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California state senate passes minimum wage bill

The California state Senate narrowly approved a measure on May 29 that calls for the minimum wage in the state to rise to $13 an hour by 2017. Republicans argued strongly that raising minimum wage levels would discourage businesses from creating jobs in California and drive up prices for consumers. Democrats argued that employers should not be allowed to pay wages so low that workers require public assistance just to make ends meet. The bill will now move to the state Assembly where it will likely spark more heated debate.

A similar bill was passed in 2013 that will increase the minimum wage in the state to $9 an hour later in 2014 and bring it to $10 an hour in 2016. The new bill will go further by increasing the figure to $11 an hour in 2015 and $13 an hour in 2017. The bill then calls for annual adjustments based on the inflation rate beginning in 2018.

The bill faces fiscal as well as ideological hurdles as it heads to the state Assembly. The state government employs approximately 4,500 minimum wage workers, and passage of the bill would add millions of dollars to an already tight annual budget. The bill would also see wage bills for these workers increase annually based on inflation.

While the political and economic debates over minimum wage levels continue, many workers in California are being deprived of legal rights regarding pay scales and rest breaks. Businesses sometimes seek to avoid paying overtime by classifying employees incorrectly, and some employers disregard laws governing rest and meal breaks. Civil remedies may be available when employees find themselves in positions like this, and an attorney with experience in this area may seek compensation for them by bringing a lawsuit against the employer involved.

Source: Reuters, "Bill to raise California minimum wage advances in state legislature", Jennifer Chaussee, May 29, 2014

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