Because the top of the pandemic, the wages of quick meals staff and restaurant business staff normally have been thrust into the highlight. California Gov. Gavin Newsom lately signed a bill that might elevate the minimal wage for quick meals staff within the state from $16 to $20 an hour beginning April 1, 2024. Nevertheless, the workers of Panera Bread’s California areas have been caught up within the particulars of the deal.

California Meeting Invoice 1228 replaces the 2022 FAST Recovery Act, which might have introduced the minimal wage as much as $22 an hour. This new version applies to “limited-service eating places consisting of greater than 60 institutions nationally that share a standard model.” Initially, it was debated whether or not staff at Panera Bread, being a café-style fast service restaurant and never strictly a quick meals chain, would fall underneath this new laws.

AB1228 appears to include an oddly particular exemption for companies that bake bread. Extra particularly, it states that the blanket class of “quick meals restaurant” doesn’t apply to any companies that “function a bakery that produces on the market on the institution’s premises bread… This exemption applies solely the place the institution produces on the market bread as a stand-alone menu merchandise, and doesn’t apply if the bread is obtainable on the market solely as a part of one other menu merchandise.” Panera does certainly promote loaves of bread in its eating places.

The invoice additionally requires the institution of a quick meals council, one with the authority to create and set guidelines about working situations and coaching for the state’s quick meals staff. If Panera have been to be exempt from the invoice, it might not need to abide by the requirements set by the brand new council.

Bloomberg first reported that the very particular nature of this exemption raised suspicions relating to who it advantages and why it’s included within the invoice. Greg Flynn, a billionaire who owns 24 Panera eating places in California, is a longtime donor to Newsom’s political marketing campaign and has had a enterprise relationship with the governor up to now. Each Flynn and Newsom have denied any claims of Flynn’s involvement within the creation of the exemption.

Flynn issued a statement to Eater Los Angeles explaining that he was against AB1228, however solely as a result of he thought the invoice was being too broadly utilized to eating places past quick meals joints and doesn’t imagine Panera ought to have been a part of it. Nonetheless, he goes on to say partially:

“To be clear, at no time did I ask for an exemption or particular issues. In reality, the thought by no means even occurred to me and I used to be shocked when the exemption appeared within the closing laws.

Such a slim exemption has little or no sensible worth. Because it applies to all of our peer eating places within the quick informal phase, we are going to virtually definitely have to supply market worth wages with a view to appeal to and retain staff.”

Regardless of the alleged connections between Flynn, Newsom, and this laws, it’s now being reported that Panera wouldn’t essentially fall underneath the bread exemption, in spite of everything: The invoice states the bread have to be made on-premises, and Panera really makes its dough off-premises to be baked on the restaurant. Panera has not but commented publicly on the matter.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Takeout.


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