There is no state or federal law requiring employers to give their workers paid sick leave. But in Austin and other Texas cities that’s changing. Earlier this year, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring many private employers in the state’s capital city to let workers to accrue up to 64 hours of paid sick leave per year. Attorney General Ken Paxton is not pleased, nor are several other Republican lawmakers. And a conservative think tank has filed suit. Thursday, the San Antonio City Council voted for its own paid sick leave ordinance. And other Texas cities are mulling similar moves. Where is this headed?
In the lawsuit filed against the City of Austin, conservative activists argued that the city’s sick leave requirement violated the state’s minimum wage act. A sick leave requirement, the plaintiffs argued, provides wages to employees when they’re not working, thus establishing a minimum wage in violation of the state law.
Jay Aiyer is a political science professor at Texas Southern University in Houston specializes in urban policy. He says San Antonio is likely to be sued on the same basis, but that lawmakers are likely to have their say, too.
“I wouldn’t be shocked at all if you saw the legislature get in and try to clarify the preemption argument,” Aiyer says.
San Antonio passed its ordinance after activists presented a petition in support of requiring sick leave.
“I think the general view is that the public is supportive of it, at least in those municipalities,” Aiyer says. “But the state of Texas is a conservative state, and continues to be, and the legislature certainly reflects that element.”
Aiyer says sick leave is just the latest conflict between local governments that have passed rules their citizens generally support, only to come into conflict the the legislature. Other examples include plastic bag bans and Denton’s vote to disallow fracking in the city. Both were later overturned by state courts or the legislature.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.