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Court Rejects Wal-Mart and Target’s Legal Argument

July 19, 2006

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Contact Information:
Paul Sonn, 917 566–0680
Jackie Kessel, 646 452–5637

Court Rejects Wal-Mart’s and Target’s Legal Argument

Chicago, IL—Today the U.S. District Court in a lawsuit involving a Maryland health law rejected the legal argument made by Wal-Mart, Target and other opponents against the proposed Chicago retail living wage ordinance. The court ruled that the Maryland law, which effectively applied only to Wal-Mart, was not unconstitutionally discriminatory.

“The Maryland court completely rejected the legal argument that Wal-Mart and Target are making in Chicago: that it is unconstitutional for lawmakers to focus on very large employers when enacting new protections for the working poor,” said Paul Sonn, deputy director of the Poverty Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which has advised the Chicago City Council on the proposed living wage ordinance. Unlike the Maryland law which affected only Wal-Mart, Chicagos proposed living wage ordinance would apply to the whole large retail industry in the city.

While rejecting Wal-Marts equal protection challenge, the court went on to strike down the Maryland health benefits law on other legal grounds that do not apply to the proposed Chicago ordinance.

The Maryland court said, “the fact that [Wal-Mart] is the only entity subject to the [health] spending requirement of the [Maryland law] is not itself sufficient to make out a viable equal protection claim.” (Maryland decision, p.32) The court stressed that “legislatures are permitted the leeway to approach a perceived problem incrementally.” (p. 29)

“This latest ruling by the court in Maryland makes clear that the proposed Chicago living wage law is legal, constitutional and will be upheld,” said Sonn.

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