Healthcare worker taking a Covid test on an older man.
(Credit: Morsa Images / Getty Images)

Assisted living community employees are among the Los Angeles healthcare workers who may be covered under a proposed minimum wage ordinance aimed at forcing the industry to direct some profits toward worker compensation.

The Los Angeles City Council on June 29 approved a Healthcare Workers Minimum Wage Ordinance setting the minimum wage at $25 per hour for healthcare workers at privately owned healthcare facilities within the city. Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, and annually thereafter, the ordinance would require the minimum wage to increase based on the annual cost of living. 

The ordinance would go into effect in 30 days if the mayor signs it. The city previously adopted living wage ordinances for airport employees and hotel workers. 

Calling healthcare workers “integral” to the city’s well-being, the ordinance said “adequate compensation will help address the burnout, retention challenges and worker shortages affecting healthcare workers in Los Angeles.”

“While healthcare providers have seen drastic increases in profits, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are still underpaid and struggle to afford housing and other basic needs,” the ordinance reads. “Our healthcare workers have been and continue to be the backbone of the COVID-19 response over the past two years and deserve to be fairly compensated for keeping us safe while facing risks to themselves and their families.”

Workers at residential care facilities for the elderly — also known as assisted living communities — located on the campuses of acute psychiatric hospitals, as well as skilled nursing facilities, are covered under the ordinance. The new minimum wage would apply to certified nursing assistants, maintenance workers, janitorial and housekeeping staff, food service workers and others in those facilities. It would not apply to managers or supervisors. It also would not apply to employees whose primary work assignments are outside of a covered facility, such as delivery workers.

California Assisted Living Association President and CEO Sally Michael told McKnight’s Senior Living that the proposal, if signed, would apply to a limited number of assisted living communities in the Los Angeles area that meet certain criteria outlined in the ordinance.

“If the measure becomes effective, CALA will work to ensure our members understand this change to local wage orders,” Michael said. “Regardless of any change to hourly wage requirements, the care and well-being of assisted living resident will remain the highest priority for CALA’s member providers.”

The ordinance prevents employers from funding those wage increases through layoffs; reduced hours, vacation, healthcare or other non-wage benefits; or increased charges for parking or work-related materials and equipment.

Employers can request a one-year waiver from the minimum wage requirements if they can demonstrate by “substantial evidence” that compliance would raise considerable doubt about their ability to continue to operate the facility. That evidence must include documentation on the employer’s and parent company’s financial condition and evidence of the actual and potential direct financial impact of compliance.