In our recent blog post, “The St. Louis Minimum Wage Returns From the Dead,” we reviewed the implications of the Supreme Court of Missouri’s Cooperative Home Care, Inc. v. City of St. Louis (No. SC95401) decision, which overturned a 2015 injunction that had enjoined St. Louis’s minimum wage ordinance. Late last Friday, the City of St. Louis issued a press release regarding the implementation of the ordinance increasing the city’s minimum wage rate. According to the press release, the City will wait to implement the ordinance until the circuit court officially lifts the injunction pursuant to the Supreme Court of Missouri’s mandate in Cooperative Home Care, Inc. This judicial act could come as early as March 15. Alternatively, the City speculates that it could take until the end of March for the judicial process to be completed.
Notably absent from the latest press release is any reference to the “grace period” that Mayor Francis Slay had promised in an initial statement following the state supreme court’s ruling. Additionally, in its closing paragraph, the City states, “Once the minimum wage ordinance is officially affirmed by the Courts’ actions, a business that does not follow the City’s established ordinance will be prosecuted in Municipal Court.”
The City’s press release does little to clear up ambiguity for employers. Although employers may find some comfort in knowing that wages will not increase immediately, there is no indication as to what the implementation timeline will be once the injunction is lifted. Employers may be required to comply immediately or there may be an additional grace period after the wage increases become effective.
Adding to the intrigue are two bills—HB 1193 and HB 1194—in the Missouri House of Representatives, which would preempt and nullify all local laws establishing minimum wage rates higher than Missouri’s state minimum wage (currently $7.70 per hour). The bills passed committee on Monday, March 6, 2017—just days after their March 1 filing. Depending on how quickly these bills move through the Missouri General Assembly, St. Louis employers may be spared minimum wage increases altogether.
In the short term, covered St. Louis-area employers should prepare to comply with the ordinance in the coming weeks. While employers may be given an implementation grace period after the injunction is lifted, it is also entirely possible that compliance will be required immediately thereafter. We will continue to provide updates as additional information becomes available.