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According to the US Inflation Calculator, in 2023, inflation, or the rise in the cost of goods and services, was 6.4%. To keep up with the constantly rising costs of labor, materials, real estate, and consumer items, the minimum wage should go up accordingly. In fact, the state has raised the minimum wage every year since 2017. California’s minimum wage is now up from $15.50 to $16.00 per hour in 2024, which is only a 4.2% increase. 

If you believe your employer is violating your minimum wage rights, immediately speak with our San Diego wage attorneys

Exempt Employees in California

An exempt employee typically holds a professional position and is exempt from being paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Common examples of exempt employees include teachers and doctors. Whether a teacher is staying late for parent-teacher conferences or off for summer vacation, their pay remains constant. You can see why employers would want to classify as many employees as possible as “exempt” to avoid having to pay overtime.

In 2024, exempt California employees must now be paid at least twice as much as the full-time minimum wage. If a so-called exempt employee is not paid enough, they can not be considered “exempt” anymore and may, therefore, request overtime pay. So, the raise in minimum wage also boosts the starting salary for exempt workers. What do these exempt numbers equate to? As of January 1, 2024, California-exempt employees must earn at least $66,560 annually, $5,546.67 monthly, or $1,280 weekly to remain exempt from overtime.

Local City & County Minimum Wage Standards

California is a big state, and the cost of living varies significantly from Los Angeles to Eureka. Therefore, many California cities (and one county) vote for a higher minimum wage for their constituents. Employers must pay whichever minimum wage is highest—the state’s or the county’s. These California cities and counties have higher minimum wages than the state mandates:

  • Alameda
  • Belmont
  • Berkeley
  • Burlingame
  • Cupertino
  • Daly City
  • East Palo Alto
  • El Cerrito
  • Emeryville
  • Foster City
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Hayward
  • Los Altos
  • Los Angeles County
  • Malibu
  • Menlo Park
  • Milpitas
  • Mountain View
  • Novato
  • Oakland
  • Palo Alto
  • Pasadena
  • Petaluma
  • Redwood City
  • San Carlos
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • San Leandro
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Monica
  • Santa Rosa
  • Sonoma
  • South San Francisco
  • Sunnyvale  
  • West Hollywood

In some of these cities, the minimum wage is over $19/hour. Additionally, some of these locales will raise their minimum wage again mid-year. 

Dental & Medical Employees

California delineates a separate minimum wage for healthcare workers, which is $25/hour in 2024. “Healthcare worker” is defined as anyone who works for a healthcare facility and provides patient, medical, or supporting services, whether that person is an intern, an ambulance driver, or working at a rural outpatient clinic or a home health agency. This standard will apply to half a million Californians. Who does it not apply to? Dental office employees. Dentists should confer with the California Dental Association for more specific details outlining their responsibilities to employees in 2024.

Fast Food Chain Employees

Another class of workers that are singled out for higher minimum wages are fast food employees. The minimum wage if you work at a “limited service” restaurant with 60 or more branches is $20/hour. This wage increase takes effect on April 1, 2024. With full-time “burger flippers” making over $40,000/year, it is expected that this will put pressure on other similar industries to pay more livable wages that keep up with inflation.

Our San Diego Employment Lawyers Will Fight for You

You have rights in the workplace! Mara Law Firm is a fierce and knowledgeable San Diego employment attorney service. We handle cases from being underpaid to being discriminated against and everything in between. Contact our offices right away to see if we can help you with the new minimum wage in 2024.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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