If our work site is located in an area where only the California minimum wage rate applies, but due to COVID-19, some of our employees are now working remotely from home in a city or county with a local minimum wage ordinance, do we have to pay the local minimum wage rate?
Local minimum wage requirements may apply depending on the ordinance issued by each city or county where the employee works—or in this case, from where the employee is working remotely. Each ordinance defines the coverage and eligibility, and the rules vary.
Minimum Work Time
In general, employees are eligible and covered by a local minimum wage ordinance if they work within the geographic boundaries of the city or county for a minimum amount of time per week, such as two hours per week; and employers are covered if they employ employees working in that particular city or county.
An eligible employee must be paid no less than the applicable local minimum wage rate for each hour of work within the geographic boundaries of the city or county.
So, in the case of an employee who is working remotely from home in a city or county with a local minimum wage rate, if the employee is eligible (for example, they have worked more than two hours in that city/county for the week), then the employee should be paid at the applicable local minimum wage rate for all hours worked within the geographic boundaries of that location.
The fact that the employer’s location/worksite, or the employee’s typical worksite (absent COVID-19 circumstances), is located where no local minimum wage rate applies makes no difference.
Keep in mind, the same analysis should be made for any other local ordinances (aside from minimum wage) that might apply, such as local paid sick leave.
Check with Local Entities
In response to COVID-19, some localities have made modifications or expansions to the instances in which employees may use their paid sick leave.
If you have employees working in any locality with a local paid sick leave ordinance (Berkeley, Emeryville, City of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica), be sure to check with that locality to see what changes, if any, have been made in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, several localities have passed supplemental paid sick leave ordinances to provide additional paid sick leave than what is required under state, local and federal law.
Specifically, the ordinances are aimed at covering larger employers with 500 or more employees that are not covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
Remember, the applicability of local ordinances is largely based on where the employee is working, so be careful not to assume that a local ordinance doesn’t apply, just because you, the employer, are located somewhere else.
Also remember that employers subject to state and local laws must follow the stricter standard or the law that’s most beneficial to the employee when there are conflicting requirements.
Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.