As the Alabama legislature continues to feud with the Birmingham City Council over the city's authority to raise the minimum wage, the city, on Tuesday, February 24, 2016, voted to increase the minimum wage for employees who work inside the city from the federal minimum wage, $7.25, to $10.10. The $10.10 minimum wage is an increase from the $8.50 previously approved by the city council. A copy of Ordinance 16-25 can be found here. The vote was 6-2, with Councilmembers Abbott and Rafferty voting no. According to the city Law Department, the EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE INCREASED MINIMUM WAGE IS THE DATE THAT IT IS PUBLISHED. The Law Department was silent as to when it will be published. The Council requested that the Amended Ordinance get to the Mayor as soon as possible, specifically asking that Mayor Bell get it today. Employers who have employees in the city of Birmingham should immediately take action to comply with the law as soon as it is published.
Additionally, with the Alabama Senate still considering a bill passed by the House to give the state the sole authority to set the minimum wage, which is likely to pass with the Republicans in control, a court fight is looming. The Alabama Senate may be forced to “fast track” this legislation in light of the city's action. It will also need to be signed by the Governor if approved by the legislature. It may take many months, if not years, to resolve this issue in court.
In the meantime, employers with employees in Birmingham are faced with the possibility of being forced to raise the minimum wage with less than 24 hours' notice. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties, as set forth in a prior blog post at AlabamaEmploymentLawBlog.com. Additionally, should the legislature prohibit Birmingham (or any other non-state entity) from raising the minimum wage, employers will be faced with the unenviable position of either rolling back wages or leaving them as set in light of the new minimum wage law, should the state law be upheld in court.
Practice pointer. In light of the council's vote, the law for employees in Birmingham, effective upon publication, is a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. Failure to comply subjects the employer to significant penalties, including through private causes of action, that may result in the award of wages, two times the amount of wages owed and attorney fees. Although several council members talked about “amending” the ordinance in the future, it has been adopted. Unless and until a court settles this issue, employers should comply with the Birmingham Minimum Wage Ordinance.