On Friday, November 22, Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai ordered that San Antonio’s paid sick leave ordinance, which was scheduled to take effect December 1, be delayed once again. Implementation of the ordinance was first delayed in July of this year by agreement of the City of San Antonio and the business groups challenging the ordinance. Following court approval of that agreement, San Antonio revised its ordinance to attempt to appease local businesses. The revisions, which were passed by San Antonio’s City Council on Oct. 3, were not enough to satisfy the plaintiff businesses, which subsequently requested a temporary injunction to block the revised ordinance from taking effect on December 1. Following a hearing, Judge Sakai granted the injunction, which will prevent the ordinance from becoming effective while the case proceeds. A trial will be set to determine whether the ordinance should be enjoined permanently. In the meantime, the city may decide to appeal the injunction to the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio.
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce released a statement applauding Judge Sakai’s decision, calling San Antonio’s ordinance “a local infringement on the rights of private employers.” See Statement from Chamber on Injunction of Sick Leave Ordinance.
Meanwhile, Dallas and Austin also continue to face legal challenges to their own respective paid sick leave ordinances. Dallas’s ordinance, the only one of the three that has gone into effect, is currently facing a challenge in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. The judge in that case has not yet ruled on the Dallas companies’ request for injunction or the city’s motion to dismiss. It is important to note that while Dallas’s paid sick leave ordinance became effective on August 1, 2019, the city of Dallas has deferred enforcement of the ordinance, other than for claims of retaliation, until April 1, 2020.
Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, like San Antonio’s, has been prevented from taking effect by Texas state courts. In November 2018, the Austin ordinance was enjoined by Texas’s Third Court of Appeals, which declared the ordinance unconstitutional. The city of Austin has appealed that decision, and the parties are expected to complete briefing to the Texas Supreme Court on January 7, 2020. The court will likely not issue its ruling until the spring of 2020. While only the Austin ordinance is at issue in the case pending before the Texas Supreme Court, the court’s decision will almost certainly have legal implications for the Dallas and San Antonio ordinances as well.
Due to the uncertainty caused by these legal challenges, employers operating in San Antonio, Dallas or Austin should continue to closely monitor the events relating to all three ordinances. Our Texas Labor and Employment Group would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have regarding the paid sick leave ordinances and how you or your business may be affected.