Municipal Minimum Wage Battles Across the Nation

Date: August 17, 2017

For several years now, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center has been waging a nationwide fight to defend small business against balkanized employment standards. We’ve been especially active in enforcing state enactments preempting local ordinances that may seek to impose minimum wage standards, paid sick leave or other special requirements above and beyond federal and state law. For example, NFIB and NFIB Legal Center have weighed-in through amicus briefs, and in direct litigation, in cases across the country from St. Louis, Missouri to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and from Lansing, Michigan to Miami, Florida.

Now we’re fighting to defend a law that requires a uniform minimum wage throughout Alabama. Remarkably in this case, Lewis v. Alabama, the litigants challenge Alabama’s uniform minimum wage as allegedly discriminatory; however, as argued in our amicus brief, there is nothing discriminatory about general economic regulation:

“Plaintiffs have challenged the Uniform Minimum Wage Act, purely economic legislation, as racially discriminatory. The Supreme Court has directed that courts should evaluate such challenges in context and using common sense. More specifically, the Supreme Court has directed courts to evaluate whether there is an ‘obvious alternative explanation’ which is more plausible than the alleged intentional discrimination. If the court finds an ‘obvious alternative explanation,’ a plaintiff’s challenge is due to be dismissed.”

In other words, this lawsuit is bogus. The statute does nothing to discriminate against anyone on its face. And there simply is no straight-face argument to be made that the Legislature had a discriminatory motive. To be sure, Alabama’s law does exactly what twenty-two other states have already done—which is simply to establish a common statewide standard. And the justification is just as straightforward. The Legislature was plainly acting allay concerns from small business that they may face a patchwork of local minimum wage laws, which may ultimately hamper economic growth and regional prosperity. And though some may disagree with this policy choice, that’s not a ground to invalidate a lawfully enacted facially neutral statute.

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