For Immediate Release
Board of Supervisors approves amendments to Sonoma County’s Living Wage ordinance
SANTA ROSA, CA | September 13, 2023
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a major expansion of the county’s Living Wage ordinance that will increase the number of workers covered by the policy and require their employers to provide paid time off.
For the first time, all employers covered by the ordinance must give employees at least one hour of paid time off for every 20 hours worked, up to a maximum of 12 paid days off annually.
The Board of Supervisors also voted to apply the ordinance to some employers that conduct business on county-owned property, including tenants and concessionaires at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, the Charles Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and the county’s seven veterans memorial buildings.
“Our entire county benefits when we reduce poverty and raise the standard of living for our lowest-paid workers,” said Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “These changes will increase the number of workers who are protected by the Living Wage ordinance while ensuring they have access to paid time off in case they get sick or need to spend time away from work.”
The changes are part of a comprehensive overhaul of the county’s Living Wage ordinance, which currently requires covered employers to pay workers a minimum of $17.65 an hour. Employers who contribute to workers’ health care or retirement benefits receive a credit of $1.50 off the hourly rate while employers who contribute to both health care and retirement benefits receive a credit of $3 off the hourly rate.
The Board of Supervisors adopted the ordinance in 2016 to promote a viable wage for local residents whose jobs are tied to county contracts. It is unrelated to the state minimum wage, which rose to $15.50 an hour on Jan. 1, 2023.
Initially, the Living Wage ordinance applied to individuals employed directly by the county government and workers in private companies and nonprofits that contract with the County of Sonoma. The ordinance generally applied to private companies with six or more employees, if they supply $25,000 annually or more in contracted services to the county, and to nonprofits that have 25 or more employees and supply more than $50,000 annually in services to the county. The requirements also applied to entities that annually receive more than $100,000 in economic development assistance.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday expanded the ordinance to cover lessees, concessionaires and other employers using county-owned property if they generate more than $350,000 in annual gross receipts from all sources and employ more than 25 workers.
The board also approved new measures in the ordinance for part-time workers, requiring covered employers to use best effort to increase their hours if possible instead of hiring additional part-time workers. In addition, the board established incentives for covered employers to retain existing workers during contract transitions.
To ensure workers’ salaries keep pace with inflation, the board voted to automatically increase the hourly Living Wage rate annually on July 1 at the same rate as the U.S. Labor Department’s consumer price index for all urban consumers, as measured the preceding October. In addition, the board agreed to review the hourly rate at least every four years, beginning in July 2024, to see if it needs additional increases to bring it in line with other jurisdictions.
The revisions to the ordinance will return to the Board of Supervisors for final approval in October.