Jefferson County judge upholds Louisville Metro minimum wage ordinance
A Louisville judge has upheld metro government's right to enact a local minimum wage, allowing an ordinance that will gradually raise the local base pay to $9 per hour to begin taking effect Wednesday.
Monday, June 29th 2015, 10:03 am EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville judge has upheld metro government's right to enact a local minimum wage, allowing an ordinance that will gradually raise the local base pay to $9 per hour to begin taking effect Wednesday. “The Metro Council and I took this step last summer to provide working families a higher minimum wage because we know that many struggle to pay for housing, food, clothing and medical care,” Mayor Greg Fischer said in statement. “Today's favorable ruling will have a real impact on many Louisville families.”
The minimum wage in Metro Louisville is set to rise to $7.75 per hour on Wednesday following the favorable ruling Monday by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman.
The base wage will step up to $8.25 per hour on July 1, 2016 and then to $9 per hour on July 1, 2017, with annual adjustments for inflation thereafter.
The current minimum wage in Kentucky is the same as the federal -- $7.25.
McDonald-Burkman's ruling came after
to stop the ordinance from becoming law.
The business groups argued that the Metro wage ordinance conflicts with Kentucky's Wage and Hours Law and is “null and void."
Brent Baughman, the attorney for the business groups, said Monday that they will appeal Burkman's order to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Baughman said he'd be “really surprised” if the case isn't ultimately decided by the state Supreme Court.
“Of course we are disappointed by this ruling, but this thing was destined to go on appeal,” Baughman said.
Whether counties have the power to set minimum wage is an entirely new question for Kentucky courts and one that has many statewide implications, he said.
David Tandy, President of Louisville Metro Council, said in a statement, “I and the working families of Metro Louisville welcome this ruling. We, on the Metro Council knew last year that it was time to move forward with increasing the minimum wage after listening to all sides and reviewing the facts of what happens in other cities when such a move is made by local governments. Since we began our discussion and took action, many companies have increased their minimum wages. This is a great day and hopefully leaders in other cities and at the State Capitol will take this decision as basis for improving wages statewide.”
Jason Bailey, director of Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, in
that Burkman's ruling clears the way for cities "to increase their wages as they see fit" above the statewide floor.
"We encourage other cities to follow Louisville's lead and pass minimum wage ordinances," Bailey said.
The Metro Council passed the wage ordinance in December following a threat by Fischer to veto the original proposal favored by some council Democrats, which would have gradually raised the base wage to $10.10 per hour.
Burkman wrote in her 4-page decision that the state legislature has given Louisville Metro, a consolidated city-county government, "broad authority to govern itself."
The judge was not persuaded by the business groups' argument that it would be too burdensome to comply with the ordinance because employees may work in multiple counties with different minimum pay requirements.
"(W)hat is legal in one county may be illegal in another, such as indoor smoking and alcohol and fireworks sales," Burkman wrote. "A business owner must comply with the laws and ordinances in the various locales in which it chooses to operate, even if variances exist."
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