ATLANTA (AP) — The state of Alabama is asking a federal appeals court to toss a lawsuit accusing lawmakers of racial discrimination for blocking a minimum-wage increase in majority-black Birmingham.
At issue in arguments scheduled Tuesday before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a 2016 law requiring every city in Alabama to have the same minimum wage.
Fast food workers and civil rights groups sued after the state law effectively nullified a city council vote to increase Birmingham's wage to $10.10 an hour.
The workers accused the Legislature of targeting a mostly African American city in a way that disproportionately harms black workers. State officials countered that the law is race-neutral and similar to laws in nearly two dozen other states.
A panel of 11th Circuit judges sided with the workers and civil rights groups last year, reversing a judge's decision to dismiss their lawsuit. The court 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."
State officials asked the appeals court to throw out that decision and reconsider the case with a hearing before all of the court's judges. The 11th Circuit granted that request in January .