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G.R. Restaurant, Inc. v. Missouri Department of Labor

Litigation defending the minimum wage for tipped employees in Missouri.

Published: May 4, 2007

G.R. Restaurant, Inc. v. Missouri Department of Labor (Amicus)
State Minimum Wage Laws

The Brennan Center represents St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice in opposing a lawsuit that seeks to exempt tens of thousands of tipped workers from Missouris minimum wage law.  The lawsuit backed by Missouris restaurant industry is just the latest in a series of attempts to block a minimum wage increase that took effect January 1, 2007.

In November of 2006, 76% of Missourians voted overwhelmingly to raise the state minimum wage in a campaign supported by St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice, the Brennan Center, and other groups. Missouris minimum wage has long required that tipped workers receive a base wage of at least 50% of the minimum wage, with the balance provided in the form of tips. Nothing in the minimum wage ballot initiative changed that requirement.

The restaurant industry initially persuaded Missouris labor department to try to do an end run around the voter-approved raise by incorrectly telling employers that the minimum wage requires no base wage at all for tipped workers. The agencys erroneous advice sparked a state-wide campaign led by St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice and Give Missourians a Raise to organize thousands of restaurant workers to protest the attempted wage roll-back. In March, Governor Blunt rejected the agencys interpretation after a legal analysis authored by the Brennan Center and six local law professors confirmed that it had no legal basis.

The restaurant industry then filed suit against the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, claiming that the agencys fifteen-year-old interpretation of the minimum wage requirement for tipped workers was invalid.  The Brennan Center joined with St. Louis attorneys Arthur Martin and Christopher Grant from Schuchat, Cook & Werner, Professor John Ammann from the St. Louis University School of Law, and Denise Lieberman from the Stetin Center for Law and Social Change to file a series of amicus briefs urging the court to dismiss the restaurants claims. In addition to St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice, other members of Give Missourians a Raise on the brief included the Heartland Presbytery, Missouri ACORN, and the Stetin Center.

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