Court Finds ‘No Undue Burden’ in Delaying Paid Sick Leave, Sets Trial Date

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Attorney Ricardo Cedillo represents local business groups in a lawsuit challenging the City of San Antonio's paid sick leave ordinance. A trial date in September 2020 has been set.

State District Court Judge Peter Sakai set a September 2020 court date for a trial over the City of San Antonio’s paid sick leave ordinance.

Sakai also issued his findings Thursday in granting a temporary injunction Nov. 22 to a coalition of business groups suing the City over the ordinance.

With the judge setting a court date for the trial that’s more than nine months away – Sept. 21, 2020 – both parties expect to avert a trial altogether because the case is likely to be superseded by a higher-court decision.

“We set it in September with the expectation that the Supreme Court will rule on the 3rd Court of Appeals opinion and that should obviate the need for a trial,” said Ricardo Cedillo, attorney for the business groups.

In November 2018, the 3rd Court of Appeals declared Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, which is similar to San Antonio’s, unconstitutional. The case is now pending in the Texas Supreme Court.

The local Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance would have required all employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked starting Dec. 1.

In a Nov. 7 hearing, Cedillo argued that paid sick leave is a wage by definition and is thus preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Law. An attorney representing the City said the ordinance was lawful because paid sick leave is a benefit, not a wage.

Sakai later granted a temporary injunction to the business groups, blocking the City from implementing its paid sick leave ordinance, which was set to take effect Dec. 1.

In the court finding issued Thursday, the judge wrote that the court concluded that without injunctive relief suspending the ordinance, the plaintiffs would “suffer irreparable harm and injury under the Texas Constitution” and that preserving the status quo “will not impose any undue burden on the parties.”

The council passed the paid sick leave ordinance in August 2018, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2019, and implementation Aug. 1. That implementation date was postponed after local business groups filed a lawsuit on July 15 and the City agreed to delay implementation to Dec. 1.

On Oct. 3, the council passed an amended ordinance with changes recommended by a commission of stakeholders on both sides of the issue, but the changes were not enough to avert the court-ordered injunction.

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