The City of Seattle in 2014 passed a law raising the minimum wage in the Emerald City to $15 an hour in stages, with $11 an hour taking effect this April 1, but the phase-in schedule differs according to the size of the business.
Businesses with 500 or more employees are on a faster track — three years to implement $15 an hour versus seven years for smaller businesses — and local franchisees are upset that they’re being lumped into the large employee classification because of their association with their franchisers, aka McDonald’s, Burger King, et al. But they’re not taking it lying down. They’re suing the city, with the first hearing set for tomorrow, March 10.
The lawsuit is being brought by the International Franchise Association (IFA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which are arguing that lumping local franchises into the large business category violates the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws” provision.
Of course, the 14th Amendment specifically states that no state may “deny to any person” such equal protections, so to prevail in court, the plaintiffs will have to convince a judge that a franchise is equivalent to “any person” and that the city’s minimum wage ordinance is somehow discriminatory.
“If the minimum wage had been raised to $100 in Seattle, we would have disagreed,” explained IFA Senior Vice President Matthew Haller. “But if they had done it uniformly, we wouldn’t be filing a lawsuit.”
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