San Antonio Joins Austin In Mandating Paid Sick Leave for Employees of Private Companies

Several cities in Texas are now on a collision course with Republican lawmakers in Austin over whether local governments can and should mandate that private employers provide paid sick leave to employees. 

Back in February, Austin’s city council voted to require businesses to give employees one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked up to 64 hours. Employees could use the time on themselves or to take care of a family member. 

Now, San Antonio is joining the fray just as Texas Republicans and business groups ratchet up their opposition to these efforts. Via the San Antonio Express-News:

In a 9-2 vote, the council adopted the ordinance that will become effective next year. It would apply to both for- and not-for-profit businesses. Officials expect that the Texas Legislature will move to preempt the ordinance and similar laws in Austin and Dallas, if voters there approve it in November.

If it isn’t addressed by state lawmakers, Mayor Ron Nirenberg suggested that the city would work with those who presented the petition for the ordinance and business owners who have voiced concerns with mandating that businesses offer paid sick time.

Business groups have been successful in convincing a state appeals court in Austin to delay implementation of that city’s regulations. That decision, though, is temporary as the issue works its way through the courts. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sided with business groups. 

"The minimum amount of compensation established for workers, including the minimum amount of paid time off, is a decision entrusted by the Texas Constitution solely to the Texas Legislature," Paxton said. "I'm confident that an appeals court will recognize that the law expressly preempts cities from passing a different law simply because they disagree with the judgment of our state’s elected representatives."

Reached for comment, Texas Association of Business CEO Jeff Moseley called the court's decision a "huge victory for small business owners who know better than anyone how to hire and care for their workers."

"As the lead co-plaintiff in the lawsuit against the City of Austin’s overreaching paid sick leave ordinance, Texas Association of Business’ (TAB) focus is on jobs and paychecks, " Moseley said.

"This lawsuit is not about the implementation of the paid sick leave policy, but about local officials ignoring the economic concerns of small businesses, which are the heart of our state’s economy," he said. 

But a group called Work Strong Austin said Paxton and groups like the Texas Association of Business and the Texas Public Policy Foundation are “cold and desperate” as they “interfere in our local community and take paid sick time away from working families.”

“We are confident the courts will ultimately uphold the law and allow our hardworking neighbors the right to earn paid sick time to take care of themselves and their loved ones,” the group said. 

“The most recent ruling does not, in any way, address the legality of the Austin paid sick time ordinance under state law,” per the statement from Work Strong Austin. “Rather, the court ruling asks the city to delay implementing the ordinance until a final legal opinion has been given by the courts. Once the court upholds the Austin paid sick time ordinance, implementation can move forward.”

Meantime Rep. Paul Workman, a Republican from Austin, has said that when the Legislature meets in January, he will file legislation aimed at blocking cities from mandating paid sick leave. “I’ve spoken to a number of my colleagues, and when the time comes, we will be able to get co-sponsors and co-authors," Workman said.

Workman is also supporting the litigation opposing the cities’ efforts along with some of his colleagues including Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Jersey Village, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Dallas, Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano,, Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, and Rep. Dennis Paul, R-Houston. 

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