After losses in the federal district court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court, the International Franchise Association (“IFA”) dismissed its challenge to the Seattle minimum wage ordinance, the first law in the country to adopt hourly wage increases that will reach $15 and spurred many other localities and states to follow suit.
In 2014, Seattle adopted an ordinance setting two timelines for businesses to increase minimum hourly wages to $15: a faster schedule for large employers (those with 500 or more employees) and a slower one to allow small employers (those with fewer) more time to adjust. A franchisee that is affiliated with a franchise network with over 500 employees total is treated as a large employer. The IFA filed a federal lawsuit asserting that the ordinance unconstitutionally discriminated against franchises and raising a variety of legal claims, primarily the dormant Commerce Clause (which prohibits discrimination against inter-state commerce), and sought a preliminary injunction preventing the ordinance from taking effect.
The federal district court held a hearing and in early 2015 denied the IFA’s preliminary injunction motion, allowing the scheduled minimum wage increases to begin on April 1, 2015. Later that year, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction denial, and in May 2016 the United States Supreme Court denied the IFA’s petition for certiorari. The IFA then dismissed its challenge in the district court.
Altshuler Berzon LLP, along with Seattle firm Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, LLP, represented Seattle-based fast food workers, unions, and community organizations in supporting the City’s defense of the ordinance.