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New Minimum Wage for Fast-Food Workers

by | Jan 22, 2024 | Wage & Hour Law

California Governor Gavin Newson recently approved Assembly Bill No. 1228 that creates a new minimum wage and aims to address other concerns within the fast-food industry beginning in 2024. 

Fast Food Workers Will Earn At Least $20 Per Hour

Beginning January 1, 2024, the minimum wage for most jobs in California is $16.00 per hour. However, effective April 1, 2024, the new minimum wage for employees of fast-food restaurants located in the state of California is $20.00 per hour. The fast-food restaurants subject to this change include “limited-service restaurants,” which means restaurants where customers generally order and pay for food before eating it either on or off the property, with either little or no table service. For example, restaurants such as McDonalds, Jack-in-the-Box, and Taco Bell must pay the new minimum wage of $20.00 per hour. Restaurant types that are not considered fast-food are (1) bakeries and (2) pop-up restaurants that are located inside of grocery stores, but only if the employees of that pop-up restaurant earn their paycheck from the grocery store itself.

The Cost of Living in California  

In addition to low wages and part-time scheduling that limit total earnings available to workers, California Fast Food workers also experience a great deal of instability and unpredictability in their work schedules. According to a 2022 research, fast food workers experience far more unpredictability than other service workers. California announced that this minimum wage law is designed to help fast food workers earn the proper cost of living. California minimum wage rate of $20 per hour for fast-food workers may help single adults employed full-time reach an annual income of approximately $41,000. However, this new minimum wage law falls short on helping single-income households with children earn the statewide average cost of living estimated at $59,338 in California.  

Health, Safety, and Welfare of Fast Food Workers 

California further announced its goal to address the health, safety, and welfare of fast-food workers. California created the “Fast Food Council,which will meet at least every 6 months to discuss and develop the minimum wage standards, working conditions, working hours, and training procedures for fast-food workers.   These bi-annual meetings will be open to the public, allowing fast food employees, franchise owners, and other community members to express their concerns. The Fast Food Council will have authority to annually increase the minimum wage and address other employment standards for fast food workers until December 31, 2028. Although the Fast Food Council is not permanent, any improvements it makes to the fast food employment industry will continue in effect 

 Participation and No Retaliation for Fast Food Workers

The bi-annual meetings of the Fast Food Council will provide a safe forum for fast-food workers to express their concerns and ideas about health, safety and employment conditions. Fast food restaurants cannot retaliate against their employees for participating in these public meetings. 

Employees who aren’t paid minimum wage as required or that are victims of retaliation have the right to file a complaint to receive what’s due to them. These matters can become complex, so seeking legal guidance when questions and concerns arise is wise.