In the United States, federal laws are meant to apply to everyone living and working in the country. If a federal law conflicts with a state or local law, it may not always be immediately clear which one takes precedence. Some federal laws explicitly state that they can be preempted by state or local laws, but when the answer isn’t clearly written in the law, it can leave some people guessing.
An ordinance recently passed in Miami-Dad County in Florida raised the minimum wage for employees of contractors servicing Miami-Dade County or using airports owned by the county. The ordinance includes employees of third-party firms who provide janitors, security guards and clerical workers.
Amerijet International Inc. sued the county, alleging the ordinance violated the 1975 Airline Deregulation Act as well as the 1994 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. Amerijet also argued that the Commerce Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution should prevent it from having to pay increased rates to baggage handlers who also handle baggage for other airlines at Miami International Airport.
The court ruled in favor of the county, so Amerijet appealed the decision up to the Eleventh Circuit Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling. Amerijet then appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear arguments for the case and upheld the ruling of the circuit court.
In it’s ruling, the Eleventh Circuit Court maintained that Amerijet is not harmed by the requirement to pay the higher wages. It also found that there is nothing in the county ordinance that binds or limits air carriers in any way. Additionally, the circuit court ruled that, contrary to Amerijet’s arguments, there is nothing prohibitive about requiring the airline to pay higher wages to some of its staff.
In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Amerijet argued that the ordinance conflicted with prior rulings made by the court, in which the court maintained that state and local governments do not have the option of avoiding preemption from federal laws by shifting the focus of their regulation between companies in the same supply chain.
Amerijet claimed that, by hearing and ruling in its lawsuit against the county, the Supreme Court would be able to settle once and for all the question of how far the federal statute’s preemption of state and local laws extends. The airline further requested that the Supreme Court to solve the matter of whether the federal deregulation has the ability to preempt any state or local laws that expressly refer to ancillary air carrier services.
Contrary to the findings of the Eleventh Circuit Court, Amerijet maintains that the ordinance does harm its business by having a direct impact on the price of the ancillary services its workers provide. It also argued that the contractors providing the workers are adversely affected by the law because it increases their administrative and record-keeping needs.
The case at hand is just one more example of how careful employers need to be when conducting business in the U.S. They must be aware of, not only federal employment law, but also all the local laws that apply to them, and be knowledgeable about which laws take precedence in the event they contradict each other.
The Chicago class action and employment law attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Berwyn and Bollingbrook. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Des Plaines and Waukegan overtime and employment lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago and Oak Brook, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.