Court rules Arizona can’t stop local governments from requiring benefits for private-sector workers

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star  

State lawmakers cannot block local governments from mandating that private employers provide workers with more fringe benefits than required in state law, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled.

In a brief order Wednesday, the justices refused to disturb a decision by the state Court of Appeals, which concluded that when voters adopted the state’s first minimum-wage law in 2006, they wanted to give local governments the power to go above and beyond the bare minimums of that initiative.

The appellate judge said that includes not just wages — now $11 an hour — but also any requirements for benefits, whether that’s time off or health insurance.

Wednesday’s decision paves the way for local governments to consider requirements they want to put on private employers, above and beyond what is mandated statewide.

It also is a setback for the Arizona Restaurant Association and its Republican allies in the state Legislature who sought the curbs.

The original 2006 initiative set a state minimum wage at a figure higher than the $7.25 required under federal law. A decade later, voters approved another increase to $10 an hour, a figure that is set to go automatically to $12 next year, along with a provision for employers to provide at least three days of paid personal leave.

Both the 2006 and 2016 measures also specifically empower local governments to regulate minimum wages and benefits as long as they do not provide for a wage lower than what voters approved.

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