Court of Appeals Upholds Berkeley Law Requiring a Minimum Wage, Health Benefits for Some Workers
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday ruled 2-1 that Berkeley can require higher minimum wages and employee benefits, including health coverage for some workers, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Seattle-based RUI One, which owns a restaurant in the Berkeley Marina area, over a city ordinance. The ordinance, which was enacted in June of 2000, stipulates minimum hourly wages and employee benefits for certain companies that receive financial benefits from the city such as city contracts, leases on city property or certain tax exemptions. For companies covered by the law, the minimum wage was set at $9.75 per hour plus health benefits or $11.37 per hour for those companies that did not provide health benefits. The wages have increased with inflation. When enacting the ordinance, city officials said that the absence of employer-sponsored health coverage ultimately led to increased health care costs for city, state and federal governments.
The RUI One lawsuit said that the city ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution by treating the company differently than other companies elsewhere in the city. However, Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote that "it is more than reasonable that the city should expect marina businesses ... to contribute to the welfare of the surrounding community and not to exacerbate its problems" (Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 6/17). R. Zachary Wasserman, an Oakland attorney representing RUI One, said that the company is considering filing a request to have the case heard by a full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or by the U.S. Supreme Court, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.