Several States Take Up City, County Wage, Benefit Preemption Bills in 2017

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By Caitlin Reilly

The Kansas City, Mo., minimum wage ordinance approved March 9 that challenged a state ban on local wage laws should remind employers of the ongoing jockeying between state legislatures and city and county councils for a say on wage and benefit requirements.

Since Jan. 1, 10 state legislatures have introduced bills that would prevent cities and counties from requiring employers to provide a minimum wage or benefit to workers. Of the 10, seven states have legislation that is still pending. Preemption laws were signed into effect in Kentucky, vetoed in Virginia and died in committee in Maryland.

Preemption bills still are under consideration by legislatures in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Pennsylvania, if approved, bills would void established city and county minimum wage or benefit laws.

Confusion for Employers Over Competing Labor Laws

A recent court case in Missouri provides an example of the confusion competing state and local labor laws may create for employers.

In February, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that the St. Louis minimum wage halted in 2015 could take effect. The court’s decision would have allowed the city’s hourly minimum wage, which under the original ordinance was scheduled to reach $10 on Jan.1, to take effect immediately, leaving the city and employers to figure out how to navigate enforcement and compliance.

However, before the court’s decision could become final, opponents of the wage filed a request March 15 for the court to rehear the case, again stopping the city’s minimum wage from taking effect.

Compounding uncertainty for employers, following the court’s decision the Missouri legislature introduced a bill ( H.B. 1194) that would retroactively void the St. Louis minimum wage, despite the court's decision. The bill was approved by the House and is in the Senate.

When state laws clash with existing city and county laws, courts may get involved, leaving employers uncertain of the outcome. Employers in Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania also should be aware of pending legislation that may lead to similar legal conflicts.

In Iowa, a bill ( H.B. 295) approved by the House, would void minimum wage laws in Johnson, Linn, Polk and Wapello counties and in one city, Tiffin. The hourly minimum wages in those jurisdictions, which range from $8.20 to $10.10, would revert back the state’s hourly minimum wage of $7.25.

Paid sick-leave laws in Minneapolis and St. Paul scheduled to take effect July 1 would be struck down under a bill ( H.B. 600) passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives, if it is approved in the senate and signed by the governor. The same would go for a Philadelphia paid sick-leave law in effect since 2015 if a bill ( S.B. 128) introduced in the Pennsylvania state senate is approved and signed by the governor.

In Arkansas, New Mexico and West Virginia, the bills would not affect existing city or county minimum wage or benefit rules. There are no city or county labor rules to be affected by state preemption laws in Arkansas and West Virginia.

In New Mexico, minimum wage laws in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Santa Fe County would not be affected by the bill ( H.B. 442) passed by the legislature. There are no benefit laws that would be affected by the state's paid-leave preemption bill ( S.B. 415).

Twenty-three states ban cities and counties from establishing either wage or benefit laws. Those states are Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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