MARNIKA LEWIS, ANTOIN ADAMS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, GREATER BIRMINGHAM MINISTRIES, MARIKA COLEMAN, JOHN ROGERS, PRISCILLA DUNN, JUANDALYNN GIVAN, LOUISE ALEXANDER, WILLIAM MUHAMMAD, RODGER SMITHERMAN, OLIVER ROBINSON, ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS, MARY MOORE, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA, in his Official Capacity as Governor of the State of Alabama, ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF ALABAMA, in his Official Capacity as Attorney General of the State of Alabama, STATE OF ALABAMA, THE, BIRMINGHAM, CITY OF, THE, WILLIAM A. BELL, SR., Defendants - Appellees.
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Alabama D.C. Docket No. 2:16-cv-00690-RDP
WILSON and JORDAN, Circuit Judges, and CONWAY, [*] District Judge.
WILSON, Circuit Judge
single day in February 2016, Marnika Lewis and Antoin Adams
secured a pay raise. The Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama,
William Bell, had just affixed his signature to Birmingham
Ordinance No. 16-28, which guaranteed Lewis, Adams, and all
other wage earners in the city $10.10 per hour. But the
following afternoon, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed
the Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act (The Minimum Wage Act
or the Act) into law. The Minimum Wage Act nullified
Birmingham Ordinance No. 16-28, preempted all local labor and
employment regulation, and mandated a uniform minimum wage
throughout Alabama-which, then and now, sits at $7.25 per
hour. At the heart of this appeal is whether Lewis and Adams
have stated a plausible claim that the Minimum Wage Act had
the purpose and effect of discriminating against
Birmingham's black citizens, in violation of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because they
have, we reverse the dismissal of that claim. We affirm the
dismissal of all other claims.
events giving rise to this proceeding began in April 2015,
when the Birmingham City Council passed a resolution calling
upon the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $10
per hour across Alabama. At that time, no Alabama
municipality had a minimum wage above the federal floor of
$7.25. See 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1)(C). After the
state refused the city's request, the city council
adopted its own minimum wage law that August. The unanimous
ordinance, which was scheduled to take effect in July 2016,
raised the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, and to $10.10 in
2017. The ordinance declared the need "to take
legislative steps to help lift working families out of
poverty, decrease income inequality, and boost
[Birmingham's] economy." Birmingham, the largest
city in Alabama, has more total residents living in poverty
(30% of its citizens) than anywhere else in the
state. The city is also home to the largest black
population in Alabama (72%), which is reflected in the racial
composition of its city council.
week after the ordinance's approval, a white state
representative from the neighboring community of Mountain
Brook (where only 1.5% of residents are black and just 3% of
residents live below the poverty line) introduced a bill in
the Alabama House of Representatives designed to quash
Birmingham's ordinance and establish a uniform minimum
wage throughout the state. The bill stalled, but at the start
of the 2016 session, a variation of the bill (now called HB
174) was introduced by the same representative, this time
with the support of fifty-two additional sponsors, all of
whom were white.
progressed quickly. Within a week of its introduction on
February 9, 2016, HB 174 sailed through the House Committee
on State Government and won the approval of a majority of the
House, 71-31. No black member of the House voted in favor of
the bill. Thirty-six hours later, the bill cleared the
Alabama Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and was on
its way to the Senate floor.
the Birmingham City Council moved to accelerate the
implementation of its own minimum wage law. On February 23,
it adopted Ordinance No. 16-28, raising the minimum wage for
Birmingham workers to $10.10 per hour, adjusted annually,
effective immediately. Mayor Bell signed it into law the
following day. Notice of the new minimum wage was slated for
publication in the Sunday edition of the Birmingham
February 25, just a day after Birmingham raised its minimum
wage, the Alabama Senate approved the Minimum Wage Act,
23-12, rendering Ordinance No. 16-28 null and void. The Act
lacked support from any black senators. Governor Bentley
signed it into law less than two hours later.
Minimum Wage Act, codified at Alabama Code §§
25-7-40 et seq., "establish[es] within the Legislature
complete control over regulation and policy pertaining to
collective bargaining . . . or the wages, leave, or other
employment benefits provided by an employer to an employee .
. . in order to ensure that such regulation and policy is
applied uniformly throughout the state." Id.
§ 25-7-45(a). To that end, the Act "occupies and
preempts the entire field of regulation" in these areas
"to the complete exclusion of any policy, ordinance,
rule, or other mandate promulgated or enforced by any . . .
political subdivision of th[e] state." Id.
months after the Alabama Legislature passed the Minimum Wage
Act, Lewis and Adams-who live in Birmingham and make less
than $10.10 per hour-along with several public interest
groups, sued the Governor and the Attorney General of
Alabama, claiming racial discrimination under multiple
theories. The plaintiffs amended their complaint to include
claims under the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth
Amendments and § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. They also
added the State of Alabama, the City of Birmingham, and
Birmingham Mayor William Bell as defendants, while dropping
the governor from the suit. The defendants moved to dismiss
for lack of standing and failure to state a claim.
district court agreed with the defendants and dismissed the
complaint. It concluded that the plaintiffs lacked Article
III standing to sue any of the defendants; that the attorney
general was an improper defendant under Ex parte
Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441 (1908); that § 2
of the Voting Rights Act did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment
state sovereign immunity; and that, in any event, the
plaintiffs had failed to assert any plausible claims. The
plaintiffs now appeal the dismissal of their Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendment claims against the attorney general and
the City of Birmingham,  and their Voting Rights Act claim
against the State of Alabama.
review both subject matter jurisdiction and Eleventh
Amendment sovereign immunity issues de novo. Summit Med.
Assocs., P.C. v. Pryor, 180 F.3d 1326, 1333-34 (11th
Cir. 1999). Likewise, we review the grant of a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss de novo, "accepting the allegations in
the complaint as true and construing them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff." Mills v. Foremost Ins.
Co., 511 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir. 2008).
"'[W]hen standing becomes an issue on a motion to
dismiss, general factual allegations of injury resulting from
the defendant's conduct may be sufficient to show
standing.'" Moody v. Warden, 887 F.3d 1281,
1286 (11th Cir. 2018) (quoting Bischoff v. Osceola
Cnty., 222 F.3d 874, 878 (11th Cir. 2000)).
begin, as we must, by addressing whether the plaintiffs have
standing to sue each of the defendants for each of the claims
asserted. See Jackson v. Okaloosa Cty., Fla., 21
F.3d 1531, 1536 (11th Cir. 1994). This is a threshold
requirement that "springs from the nature and limits of
the judicial power of the United States." Steel Co.
v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95,
118 S.Ct. 1003, 1012 (1998) (alteration adopted). If the
plaintiffs lack standing, "the 'case' or
'controversy' requirement of Article III, § 2 of
the U.S. Constitution is not satisfied, and the case must be
dismissed." Koziara v. City of Casselberry, 392
F.3d 1302, 1304 (11th Cir. 2004).
irreducible constitutional minimum of standing contains three
elements." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 2136 (1992). The plaintiffs
must show: (1) that they have suffered an injury in fact that
is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or
imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) that there is
a causal connection, so that the injury is fairly traceable
to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) that it is
likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury
will be redressed by a favorable decision. Id. at
560-61, 112 S.Ct. at 2136. An injury in fact must be a
cognizable harm, but that harm may be "physical,
economic, reputational, contractual, or even aesthetic."
Koziara, 392 F.3d at 1305. "[I]n evaluating
Article III's causation (or 'traceability')
requirement, we are concerned with something less than the
concept of 'proximate cause.'" Focus on the
Family v. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Auth., 344 F.3d
1263, 1273 (11th Cir. 2003). "'Proximate cause'
. . . 'is not a requirement of Article III
standing.'" Moody, 887 F.3d at 1287
(citation omitted). "[E]ven harms that flow indirectly
from the action in question can be said to be 'fairly
traceable' to that action for standing purposes."
Focus on the Family, 344 F.3d at 1273.
organization has suffered a concrete injury and thus
"has standing to sue on its own behalf if the
defendant's illegal acts impair its ability to engage in
its projects by forcing the organization to divert resources
to counteract those illegal acts." Fla. State