Appeal judges question Alabama minimum wage suit – By The Associated Press (AL.com) / June 25 2019
ATLANTA (AP) — Some federal appeals court judges appeared skeptical of a lawsuit that accuses Alabama lawmakers of racial discrimination for blocking the majority-black city of Birmingham from raising its minimum wage.
The judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned Tuesday whether the lawsuit was properly filed against Alabama’s attorney general. Failure to sue the correct party would get the case thrown out.
Judges at Tuesday’s hearing in Atlanta asked how a court order barring the attorney general from enforcing the state minimum wage law would force employers to pay Birmingham’s higher minimum wage. Eric Brown, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients did not have to show that every employer would pay the higher wage.
The lone African American judge on the panel, Charles Wilson, pushed back against his colleagues’ concerns that an 11th Circuit ruling wouldn’t affect state courts or employers. Wilson was among the judges on the unanimous, three-judge panel that sided with the workers and civil rights groups.
“We only have to do our job,” he said.
At issue is a 2016 law requiring every city in Alabama to have the same minimum wage. State lawmakers passed it after Birmingham’s city council voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. .
U.S. District Judge David Proctor dismissed the case in 2017, writing there were “fatal flaws” in the plaintiffs’ reasoning. The plaintiffs appealed Proctor’s decision and last summer argued before a three-member panel of the 11th Circuit. Then, the appeals court reversed part of the dismissal order and sent part of the lawsuit back to district court.
A three-member panel of the appeals court said in its opinion last year that, while they partially agreed with Proctor’s ruling, one of the lawsuit’s claims shouldn’t have been dismissed. “The plaintiffs have stated a plausible claim that the Minimum Wage Act had the purpose and effect of depriving Birmingham’s black citizens equal economic opportunities on the basis of race, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the opinion said.
The 11th Circuit later granted a request by Alabama for a rehearing before the full panel of judges.
Dismissal of lawsuit over Birmingham’s minimum wage hike reversed by appeals court
The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday on the case involving Birmingham’s minimum wage law, and sent part of the case back to district court.
Protesters gather to support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Birmingham. (Kelly Poefirstname.lastname@example.org)