Texas Supreme Court Stifles Austin's Paid Sick Leave Law

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 9, 2020

The Texas Supreme Court has let stand an appellate court ruling that blocked Austin's mandatory paid sick leave ordinance from taking effect.

The Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance had mandated that private employers allow their employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours per year for employers with more than 15 employees and up to 48 hours per year for smaller employers.

Austin became the first city in the South to pass such a measure in early 2018. But it faced immediate opposition and has been the subject of court challenges ever since.

The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals found Austin's paid sick leave ordinance unconstitutional, reasoning that it conflicted with the Texas Minimum Wage Act. A coalition of business groups had argued that the Act bans cities from raising minimum wages above legislative mandates.

The Texas Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case and reject Austin's appeal is a death knell for the ordinance. Other Texas cities had followed Austin's lead with paid sick leave measures that have thus far met a similar fate.

For instance, San Antonio passed an ordinance that mirrored the Austin ordinance in many ways and would have applied to all employers except government entities and school districts. However, a judge blocked it just days before it was slated to take effect.

A Dallas paid sick leave ordinance that would have applied to most employees briefly took effect, but a federal judge issued an injunction halting implementation of its enforcement provisions on March 30, 2020. Labor groups had argued that requiring paid sick leave would help contain the novel coronavirus, but businesses viewed them as the cities overstepping their regulatory power.