JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld a St. Louis ordinance that calls for raising workers' minimum wage.

In a ruling issued on Feb. 28, the high court found that St. Louis did not improperly stray beyond its charter authority when it enacted the hike on Aug. 28, 2015.

The ordinance calls for four graduated increases to the minimum wage for employees working within city limits that would reach $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018.

Then, starting Jan. 1, 2021, the minimum-wage rate would increase annually on a percentage basis to reflect the rate of inflation, the court order stated.

The city, Board of Public Services and various officials had been sued in St. Louis circuit court by business groups who argued that Ordinance 70078 conflicted with state law that caps the minimum wage at $7.65.

A circuit-court judge ultimately ruled against the increase in 2015 because the ordinance required a higher minimum wage than the state requires.

However, in the ruling recently handed down, the Supreme Court found that the St. Louis increase didn’t conflict with the wage set by state law.

Justice Laura Denvir Stith wrote the court’s opinion.

“Its purpose of protecting employees is served by setting a floor for minimum wages; nothing in the law suggests the state also wanted to protect employers by setting a maximum minimum wage,” she wrote.

Stith noted that the Missouri General Assembly had adopted a minimum wage bill — House Bill 722 — in May 2015 because of an awareness of "uncertainties caused by litigation."

In part, HB 722 provides in part:

"No political subdivision shall establish, mandate, or otherwise require an employer to provide an employee: (1) [a] minimum wage or living wage rate; or (2) [e]mployment benefits; that exceed the requirements of federal or state laws, rules or regulations. The provisions of this subsection shall not preempt any state or local minimum-wage ordinance requirements in effect on Aug. 28, 2015."

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed HB 722 on July 10, 2015, but the General Assembly overrode his veto on Sept. 16, 2015. The bill went into effect Oct. 16, 2015 — 30 days after the veto was overridden.

On Oct. 26, 2015, the city filed a motion to amend or modify judgment because it believed its “power to enact the ordinance was specifically acknowledged by certain 'grandfathering' language contained in newly enacted HB 722”, but the St. Louis trial court overruled the motion on Nov. 12, 2015.

Justice Zel Fischer wrote in a special concurrence that he found that no pre-emption analysis with respect to state statute or the general minimum-wage law was necessary in the case.

"House Bill No. 722 … provides that local minimum-wage ordinances that were in effect on Aug. 28, 2015, shall not be pre-empted," Fischer wrote. "As the principal opinion holds, this includes Ordinance 70078. As the principal opinion also holds, the city acted within its home-rule authority in enacting Ordinance 70078. This should end the inquiry —the ordinance is authorized and not pre-empted."

Want to get notified whenever we write about Missouri Supreme Court ?
Next time we write about Missouri Supreme Court, we'll email you a link to the story. You may edit your settings or unsubscribe at any time.

Organizations in this Story

Missouri Supreme Court
207 W High St
Jefferson City, MO - 65101-1516

More News