Minimum-Wage Ruling in Kentucky Weakens Localities' Power
By Beth Musgrave
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that cities such as Louisville and Lexington do not have the authority to raise the minimum wage.
The decision means a November 2015 ordinance passed by the Urban County Council that increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over three years is no longer valid. The first Lexington wage increase took effect July 1, raising the minimum wage from the federal level of $7.25 an hour to $8.20 an hour.
"This morning, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down Louisville's minimum wage ordinance," said Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city of Lexington. "This opinion effectively prevents cities, including Lexington, from increasing the minimum wage. Lexington's local minimum wage ordinance has been invalidated."
In its 6-1 decision, the court said the Louisville minimum wage ordinance is "invalid and unenforceable" because Louisville did not have the legal authority to set wage floors. The case challenged Louisville's authority to raise the minimum wage.
Louisville was the first Kentucky city to raise its minimum wage in late 2014. Business groups _ including the Kentucky Restaurant Association, Kentucky Retail Federation and Packaging Unlimited _ challenged the Louisville metro government's authority to enact the minimum wage ordinance. A Jefferson Circuit Court judge ruled the city had the authority. The case was eventually appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Ray Sexton, executive director of the Lexington-Fayette Human Rights Commission, said the decision will likely result in a lot of confusion for employers and employees. The commission is the body tasked with investigating minimum wage complaints in Fayette County. Since July, the commission has investigated two complaints.
"This is uncharted territory," Sexton said of Thursday's decision. "I would assume that the minimum wage would now roll back."
Sexton said the commission will have to consult with its legal counsel on how to proceed.
It's not clear how many people in Fayette County will see a pay cut now that the state Supreme Court has ruled. U.S. Census data show 31,000 people in Fayette County make less than $10.10 an hour.
(c)2016 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)