May 25, 2017 

City News Service 

The city of Los Angeles’ Office of Wage Standards has collected more than $250,000 in restitution since last July for workers who were paid below the city’s minimum wage, the head of the Bureau of Contract Administration said Tuesday.


The City Council created the Office of Wage Standards within the Bureau of Contract Administration of the Department of Public Works in 2015 to help enforce the city's plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.


The first increase kicked in on July 1 of last year for employers with 26 or more workers, bringing the hourly rate from $10, which is the state's minimum wage, to $10.50.


John Reamer, director of the Bureau of Contract Administration, told the City Council about the work of the Office of Wage Standards while speaking about the De­partment of Public Works' annual report.


The report was for fiscal year 2015-16, so it did not cover the new minimum wage law and the Office of Wage Standards, but Reamer included the information on this year's minimum wage enforcement effort during his verbal presentation.


According to the UCLA Labor Center, L.A. workers lose $26.6 million each week from wage theft through labor violations committed by their employers. Wage theft could include workers not getting paid overtime, getting misclassified as independent contractors and being paid lower than the minimum wage.


For fiscal year 2015-16, the Office of Wage Standards had five employees, but the staff increased this fiscal year and is currently at 19.


A UC Berkeley study in 2015 found that L.A. would need 25 investigators to reach an average of one investigator per 20,000 low-wage workers similar to the standard in San Francisco, which has the state’s oldest minimum wage law.


Councilman Paul Koretz asked Reamer if he felt the current staffing levels were sufficient.


“The optimum number, it's hard to say,” Reamer responded.


Reamer added that small businesses that have 26 employees or fewer will be subject to the minimum wage increase starting in July. He said the change will likely lead to a higher workload for the office and he will monitor closely to see if additional resources are needed.


Kimberly Fitzpatrick, division manager for the Office of Wage Standards, told City News Service there is money in the budget for seven additional positions for the upcoming fiscal year in the unallocated balance.


“If the workload materializes, they have earmarked money... The way it would work is, if the workload requires it, we would then go back to the council and request those positions,” she said.

Category: Business