The so-called “Fight for 15” – those widespread protests for a $15 minimum wage – are so passé now!

As of July 1, 2023, West Hollywood takes the crown for the highest mandated minimum wage in the United States at $19.08.  Why they didn’t just top it off at $20 is anyone’s guess.  (Not to be completely outmatched, several other localities raised their minimum wage as of July 1, too, as we recently reported here.)

Although West Hollywood has now adopted a single, across-the-board minimum wage for those employers who still happen to be doing business within the city limits, the city council previously tinkered with different minimum wages based on employer size (50 or more employees meant a higher minimum wage) and set a still higher minimum wage for hotel employees – based most likely on the assumption it’s harder for a hotel to flee the jurisdiction than some other businesses.  Other localities have set their own employer-size benchmarks or have established different rates for different types of employers (e.g., nonprofit organizations, franchisees) or employees (e.g., on-call employees vs. government-supported employees).

However, West Hollywood has also enacted some limited relief for certain employers.  Businesses are eligible to apply for a one-year waiver if they can demonstrate that complying with the new rate would force the business to “file bankruptcy[,] shutdown, reduce its workforce by more than twenty percent (20%), or curtail its Employees’ total hours by more than thirty percent.”

One West Hollywood restaurant owner reported to the Los Angeles Times since the city began raising the minimum wage this year (first to $17.50 and now to $19.08) his restaurant lost $100,000 just in the first quarter of 2023, and that he has been forced to reduce his staff by one-third from 120 to 80 employees and has cut 1,000 working hours. Another establishment reduced its bar staff from 30 to 22 employees.

We can’t help but think of Mao Zedong, who famously said, “Let a hundred [minimum wage laws] bloom,” as the growing patchwork of such laws continues to expand in scope and complexity with absolutely no consideration of the impact such confusing and conflicting laws might have upon law-abiding employers who are just trying to keep their businesses afloat.  To name just one example, there are parts of Woodbury Avenue in Los Angeles County where businesses on one side of the street are subject to a minimum wage that is three cents higher than on the other side.

Many of the dozens of local governments that have enacted their own very special minimum wage laws have indexing provisions so that the minimum wage rises annually to adjust for inflation.  Other localities have made frequent amendments to their ordinances to account for inflation or make other changes.  Thus, employers must be vigilant to ensure they remain on top of changes to local laws.

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.

Photo of Jonathan Slowik Jonathan Slowik

Jonathan Slowik is a special counsel in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

Photo of Morgan Peterson Morgan Peterson

Morgan Peterson is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Wage and Hour and the Class and Collective Action practice groups.

Morgan assists clients across a…

Morgan Peterson is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Wage and Hour and the Class and Collective Action practice groups.

Morgan assists clients across a variety of industries with litigations and arbitrations relating to wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, and whistleblower matters in both the single plaintiff and class and collective action contexts. She also counsels employers on a diverse range of workplace issues and their policy and handbook development. Morgan maintains an active pro bono practice representing individuals in immigration matters and providing employment counseling to non-profit organizations.

Morgan earned her J.D. from U.C. Irvine School of Law, where she was an Executive Editor of the UC Irvine Law Review and spent four semesters working in UCI’s Civil Rights Litigation Clinic. Morgan also served as a judicial extern for the Honorable John D. Early in the Central District of California. Morgan received her B.A., cum laude, from Tufts University.

Photo of David Gobel David Gobel

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of Interdisciplinary Law, and part of the executive committee of USC’s Music Law Society. Prior to law school, David worked as a research executive for a marketing research firm in New York.