The Portland Regional Chamber said Wednesday it is appealing a judge’s ruling that upheld a temporary hazard wage for people who work in Portland during a declared emergency.

The chamber and five businesses had filed suit after Portland voters approved a referendum proposal in November that set a schedule for raising the minimum wage in the city and also mandated that employers pay time-and-a-half to employees who have to report to work during declared emergencies, such as the one Maine is operating under during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the state’s $12 an hour minimum wage, that would mean an $18-per-hour minimum wage for Portland workers who can’t work remotely. While the hazard pay is being challenged in court, many business have begun paying the higher wage, concerned that they could face penalties and back pay if the courts eventually upheld the emergency wage scale.

In the Superior Court ruling Monday, Justice Thomas Warren said the law is valid, but the wording of the ordinance means it does not take effect until next year when the city’s minimum wage begins to gradually increase to $15 an hour. Warren predicted that the decision would be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and now both sides have said they will do so.

Immediately after the ruling, workers said they would appeal Warren’s ruling that that wage law doesn’t take effect until 2022. They have argued it should benefit workers during the ongoing pandemic as the authors of the ordinance intended.

The chamber initially said it was considering its options after the ruling, and on Wednesday said it will appeal the part of the ruling that said voters had the legal authority to set a higher emergency wage scale.

No schedule has been set for the Law Court to hear arguments in the case.

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