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Supreme Court upholds Minneapolis's $15 minimum wage ordinance

Minnesota Judicial Center Photo: McGhiever
Minnesota Judicial Center

Updated: January 22, 2020 11:31 AM

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a Minneapolis ordinance establishing a $15 minimum wage for the city.

The high court's opinion, written by Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, states that by complying with the Minneapolis ordinance, employers are not in violation of the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, and therefore the ordinance is compatible with state statutes.

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Graco, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the city on Nov. 10, 2017, seeking a judgment declaring that Minnesota statutes preempt municipal ordinances. A district court ruled that the state sets a floor, not a ceiling for wages. An appeals court affirmed that ruling last March.

Appeals court rules Minneapolis minimum wage ordinance is 'valid and enforceable'

Graco argued in its lawsuit that the ordinance conflicts with state law because it restricts the employer's ability to pay the state minimum wage. The court countered with the argument that no language in the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act suggests that municipalities cannot pass higher minimum wages — the state sets a floor, not a ceiling.

"All employers, regardless of size or revenues, must pay 'at least' the minimum-wage rate set forth by the MFLSA," the ruling stated. "Therefore, no conflict exists."

Minneapolis passed a minimum wage regulation that went in effect Jan. 1, 2018, that requires large and small employers to pay workers at least $15 an hour by 2022 and 2024, respectively, the court document states.

Right now the hourly minimum wage in Minneapolis is $12.25 for large employers and $11 for small employers. The statewide minimums are $9.86 and $8.04 for large and small employers. Minnesota law defines large employers as businesses that bring in $500,000 or more in annual revenue.

“The battle over our minimum wage ordinance is over,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement. “Today’s ruling affirms the right to a living wage for thousands of workers and cements Minneapolis’ status as a city willing to fight for inclusive economic policies.

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Kyle Brown

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