In special session on July 14, 2014, the San Diego City Council voted 6-3 in favor of enacting the San Diego Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance. The ordinance seeks to raise the San Diego minimum wage over the next three years, and mandates that employers within San Diego provide a minimum amount of earned paid sick leave, beyond that required by recently enacted California state law AB 1522 [click here for information regarding the requirements of AB 1522].

Although San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer vetoed the ordinance August 8, 2014, the San Diego City Council overrode the veto on August 18.

The minimum wage portion of the ordinance would gradually raise the minimum wage within San Diego city limits. Under the ordinance, beginning January 1, 2015 the minimum wage will be raised to $9.75 per hour, then rises to $10.50 per hour on January 1, 2016, $11.50 an hour on January 1, 2017, and, beginning on January 1, 2019, and each year thereafter, the minimum wage will increase proportionately to the prior year’s increase in cost of living, if any. The statewide minimum wage already rose from $8 an hour to $9 on July 1, 2014, and is scheduled to become $10 hour in January 2016.

The earned sick leave portion of the ordinance provides that, beginning on April 15, 2014, all employees who work at least thirty days of the year within San Diego city limits will begin accruing earned paid sick leave. Similar to AB 1522, earned sick leave will accumulate at the rate of one hour for every thirty hours worked, beginning from the time of hire, and will not accrue in increments less than one hour. Also similar to AB 1522, the ordinance provides that for the purposes of accrual, exempt employees are assumed to work forty hours per week, unless their regular work week is less than forty hours per week, in which case their Earned Sick Leave will accrue based upon that regular work week. Unused accrued sick leave must roll over to the following year.

However, the provisions of the ordinance allow for greater use and accrual of earned sick leave than AB 1522. The ordinance provides that an employee may use up to forty hours (five workdays) per year compared to AB 1522’s twenty-four hour (three workdays) requirement. Also, although under the ordinance, an employer may cap the use of earned sick leave per year, whether an employer may cap the accrual of sick leave is uncertain. Under AB 1522, an employer may cap accrual of sick leave at forty-eight hours (six days) per year.

Unless it is determined that 34,000 valid petition signatures from registered voters were submitted to the Registrar of Voters on or before September 18, the minimum wage increase will be effective January 1, 2015 and the earned sick leave requirement will take effect on April 15, 2015.

Importantly, on Tuesday, September 16, opponents of the ordinance submitted over 56,000 petition signatures to the Registrar of Voters. If these signatures are validated, the ordinance will be deemed ineffective and the provisions of the ordinance must be passed by popular vote in a special election or through referendum in 2016.

Many voters who signed the petition came forward stating that they were misled regarding the terms of the ordinance and the effect of the petition. Such voters were provided the opportunity to withdraw their petition signatures before 5:00 p.m. on September 18. There is also concern that persons who signed the petition were not appropriately registered voters. The Registrar of Voters is currently validating the submitted signatures.