Equal Protection Challenge to Alabama Preemption Law Can Proceed, Court Says

The challenge to Alabama’s preemption law lives to fight another day, according to an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week. In 2016, the plaintiffs made various race-based challenges to the  Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act. That Act bars political subdivisions from requiring employers to provide employees with wages or “employment benefits,” including paid and unpaid leave, not required by federal or state law. The Alabama legislature enacted the law the day after the City of Birmingham’s passed an ordinance increasing the minimum wage within the city.  The state law voided that ordinance. The plaintiffs argued that the state law was unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

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Last year, a federal district court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ challenges and dismissed the case. The Eleventh Circuit last week affirmed the dismissal of all but one of the challenges. Concerning the plaintiffs “equal protection” constitutional claim, the Eleventh Circuit held that the plaintiffs have plausibly alleged both that the MWA “burdens black citizens more than white ones” and that  it was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. The court remanded the equal protection claim to the district court for further proceedings.

The case is Marnika Lewis et al v.  State of Alabama et al. Docket No.17-11009 (11th Cir. July 25, 2018).