Florida Statute Preempts Miami Beach Minimum Wage Ordinance, Court Finds

By Sarah Smith Kuehnel © Ogletree Deakins January 4, 2018
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On Dec. 13, 2017, a Florida district court of appeal held that Miami Beach violated Florida law by enacting a local ordinance increasing the minimum wage. According to the court, Florida law prohibits municipalities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state minimum wage.

Specifically, section 218.077 of the Florida Statutes, enacted in 2003, established the federal minimum wage as the minimum wage for the state of Florida, simultaneously precluding a higher state minimum wage. Subsection two of that statute extends that preemption to local governments, providing "a political subdivision may not establish, mandate, or otherwise require an employer to pay a minimum wage, other than a state or federal minimum wage."

In 2004, Florida voters passed a citizens' initiative to amend the Florida Constitution, establishing a higher, statewide minimum wage. The amendment expressly allowed "the state legislature [and] any other public body," to increase the minimum hourly rate above the federal standard, but it left subsection two of section 218.077 intact, without addressing whether local governments can establish their own wage floors.

In 2016, Miami Beach, relying on the 2004 amendment, passed a minimum living wage ordinance that raised the city's minimum wage above the state minimum wage. Litigation resulted, with the trial court ruling against Miami Beach. That court decided the 2003 state law preempted cities and counties from setting their own minimum wage rates. It based its decision on the 2004 amendment's express changes to subsection one of section 218.077, coupled with the absence of revisions to subsection two.

The Third District Court of Appeal for Florida agreed, explaining that "the relevant provision of the amendment contains no language expressly nullifying or limiting the statute's preemption provision." Since "the drafters of the provision chose not to incorporate such language in the text of the amendment," the court concluded that "the 2004 constitutional amendment did not nullify the State's wage preemption statute, which indeed does prohibit local minimum wage ordinances."

Miami Beach has already indicated that it plans to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court. In the meantime, however, Miami Beach's ordinance is invalid. The decision further suggests that any similar ordinances proposed in the state could suffer the same fate, consistent with a growing number of jurisdictions that have overturned local minimum wage ordinances.

Sarah Smith Kuehnel is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in St. Louis. © Ogletree Deakins. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 

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