Eleventh Circuit Revives Case Challenging Alabama’s Preemption of Birmingham’s Minimum Wage Law as Racially Discriminatory

On July 25, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit issued a unanimous published decision in Lewis v. Alabama, Eleventh Circuit Case No. 17-11009, reversing the district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit by fast food workers and other plaintiffs alleging that Alabama’s enactment of a law preempting all local minimum wage regulation, which was adopted in response to Birmingham’s decision to raise the minimum wage, was racially discriminatory.  The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs had demonstrated the preemption law’s discriminatory impact, arising from the disproportionate number of Black workers in Birmingham who stood to benefit from the city’s minimum wage law.  The appellate court further held that the district court erred by applying the “clearest proof” standard, which it explained has no place in equal protection law.  Instead, the court applied the factors set forth in Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977), and identified allegations in the complaint providing sufficient indicia of intentional discrimination to survive a motion to dismiss.  In doing so, the Eleventh Circuit emphasized that evidence of intentional discrimination may be circumstantial and that modern-day discrimination is seldom explicit.  Altshuler Berzon attorneys represented the plaintiffs on appeal.

You can read the Eleventh Circuit’s decision here.