A group of workers in Birmingham Alabama have challenged a new state law which prohibits local governments, specifically the City of Birmingham, from raising their minimum wages. Birmingham sought to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by next year in an effort to fight income inequality. Birmingham is about 74% African-American. Plaintiffs assert that this law was racially motivated and that it is improper for a state government to bar local governments from passing their own wage laws.
The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Many states have higher minimum wages and an employer must pay the higher of the state minimum wage or the Federal. Were Birmingham not barred from its ordinance, employers in Birmingham would have to pay the even higher minimum wage. The State of Alabama contends that it passed the law to maintain a uniform minimum wage throughout the state.
From a legal perspective, legislative acts are presumed to be constitutional and the effort to have them struck is a difficult one. Maduff & Maduff succeeded in challenging the constitutionality of Illinois’ Pension Reform Act last year, but the Illinois Supreme Court in that case also started its analysis with the presumption that the law was constitutional. The Plaintiffs in the Alabama case have a heavy burden.
The fight against income inequality has taken center stage in the Democratic primaries this year as it has been a centerpiece of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign. His efforts have forced Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to also address the issue. Many states have considered laws like Alabama’s which would interfere with efforts by local governments to raise wages. Nonetheless, even where such laws exist, employers often ignore the minimum wage requirements and pay less than minimum wage. Similarly employers fail to pay overtime by not recording all hours their employees work or by placing them on a salary when it is illegal to do so.
Maduff & Maduff has handled numerous wage and hour collective actions for many hundreds of employees. If you believe you are not being paid correctly, have been misclassified, or feel that you are a victim of wage or overtime theft, contact Maduff & Maduff today.