The City of Miami Beach passed a wage ordinance in June 2016 that would increase the minimum wage for employment within the municipality to $10.31 effective January 1, 2018, and increasing $1.00 each year until reaching $13.31 in 2021. The Florida minimum wage for 2017, by contrast, is $8.10 per hour.

On December 14, 2016, three industry groups (the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce) together with a handful of supermarket and convenience store businesses sued the City of Miami Beach in state court in Miami-Dade County, Florida, seeking an injunction blocking the minimum wage-boosting ordinance from taking effect.

The employer-plaintiffs rely on a Florida statute enacted in 2013 that preempts certain local wage ordinances and prevents local governments from setting higher minimum wages than that provided under federal and state law. The state law does not prevent counties and municipalities from passing prevailing wage ordinances that apply to their own employees or to local government contractors. But it preempts local minimum wage ordinances of general application that would impose higher minimum wages upon private employers that are not involved in public contracts.

The position of the City of Miami Beach is that the Florida constitutional amendment that first established a state minimum wage, which passed by citizen ballot initiative in 2004, permits local governments to set higher minimum wages. The issue in the case will likely revolve around the question of whether the 2004 constitutional amendment prevents the legislature from passing a state statute that preempts local wage ordinances. The amendment does not, on its face, contain any such language. The Florida Supreme Court, however, has recently shown a willingness in other cases to read Florida constitutional provisions broadly in order to protect worker interests.

Employers in Miami Beach should keep a close watch on this case. While a preliminary or final decision is expected before Miami Beach’s new wage ordinance would take effect on January 1, 2018, employers will need to plan well in advance for such a dramatic increase in wage rates, as increasing the minimum wage often has a “trickle-up” effect, even for those positions making more than the new minimum rate.