The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that a minimum wage increase approved by the Louisville Metro Council is “invalid and unenforceable,” because Louisville did not have the legal authority to set wage floors.
In a 6-1 ruling written by Justice Bill Cunningham, the court said Louisville’s government overstepped its authority when it voted in late 2014 to increase minimum hourly salaries to $9.00 an hour. Local Ordinance No. 216, Series 2014, provided for incremental increases, adjusted in part to reflect the consumer price index, above the state mandated $7.25 minimum hourly wage. Referring to the case as “a historic clash between the competing authority of the Louisville - Jefferson County government and the Kentucky General Assembly,” the justices concluded that wages are regulated at the state level and requiring local employers to pay workers a higher wage conflicts with state law.
The Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and Packaging Unlimited, LLC challenged Louisville Metro government’s authority to enact the minimum wage ordinance. Initially, a Jefferson Circuit Court judge ruled the city had the authority; however, the case was eventually appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which has struck the law down. The Supreme Court’s ruling also invalidates a law passed by Lexington’s city council in 2015, which raised its minimum wage incrementally to $10.10 an hour.
Despite the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, employers in Louisville already have increased their minimum wage pay to $8.25 an hour during the past two years as part of the incremental minimum wage hike. In lieu of the court’s ruling, it remains to be seen whether employers will cut salaries for low-paid workers.
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