Warring factions continue to litigate over the legal viability of SeaTac, Washington’s Proposition One, a local ordinance increasing the minimum wage for work performed in SeaTac – a close suburb of Seattle and site of Sea-Tac airport – to a whopping $15/hour, considerably higher than the state minimum wage in Washington or any of the 50 states. Proponents of Proposition One acknowledge that, in the wake of prior litigation and also a recently completed recount of the 77-vote margin supporting the bill’s original passage, a stay of enforcement pending appeal by a number of interested business entities and opponents of the bill – including prominently Alaska Airlines – is all but certain. Those business entities have argued that the bill is preempted by several provisions of federal law including the Railway Labor Act.
“The Proposition One issue has certainly been a microcosm for the oftentimes polarizing debate regarding the minimum wage and its role in and impact on businesses and economic growth,” observed Jackson Lewis’ Bryan O’Connor, Managing Shareholder for the Seattle office. “As practitioners, we will closely monitor the legal challenge in the state court, including presumably appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.” O’Connor also noted that proponents of the bill have taken the position that the effective date of the bill is January 1, 2014, thus if implementation is delayed by litigation but ultimately upheld, employers who do not comply may be retroactively liable for pay between January 1, 2014 and conclusion of the proceedings confirming the statute.
States and municipalities continue to enact protections beyond the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA. Multi-jurisdiction employers in particular must be mindful of the vagaries of state and local law.
[UPDATE] On Friday, December 27, Washington state court judge Andrea Darvas ruled that the proposed ordinance could not be enforced within Seattle-Tacoma International Airport because municipal authority to regulate airport workers belonged solely to the Port of Seattle. The judge’s ruling sets up appeal directly to the Washington Supreme Court.