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Alabama appeals court to reconsider decision in wage lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal appeals court on Wednesday withdrew a decision that revived a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law that blocked cities from raising the minimum wage.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals withdrew a July decision that revived the lawsuit filed by civil rights groups, fast food workers and minority legislators who said the 2016 law is intentionally racially discriminatory. The court is holding a rehearing on the matter before all the judges of the circuit.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall praised the decision.

“Alabama has the same right as other states to enact a minimum-wage law, and it is unjust to accuse Alabama’s Legislature of racism when other states have not only passed similar minimum-wage laws, but those laws have also been upheld by other courts,” Marshall said in a statement.

The lawsuit centers on a 2016 state law that was quickly passed to block Birmingham’s attempts to raise the hourly minimum wage to $10. The law requires a uniform minimum wage across the state.

The Alabama Chapter of the NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and others sued state officials, saying the state law violated the voting rights and civil rights of Birmingham residents. They contended it was racially discriminatory and another example of the majority-white Legislature exerting control over majority-black cities.

Lawmakers who supported the state law said that they were worried about the impact on businesses and argued it was important for economic development for the state to have a uniform minimum wage.

U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor dismissed the lawsuit in 2017, saying that plaintiffs had not proven their claims of discrimination or civil and voting rights violations. However, the appeals court in July revived the discrimination claims and said the lawsuit could proceed. The panel said that “plaintiffs have stated a plausible claim that the Minimum Wage Act had the purpose and effect of depriving Birmingham’s black citizens’ equal economic opportunities on the basis of race.”

The full court will now reconsider the matter later this year.

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