The Austin Chronicle

3rd Court Halts Paid Sick Leave

By Mary Tuma, November 16, 2018, 2:02pm, Newsdesk

This post has been updated. The 3rd Court of Appeals has shut down Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, passed by City Council earlier this year. The worker’s rights ordinance, which requires most businesses grant employees up to eight paid sick days a year, is a violation of the Texas Minimum Wage Act, ruled the Austin-based appeals court.

It’s not quite the end of the road for the labor protection; the three-judge panel remanded the lawsuit brought against the city of Austin back to district court for a full trial, and ordered District Judge Tim Sulak of Austin to issue the temporary injunction against the ordinance. Initially set to take effect Oct. 1., the paid sick leave rule was halted in August while the appeals court reviewed the suit.

The ruling is a victory for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, representing business groups including the Texas Association of Business, and Republican legislators, who plan to fight similar city ordinances this legislative session. Rep. Matt Krause, R-Ft. Worth, has already filed legislation to ban cities from implementing paid sick leave rules.

The Texas AFL-CIO and the Workers Defense Project sounded off on the ruling, saying it will deprive hundreds of thousands of working people of the choice to stay home when ill. WDP noted that two of the judges involved in the ruling were “soundly” defeated for re-election; Justices David Puryear and Scott Field both lost to Democratic challengers on Nov. 6.

“Make no mistake: this was a desperate, final attempt by humiliated judges to side against working families on their way out the door,” spokesperson Bo Delp wrote.” Moving forward, we are confident this case will prevail on the merits in District Court.”

D4 Council member Greg Casar, who led the ordinance's passage on the dais, said he anticipated the possibility the exiting judges would rush out "some anti-worker rulings" before they are replaced in January. He admonished the Texas Attorney General's office – who got behind the legal battle against the ordinance – for conflating sick days with wages.

"[AG] Ken Paxton’s contention that sick days are the same thing as the minimum wage is absurd," said Casar. "Moving forward, I’m confident that the next court in this ongoing process will rule with the law and with common sense: Guaranteeing paid sick days is legal and good for Texans.”

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