plus penalties from your employer.
Alternatively, you can take legal action. California law allows workers to sue their employers for unpaid wages, and if you win, you could potentially recover not only your unpaid wages but also interest and attorney’s fees. It’s not a step to be taken lightly, but it’s there if you need it.
It’s important to remember that retaliation is also illegal. Your employer cannot fire, demote, or otherwise punish you for asserting your rights. This includes reducing your hours, changing your shift, or moving you to a less desirable location. If they do those things, that’s another violation you can add to your claim or lawsuit.
Knowing your rights is the first step to asserting them. The second step is not being afraid to seek help. Whether it’s consulting with a lawyer, reaching out to a union representative, or simply talking to a trusted mentor, don’t hesitate to lean on others for support.
If your employer isn’t paying you the minimum wage or overtime you’re entitled to, you have the right—and the means—to demand fairness. Stand up for your rights. Seek help if you need it.
The Santa Clarita minimum wage increase to $16 an hour in 2024 is a step in the right direction but it’s not quite enough for a comfortable life in California. If you’re an exempt employee earning less than $66,560 annually, you should be classified as nonexempt and entitled to overtime pay. Working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week without receiving overtime pay is not just unfair, it’s illegal.
If you find your paycheck falling short of these standards, it’s time to take action. You have rights. You deserve fair pay for your hard work. And if your employer isn’t playing by the rules, they need to be held accountable.
That’s where PARRIS Law Firm steps in. Our team of seasoned employment law attorneys is ready to help you fight for what you’re owed. We can guide you through the process of filing a wage claim or even taking your employer to court if necessary.
So, if you’re tired of struggling to make ends meet on a wage that’s less than you deserve, reach out. Contact PARRIS Law Firm for a free consultation today. Your rights are worth fighting for, and we’re ready to help you win the battle.