By Brian J. Stiger, Director of LA County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.
For nearly 40 years, the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs was our local consumer protection agency. As director of the department since 2012, it was my job to make sure all consumers in L.A. County were treated fairly under the law.
However, Los Angeles County is only at its strongest when both consumers and businesses thrive. So about a year ago, the County’s Board of Supervisors made an important change to both the focus and name of my department. Today, the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs empowers both consumers and businesses in L.A. County.
Starting this July 1, L.A. County will have an increased minimum wage. Businesses in unincorporated areas of L.A. County with more than 26 employees must pay their employees a minimum wage of $10.50 an hour.
Businesses with 25 or fewer employees will follow a staggered schedule, paying $10.50 an hour beginning July 1, 2017. The minimum wage will increase every year until 2021, eventually reaching $15 an hour.
The County believes honest work deserves fair pay and this law will certainly boost workers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet.
The Board of Supervisors has tasked my department with enforcing the minimum wage. If workers believe they are not being paid the correct minimum wage, they can file a claim. We will look into the claim, contact the business if necessary, and take appropriate actions to ensure businesses are in compliance.
The County’s minimum wage law includes an anti-retaliatory measure that states that employers cannot punish workers if they file a wage claim or assist in an investigation.
We know some business owners are concerned about what this change means for their bottom line. However, just as our department’s name suggests, we are working hard to boost Los Angeles County businesses.
For months, my team has reached out to businesses across the County. We conducted several round-table events and went door-to-door to more than 200 businesses to educate employers about the new wage law.
When enforcement efforts begin later this year, if a claim is filed against a business, business owners will have the opportunity to prove they’re in compliance, or to correct a violation.
In addition, the Board of Supervisors and my department are developing new programs to help businesses succeed. The Small Business Initiative, a collaboration with several County departments, will provide workplace development programs and faster plan checks for restaurants among many benefits. The County’s Small Business Utilization plan is establishing easier ways for local small businesses to compete for millions of dollars of available County contracts.
So when we say “Honest Work, Fair Pay,” that could mean your business getting paid, too.
Consumers and businesses thriving. It’s the L.A. County way.
Brian J. Stiger is Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Visit dcba.lacounty.gov or call 1-800-593-8222 to learn more about L.A. County’s new minimum wage.