Cities can’t set higher minimum wage rate

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 4, 2016

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cities don’t have the authority to set a citywide minimum wage to be paid by employers that would be higher than the rate set by the state, according to an opinion issued by Ohio’s attorney general.

Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday issued his opinion in response to a request by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters in Cincinnati. Deters had asked DeWine in a letter last month for an opinion on whether businesses would be subject to a minimum wage hike in cities, when the General Assembly already has set the state minimum wage.

The state rate is currently $8.10 an hour.

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An attorney general opinion isn’t binding but is often cited in lawsuits brought over issues related to state law and the constitution.

Deters declined to comment Friday.

While DeWine’s opinion says a city can’t mandate a citywide minimum wage higher than the state’s rate, it did not address the question of individual employers — including municipalities — choosing to pay their employees at a higher wage, the attorney general’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, said Friday.

The Cincinnati City Council voted in April to increase the minimum wage for its city workers. The ordinance increased the wage for full-time city workers and contractors to at least $15 an hour. But Cincinnati city officials have said that applies only to city employees and not to any other employers.

Meanwhile, Cleveland’s City Council is considering a proposal for a citywide minimum wage.

Raise Up Cleveland, backed by the Service Employees International Union, has pushed for a citywide rate of $15 an hour starting in January, saying workers deserve a “living wage.” But some city officials say a higher city minimum wage would put Cleveland at a competitive disadvantage with other Ohio municipalities.

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley told on Thursday that DeWine “reached the right conclusion.” Kelley didn’t immediately return a call for additional comment Friday.

Raise Up Cleveland wrote on its Facebook page that DeWine’s opinion was misleading.

“Attorney General Mike DeWine’s personal opinion is not legally binding and should not be used as a distraction to the fact that Cleveland residents want and will vote for the increase in minimum wage,” the statement said.