With federal minimum wage remaining stagnant for the past 9 years, many progressive states have decided to take matters into their own hands and have succeeded in passing minimum wage raises, paid leave laws, and other employment type laws at the city and county levels. Highlighting the further division between Democrats and Republicans, 25 Republican led states have attempted to combat these changes by putting minimum wage preemption laws in place with the majority of them being passed very recently.
In a case with national implications in the "preemption wars", a group of African-American fast-food workers in Alabama were just granted a victory in their legal fight over minimum wages. In Lewis et al. v. Alabama et al., the Appeals Court for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the workers in the lawsuit initially dismissed in court, have “a plausible claim” that the state law deprived “Birmingham’s black citizens [of] equal economic opportunities on the basis of race,” in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. While other dismissed claims of the lawsuit were upheld, this reversal sends the lawsuit back to a lower court where the equal protection argument will now be heard.
This particular case has been especially contentious with the Birmingham City Council passing a measure in 2016 to raise the minimum wage and the legislature in Birmingham fast-tacking a preemption bill that was very quickly signed by the state's Republican governor to stop it from going into effect. This drew ire from Democrats, black lawmakers, ministers, and the NAACP who claimed that the state's mostly white legislature violated civil rights of the mostly black workers. Apparently the Appeals Court thought that a measure originally sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner, who comes from a town that is 97 percent white and wealthy and in contrast to Birmingham which is about three-quarters African-American with a poverty rate around double the national level was biased enough to show a "plausible claim" and that racism is “cloaked beneath ostensibly neutral laws and legitimate bases.” Judge Charles R. Wilson said that racism was clear when he wrote in his decision "“The [law] was introduced by a white representative from Alabama’s least diverse area, with the help of fifty-two other white sponsors, and was objected to by all black members of the House and Senate. And it was accelerated through the legislative process in sixteen days with little or no opportunity for public comment or debate.”
Keep an eye out for this case as it may have long reaching ramifications for businesses and employees alike.
About the author
Gregg Perez combines his love and passion to help law firms, start-ups, and companies of varying size reach their best potential with the experience gained from working with Fortune 500 companies, law firms, and start-ups. As a Director, Administrator, COO, VP and consultant, he brings years of consulting and real life experience to the table for his clients.