The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington heard oral argument today on the International Franchise Association‘s motion for a preliminary injunction against the City of Seattle. The IFA is seeking to enjoin implementation of the City’s $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance against small franchisees. The ordinance, adopted in 2014, requires large employers (defined as those with more than 500 employees) to raise wages at a faster pace than small businesses. The ordinance lumps franchisees affiliated with a franchise network in with large employers, even if the local franchisee only employs a small number of employees. The IFA and several local franchisees filed a lawsuit against the City claiming that the inclusion of franchisees (regardless of size) as a large employer is unconstitutional.
At oral argument, the court appeared to be very skeptical of the IFA’s position, peppering the IFA’s counsel (former United States Solicitor General, Paul Clement) with questions. The IFA submitted copies of emails between Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess and Nick Hanauer, a member of the mayor’s advisory committee, in which Hanauer appeared to acknowledge that the ordinance was intended to discriminate against out-of-state franchised businesses. The court seemed to disregard that evidence, despite the fact that the City submitted virtually no evidence to contradict Hanauer’s views of the law’s intent or the City’s apparent adoption of Hanauer’s views.
The court concluded the hearing by noting that it would try to issue a written ruling by March 17, 2015.