Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The City agreed to delay implementing its paid sick leave ordinance until Dec. 1, four months after it was originally set to take effect, as the State Attorney General’s Office said Friday it would join a coalition of local business groups challenging the ordinance’s constitutionality.
The City and the law firm representing the business groups submitted an agreement to a Bexar County court Friday to delay enforcement of the ordinance, which guarantees eligible San Antonio workers the right to paid leave for medical reasons. Businesses were set to begin complying on Aug. 1.
“This additional time will allow us to continue working with the paid sick leave commission, committees, and our stakeholders to refine the ordinance,” Deputy City Attorney Ed Guzman said Friday in a prepared statement.
The agreement to delay implementation must be approved by the court.
The agreement comes despite the intervention Thursday of activist groups backing the ordinance, including the Texas Organizing Project and MOVE Texas. The paid sick leave advocates said they joined the suit to prevent the City from reaching an agreement with the plaintiffs on an injunction delaying the ordinance.
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed on Friday to join the suit, but that intervention was not connected to the agreed-upon order, said Ricardo Cedillo, the lead attorney representing the business groups.
In a news release Friday, Paxton said the paid sick leave ordinance is unconstitutional and violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act, which prevents governments from requiring private employers to pay more than the minimum wage.
“San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and other cities cannot be allowed to pass their own laws simply because they dislike state law or disagree with the judgment of the state’s elected representatives,” he stated. “The Legislature established the minimum amount of compensation for workers, and the Texas Constitution prohibits local municipalities from ignoring the Legislature’s decision.”
Paxton intervened in a lawsuit against the City of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance in 2018, when a the 3rd Court of Appeals struck down the Austin law, ruling it violated the Texas Constitution and Texas law. Paxton and the City of Austin have asked the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in.
Cedillo told the Rivard Report that he will ask a Bexar County court on Monday to accept the agreement between the plaintiffs and the City.
“We don’t have to have the City conduct its work with the pressure of litigation running right beside it,” Cedillo said. “We get to wait to see if we need to have a fight down the road later in the year. Hopefully, events will transpire so that that controversy doesn’t have to take up the time of the court and the expense of the parties.”
He said he did not have to negotiate with the activist groups because they do not have the legal standing to intervene in the case. Cedillo also filed a motion on Friday to strike the intervention by the activist groups.
“I don’t need to get an agreement with somebody that doesn’t belong at the table,” he said.
Ryan Cox, an attorney representing the Texas Organizing Project and MOVE Texas, told the Rivard Report the business groups are trying to use the courts to circumvent City Council’s approved ordinance.
“We are disappointed that the city is unwilling to defend its own laws against the plaintiffs’ meritless claims in this case, and we will continue to press our interests and object to any delay of the law’s implementation date, including at any emergency hearing that the plaintiffs have set,” he said.
Among the groups suing the City are the Associated Builders and Contractors of South Texas, the American Staffing Association, Cardinal Senior Care, the San Antonio Manufacturers Association, the San Antonio Restaurant Association, and other groups employing temporary labor.
The San Antonio City Council approved the paid sick leave ordinance in August 2018. The law requires employers of between six and 15 employees to grant 48 hours of paid sick leave to each employee per year and 64 hours for companies with more than 15 employees. Small businesses with five employees or fewer will be excepted from enforcement until August 2021. Each violation will be punishable by a $500 fine.