Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds Minneapolis’ $15 Minimum Wage


The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld Minneapolis’ $15 minimum wage ordinance in a Wednesday ruling, putting an end to a legal battle that began in 2017.

“The battle over our minimum wage ordinance is over,” Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement released on Twitter after the ruling. “Today’s ruling affirms the right to a living wage for thousands of workers and cements Minneapolis’ status as a city willing to fight for inclusive economic policies.”

Graco, Inc., a Minneapolis-based manufacturing supplies company, sued the city on November 10, 2017 seeking a permanent injunction against the ordinance’s enforcement. The company argued that the ordinance would result in a “patchwork of regulation” that would “unfairly” burden employers as they “attempt to comply with different wage rates imposed by different municipalities across the state.”

The company also pointed to the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA), which establishes the statewide minimum wage employers must pay their employees.

“Graco contends that, because the MFLSA expressly permits large employers to pay at least $9.86 per hour, which is less than $12.25 per hour, and because the City’s ordinance prohibits large employers from paying wages less than $12.25 per hour, the ordinance impermissibly conflicts with the MFLSA,” the Minnesota Supreme Court explained of Graco’s argument in its ruling.

Both the Hennepin County District Court and Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance in previous rulings. The lower courts argued that the MFLSA sets “a floor, not a ceiling, for minimum-wage rates, thus leaving room for municipal regulation.”

The lower courts also found that regulation of the minimum wage “is not solely a matter of state concern.”

The high court’s Wednesday opinion, authored by Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, agreed that the Minneapolis ordinance “operates in harmony” with the MFLSA.

“Graco’s argument, while not without some initial appeal, ultimately fails,” said Gildea. “If one focused solely on the specific dollar amounts, the MFLSA could be read to permit employers to pay hourly wages at a rate less than the rate the ordinance requires them to pay. In that limited way, the ordinance would seem to forbid what the statute permits. But the Legislature stated plainly that employers ‘must’ pay ‘at least’ the minimum hourly rate provided by the statute. The Legislature’s use of the phrase, ‘at least,’ clearly contemplates the possibility of higher hourly rates. The ordinance therefore does not forbid what the MFLSA permits but instead complements the statute.”

As of July 1, 2019, the state minimum-wage rate was $9.86 per hour for large employers and $8.04 per hour for small employers. The Minneapolis ordinance requires large and small employers to pay Minneapolis workers $15.00 per hour by 2022 and 2024, respectively.

The full ruling can be viewed below:

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].







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2 Thoughts to “Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds Minneapolis’ $15 Minimum Wage”

  1. Mom of 3 Seeking Work

    To Clarify – I qualified for social security disability due to an injury from a car accident. I am now seeking work, and trying to get off social security. Noticing significant changes as I re-enter the workforce. Social security allows me to work part-time, it is my goal to be completely off benefits at some time in the future. Since I am physically limited, am seeking office type employment. My physical limitations would not allow me to work as a cashier because the added responsibilities (as I noted in my post) are beyond my ability with the injury I suffered. Thanks for listening!

  2. Mom of 3 Seeking Work

    I am living in a Minnesota city with a minimum wage rate hike – going up to $15 an hour.

    Several things are now happening:

    – Prices and goods and services rising across the board. This can only be expected to continue. I am dependent on social security for my income, and honestly, I cannot afford to shop at big box stores anymore.
    -Businesses are moving to online selling and self check outs, and finding other ways to reduce costs by eliminating positions. As a result, the customer service that consumers have been accustom to is changing, and probably won’t exist.
    I worked at a retailer and they are moving their business model to online sales. The retailer then began to drastically reduce hours of many workers, and the full time workers lost their benefits (even those who had been with the company for many years). The employer then began firing workers (myself included). The store was operating on just a fraction of workers. Customer service drastically declined, and consumers just were not getting the care they deserved. You could see this most noticeably in long check out lines and that there was a lack of help available in store. At times, shelves were bare or items were not being replenished. Management began to focus on online shopping because it was more cost effective, and they could also use employees from other states where minimum wage was not as high.
    -I am now unemployed and seeking a new job…and there are just not as many entry level jobs available. What is considered entry level are new types of positions that combine the tasks of more than 1 job in one position ie one person does the work of 2-3 people. Example, I saw a job listed for a cashier at a chain store that involved not only regular cashier type duties but also included stocking shelves, cleaning front of store, unloading trucks and taking inventory. Prior to minimum wage hike, this same store hired additional workers to fill those positions. Now one person is responsible for all the work.

    OR the skills, education and requirements are much higher than previous standards. I am now seeking additional education and training to get what would be considered an entry level office job. I do have prior office experience but it does not meet the current standards ad expectations for workers (which is really a more advanced level even if advertised as entry level). Without this additional training, I am not employable. In the meanwhile, I am not earning enough income to support my family.

    Raising minimum wage to $15 is not going to solve society’s problems concerning poverty by itself. It may, however, push the workforce to become more innovative, more technologically advance and require job seekers to become more educated and skilled so they can perform at the new standards of work that will be required to support this higher wage.