A class action lawsuit over California minimum wage issues has been reactivated against the City of Long Beach.
Plaintiffs Wendy M. and Jasmine S. are two city employees who allege that the California minimum wage of $10 per hour was not paid for four months starting in January 2016 and ending in April of that same year, according to the Long Beach Post.
Previously, the class action lawsuit had been tabled when a judge ruled in favor of the City’s argument that it was not beholden to pay minimum wage as determined by the state because of its status as a charter city. The California wage case was effectively dismissed until it appeared before a judge this week in the state’s Second District Court of Appeals.
Justices in the Court of Appeals indicated that the first ruling was incorrect and reversed that outcome. This new decision reopens the lawsuit and brings the issues concerning whether charter cities must follow state regulations when it comes to California minimum wage front and center.
What is a Charter City?
As explained in an article posted on the League of California Cities website, the constitution of California allows for the formation of charter cities. Charter cities can theoretically exercise more local control over affairs affecting their citizens by adopting legislation that might differ from the state legislation. This local group of laws is known as the City’s charter.
If a city doesn’t have their own charter, they are considered a general law city that is subject to all the laws of the state in which they reside. The allowance for this type of governance in California’s state constitution is known as the “home rule” element. The idea behind it is that the city knows best how to govern itself and protect its citizens.
The California Minimum Wage in Long Beach
The California minimum wage class action lawsuit against the City of Long Beach argues that the then $10 minimum wage was denied city workers in the Library Division as well as Parks, Recreation, and Marine Division for the first quarter of 2016.
According to the City’s website, it has approximately 12 public libraries, 170 parks, 26 community centers, five municipal golf courses, and two tennis centers. Allegedly, 200 workers were shorted their rightful wages during this time.
By the end of April 2016, the full $10 minimum wage had been established for Long Beach employees and it has remained in compliance with state regulations since that time.
As indicated in the Long Beach Post article, the wage situation was remedied but the City has continued to contend and fight the class action on the basis of purportedly having the right to do so. One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs believe this has been a grand waste of taxpayer funds.
The ruling by the Court of Appeals justices says that the state has the right to protect citizens in this regard over and above a city charter. It has determined what type of average hourly rate is required for all municipalities in the state of California. Because of this, the court reasoned, state law must override local charters when it comes to minimum wage.
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