Texas court: Austin's paid sick leave law is unconstitutional
- A three-judge panel of the Lone Star State's intermediate appellate court has declared Austin's paid sick leave ordinance unconstitutional, saying that the ordinance is pre-empted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act
(TMWA). The judges sent the case back to the trial court and ordered the trial court judge to issue a temporary injunction blocking the local law from going into effect (Texas Association of Business, et al. v. City of Austin, No. 03-18-00445-CV (Tex. App., Nov. 16, 2018)).
- The appeals court said the "plain language" of the TMWA pre-empts the ordinance and, as a result, the local law violates the Texas Constitution's mandate that no city ordinance shall contain any provision inconsistent with the laws enacted by the state's legislature.
- The ordinance was passed by the Austin City Council in February and was set to require employers to offer eight days of earned sick leave each; employers with fewer than 15 employees would have been required to offer six days. The mandate was to take effect Oct. 1 and would have been the first in Texas.
A spokesperson for the City of Austin told the Texas Tribune the city will review its options in the case. The Tribune says the Austin ordinance could be facing "a long battle" in the courts and the Texas legislature. The most recent ruling also may affect a similar ordinance in San Antonio; the San Antonio City Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance in August to allow workers to accrue up to 64 hours of paid sick leave each year. State Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican, has filed a bill ahead of the upcoming legislative session that would prohibit such city ordinances, according to the Texas Tribune.
Currently, at least 11 states and Washington, D.C., as well as more than 30 localities require paid sick leave, but the details of the requirements vary, making compliance difficult for employers with operations in multiple jurisdiction. There is no federal law requiring paid sick leave law for the private sector, but the Society for Human Resource Management and others are backing a federal proposal that would allow employers to opt into a leave program that would pre-empt other applicable laws.