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Judge Deals San Antonio a Setback in Mandating Paid Sick Leave

After we reported last week that the Texas Senate seems to be abandoning legislation that would block local governments from requiring private employers to provide paid sick leave to employees, one of the cities that passed such an ordinance was dealt a setback in court. 

In issuing a temporary injunction, a state district judge ruled San Antonio's paid sick leave ordinance violates the Texas Constitution by going above and beyond what’s required of employers under the state’s minimum wage law. Absent this ruling, the ordinance was set to take effect on December 1. The judge said a full trial will be scheduled on the merits. In the meantime, the city could appeal this temporary injunction to the Fourth Court of Appeals.

“We are pleased that Judge (Peter) Sakai stood up for San Antonio employers by putting a stop to this burdensome and overreaching sick leave mandate,” said Annie Spilman, spokeswoman for ASSET, a business coalition that was formed around this issue. 

“Not only do these piecemeal ordinances make it difficult to do business in multiple Texas cities, but they are unconstitutional. We are hopeful the courts will continue to side with Texas job creators and put an end to this growing web of red tape,” Spilman said. 

“This is a huge victory for small business owners who know better than anyone how to hire and care for their workers,” said Texas Association of Business President and CEO Jeff Moseley. 

“TAB salutes the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio business leaders in winning today’s ruling," Moseley said. 

Meantime, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the ruling is unfortunate because the law is “good for working families, businesses and the community…I will continue fighting to provide sick and safe leave for San Antonio workers.”

Nirenberg also said he asked City Manager Erik Walsh to examine “all areas” where the city can provide sick and safe leave protections to local employees.

“Even while the legal maneuvers surrounding the city’s ordinance continue, I would like to work with City Council to assess possible options that would cover as many San Antonio workers as possible by placing sick and safe leave protections in city contracts and other similar instances," Nirenberg said. 

The cities of Austin and Dallas have similar ordinances that are being challenged in court. Austin’s is at the Texas Supreme Court, where it may be taken up early in the new year. A decision could be made by the state’s highest civil court as soon as the spring.

Dallas’ ordinance is in Federal District Court where a judge denied the city’s motion for a new venue. That ordinance is in effect but is not slated for enforcement until April.