Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The City of Long Beach has lost its bid in the Court of Appeal to establish that as a chartered city, it may set the salaries of its employees without regard to the state minimum wage statute.
The city cited Art. XI, §5 of the state Constitution, a provision of which declares that a chartered city has “plenary authority” to provide in its charter for the “compensation” of “municipal officers and employees whose compensation is paid by the city.” That section, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger ruled, validates the city’s position.
He sustained a demurrer by the city, without leave to amend, to a class-action complaint by city workers.
Appeals Court Reverses
Reversal came Monday in an opinion by Court of Appeal Justice Michele Feuer of this district’s Div. Seven. She wrote:
“This case pits article XI, section 5 of the state Constitution, which grants to charter cities authority over municipal affairs, including ‘plenary authority’ to provide for the compensation of city employees, against article XIV, section 1 of the state Constitution, which provides ‘[t]he Legislature may provide for minimum wages and for the general welfare of employees….’ Despite the century-long history of the home rule doctrine…and the state’s regulation of the minimum wage…, the Supreme Court has not squarely resolved whether charter cities must comply with state law minimum wage requirements.
“We conclude legislation setting a statewide minimum wage, generally applicable to both private and public employees, addresses the state’s interest in protecting the health and welfare of workers by ensuring they can afford the necessities of life for themselves and their families. Thus, the Legislature may constitutionally exercise authority over minimum wages, despite the constitutional reservation of authority in charter cities to legislate as to their municipal affairs.”
Setting Higher Wages
Feuer went on to declare:
“Here, the statewide concern in worker health and welfare is reasonably related to the imposition of a minimum wage….[T]he minimum wage law does not deprive the City completely of its authority to determine wages. Rather, the law sets a floor based on the Legislature’s judgment as to the minimum income necessary for a living wage within this state. The City retains authority to provide wages for its employees above that minimum as it sees fit.”
The case is Marquez v. City of Long Beach, 2019 S.O.S. 880.
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