On February 15, 2022, the National Women’s Law Center—alongside the National Employment Law Project, Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, and the Economic Policy Institute—submitted an amicus brief to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Bradford v. U.S. Department of Labor. Represented by Democracy Forward, amici filed the brief in support of the U.S. Department of Labor’s implementation of the $15/hour minimum wage for workers on federal contracts. In April 2021, President Biden issued an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15/hour and rescinding a Trump-era executive order that exempted certain employers from the requirement. The Department of Labor then issued a final rule, after notice and comment, implementing the executive order in November 2021. A few employers who had been exempted from the minimum-wage requirement under the Trump rule sued to stop the changes from going into effect, arguing that President Biden did not have the legal authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (Procurement Act) to issue the executive order. On January 24, 2022, the Colorado district court rejected the employers’ arguments, allowing the Biden rule to go into effect. The employers appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit. Our amicus brief defended the Biden rule and explained that President Biden and the Department of Labor were legally authorized to rescind the Trump rule and require employers (including those previously exempted) to pay workers on federal contracts at least $15 per hour. This is because the Department of Labor reasonably concluded that increasing the federal contractor minimum wage to $15/hour would promote employee productivity and retention, while helping to remedy the racial and gender gaps among the federal contractor workforce. Because the Biden administration had persuasive evidence-based economic and policy reasons for making these changes, President Biden was authorized by the Procurement Act to issue and implement the executive order. Thus, our amicus brief urged the Tenth Circuit to uphold the Biden rule and reject the employers’ attempt to evade this minimum wage requirement.
On February 17, 2022, the Tenth Circuit issued a decision granting the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction and blocking the $15 minimum wage rule from being enforced while the case proceeds. Without elaborating, the court held that the employers had shown “an entitlement to relief” from the rule such that the government could not impose the minimum wage requirement on federal contractors in connection with seasonal recreational services or recreational equipment rental for the general public on federal lands.