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The Minimum Wage Just Went Up in Several Bay Area Cities. Are You Getting Paid the Right Amount?

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Two workers dressed in blue caps, blue shirts and orange aprons behind the counter of what looks like a movie theater, serving popcorn and soda
Now that San Francisco's minimum wage has gone up, are you being paid the correct amount? (Drs Producoes/Getty Images)

As of July 1, 2023, the minimum wage has gone up in several Bay Area cities.

In San Francisco, the minimum wage is now $18.07 (PDF). On July 1, it increased from $16.99, marking the biggest increase in the city’s minimum wage in the past eight years.

Elsewhere, Berkeley has seen the same rise in its minimum wage as San Francisco. In Fremont, the minimum wage has risen starting July 1 from $16 to $16.80, and in Milpitas it’s now $17.20, up from $16.40. Meanwhile, in Emeryville, the minimum wage has gone up to $18.77 — higher than even San Francisco or Berkeley – from $17.68, now making the minimum wage in Emeryville one of the highest in the nation.

Even with these latest boosts, many Bay Area residents working minimum wage jobs struggle to make ends meet in some of the most expensive cities in the country. In San Francisco, someone with one full-time minimum wage job is expected to earn roughly $3,100 a month — an amount that is barely above the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city.

If you have a minimum wage job and are hustling to make ends meet, you know how important every single dollar is. Wage theft — that is, employers illegally keeping some of their employees’ pay for themselves — is still very common in California, particularly in the fast-food industry. A 2022 survey released by Fight for $15, a campaign funded by the Service Employees International Union, found that nearly 60% of respondents were victims of multiple types of wage theft.

Knowing what your rights are and how to keep tabs on your employer is critical to making sure you are getting paid the right amount, especially now that the minimum wage has risen in several parts of the Bay Area. Here’s a quick primer.

What should I do now that the minimum wage has gone up?

Check your pay stubs. Many employers use automatic payroll services that usually keep up with minimum wage changes, but it’s still a good idea to check the listed hourly rate to make sure it doesn’t list the outdated minimum wage ($16.99) or any lesser amount.

If you receive your wages through automatic deposit and don’t receive physical pay stubs, you can contact your human resources or payroll department — or, in much smaller business, your boss directly — and ask for your most recent pay stub to confirm that what you got in your account is correct. In some cases, you can get this information yourself if your employer has a digital employee portal (the place where you can review other information, like your schedule or insurance benefits).

If you are paid in cash, you can remind your employer about the new minimum wage and ask them to count your payment in front of you — to make sure each hour is being compensated at the new rate.


I discovered my employer is paying me below the minimum wage. What can I do?

First off, make sure that everything you communicate to your boss about this is in writing. Labor advocates recommend using email or text messages for these types of conversations, so you can have a written record of your situation.

In your message, let your employer know in writing:

  • The hourly rate you are being paid
  • The correct minimum wage you should get paid
  • How long you’ve been paid the incorrect amount (if this applies to you)

You can also send a link to (or a screenshot of) your city government’s website stating the new minimum wage — like this poster from the city of San Francisco stating the city’s new minimum wage.

For some workers, this could be intimidating. But remember, you are acting within your rights, and if you are not compensated correctly, small differences will add up over time — and you may be losing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year that can go to covering necessary expenses.

Additionally, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for speaking up about wage theft. If they cut your hours or fire you — and you think this is because you spoke up about being paid less than the minimum wage — you can report your employer to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. Learn more about how to file a complaint for workplace retaliation.

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I spoke to my employer about my wages, but they are not doing anything about it. What can I do now?

If your employer still refuses to change your wages so you are getting paid the minimum wage, you have several options.

You can contact the office of your city’s government that deals with labor standards. In San Francisco, for example, you can contact the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement at (415) 554-6292 or via email at mwo@sfgov.org. This team is tasked with making sure employers are keeping up with the minimum wage. Let them know about your situation and have both your pay stubs — if you have them — and the written records of your conversations with your employer ready.

You can also report the situation to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. They have a team that investigates wage theft, and if they find that you did experience this, you can receive back pay and potentially additional compensation for damages. Learn more about how to file a complaint for wage theft.

One important thing to keep in mind: The California Labor Commissioner’s Office has historically been understaffed and has struggled with a backlog of wage theft claims. In 2022 KQED reported that tens of thousands of claims have taken longer than a year to resolve, while nearly 4,000 have languished for three years or more.

While reporting your situation to this agency may not sound like the fastest solution, the Labor Commissioner’s Office does have the legal authority to make employers pay their workers back stolen wages and has done so in several big-profile cases. In 2022, the Labor Commissioner’s Office reached a $2.2 million settlement with the owners of three Saravanaa Bhavan restaurant franchises located across the Bay Area. That amount compensated 317 employees from the three franchises for unpaid minimum wage, overtime hours and inaccurate wage statements.

Does this new minimum wage apply to me even if I am undocumented or working without a formal contract?

Absolutely. Your immigration status does not affect your right to receive the minimum wage.

If your employer has requested your labor or services, they are required to pay you at least the minimum wage per hour, even if you do not have legal authorization to work in this country. And if you are working without a formal contract and receive your wages in cash, your employer is still legally obligated to pay you the correct rate. Even when there’s not a formal job contract, your city’s labor laws still apply.

Who decides changes to the minimum wage?

In San Francisco, the minimum wage goes up each year thanks to a local ordinance that establishes annual increases based on the regional Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures price changes for essential consumer goods in the Bay Area.

Noticed that things like groceries and gas got much more expensive in the past couple of years? The CPI keeps track of those price hikes — and these minimum wage increases attempt to keep up with these changes.

This story includes reporting from KQED’s Farida Jhabvala Romero.

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At KQED News, we know that it can sometimes be hard to track down the answers to navigate life in the Bay Area in 2023. We’ve published clear, practical explainers and guides about COVID, how to cope with intense winter weather and how to exercise your right to protest safely.

So tell us: What do you need to know more about? Tell us, and you could see your question answered online or on social media. What you submit will make our reporting stronger, and help us decide what to cover here on our site, and on KQED Public Radio, too.

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