A state district judge has rejected a challenge to Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance, saying in his order that the former owners of Kellys Brew Pub should have filed their challenge within 30 days of the election results being certified.
But even if that weren’t the case, District Judge Alan Malott ruled, the fact that only a summary — and not the entire ordinance — appeared on the ballot and that there was a typographical error “are not sufficiently serious failings to warrant overturning the voices of 66 percent of participating voters.”
The defendants had also argued the ordinance is not valid because it lumped multiple issues into one ballot question and was therefore illegal log rolling. Malott also rejected that argument, ruling that the log rolling prohibition isn’t applicable to municipal elections.
Malott’s order, issued Tuesday, means the lawsuit filed against Dennis and Janice Bonfantine by several of their former employees can move forward. The lawsuit alleges that Kelly’s illegally required workers to kick back $3 per hour from their tips after the tipped minimum wage officially increased in Albuquerque from $2.13 an hour to about $5.16 an hour.
Kellys has since been purchased by Santa Fe Dining, which is not a party to the suit.
The Bonfantines had asked Malott to dismiss the lawsuit. They argued in a Feb. 21 motion that the wage law “was presented to voters in an unlawful, misleading and deceptive manner and is therefore void and unenforceable as a matter of law.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the city of Albuquerque argued that the Bonfantines waited too long to challenge the voter-approved minimum wage ordinance and that the log rolling prohibition didn’t apply in this case.
Malott held a hearing on those issues last week and ended up rejecting the Bonfantines’ argument and denying their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The minimum wage ordinance was approved by Albuquerque voters in 2012. Currently, it requires $8.80 an hour for employees without benefits.
“Thousands of hard-working families can breathe easier now, knowing that the minimum wage in Albuquerque isn’t going to be slashed,” Bianca Garcia, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a news release.
The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Elizabeth Wagoner and Tim Davis, with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Shane Youtz and James Montalbano of Youtz & Valdez, P.C.
Geoffrey Rieder, the attorney representing the Bonfantines, was in court Thursday and not immediately available for comment.
Malott’s ruling could spell trouble for the plaintiffs in another lawsuit filed earlier this year that is also challenging the validity of Albuquerque’s minimum wage law and the proposed sick leave ordinance. That lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Association of Commerce and Industry and others, also raises the log rolling issue.