St. Louis Minimum Wage Ordinance: Back on Life Support?

The City of St. Louis enacted an ordinance on August 28, 2015, designed to increase the minimum wage for employees working within the physical boundaries of St. Louis. Pursuant to the ordinance, the minimum wage in St. Louis would increase to $8.25 per hour beginning October 15, 2015, $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016, $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2017, and $11.00 per hour on January 1, 2018. Effective January 1, 2019, the ordinance would require the minimum wage to increase each year on a percentage basis to reflect the rate of inflation. In addition, the ordinance provides that if the federal or state minimum wage ever is higher, then the St. Louis minimum wage will increase to the higher rate. Currently the Missouri minimum wage is $7.70 per hour and the federal rate is $7.25 per hour.

A lawsuit filed by several plaintiffs alleged the St. Louis minimum wage ordinance was unlawful and preempted by a Missouri statute setting forth the state’s minimum wage law. The trial court agreed and invalidated the ordinance, holding it was preempted by Missouri statute and that an ordinance could not supplement state law on any subject, including minimum wage.

On February 28, 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the trial court, concluding the City of St. Louis ordinance was lawful and should be enforced as it was not preempted by Missouri statutory law governing minimum wage. In short, the Court concluded local laws such as the ordinance can supplement state law so long as they do not conflict with state law.

In response, the Missouri legislature has introduced legislation designed to address the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling and preempt such local laws from taking effect. On Monday, March 6, 2017, a hearing was held on the legislation before a Missouri House subcommittee, during which numerous individuals on both sides of the issue spoke. Should the legislation pass and be signed by Governor Eric Greitens, cities, including St. Louis, would be prohibited from enacting a higher minimum wage than the state minimum wage. This process is similar to what occurred in 2015 when Kansas City tried to increase its minimum wage, but was prevented from doing so by the Missouri statute setting forth the state minimum wage. We will continue to monitor this situation and keep you updated on any developments as they occur.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters such as these for almost sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

Learn more aboutStephen B. Maule
Stephen’s practice includes all aspects of labor and employment law. He assists employers with immigration petitions to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, including H-1B, TN and permanent residency. He has also represented employers in investigations conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.