SAN ANTONIO – Clarification: The original version of this story stated that the city’s paid sick leave ordinance was deemed unconstitutional. The appeals court agreed with a lower court that the ordinance violates state law, but the ruling does not end the city’s quest to implement the law.
The City of San Antonio and workers’ rights groups were dealt a blow in their ongoing court battle to implement a paid sick ordinance on Wednesday.
The Fourth Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court judgment that the San Antonio mandatory ordinance is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA) and is therefore unconstitutional.
The ordinance would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
“The pivotal question we have answered is whether the (ordinance) establishes a minimum wage: it does,” wrote Justice Patricia O. Alvarez. “... We hold that the (ordinance’s) paid sick and safe leave provision establishes a minimum wage, which is inconsistent with the TMWA, and thus violates the Texas Constitution.”
While the ruling doesn’t end the city’s quest to implement the law, it stops the ordinance from taking effect while the years-long case continues to work its way through the courts. It also could signal trouble ahead in the legal battle as another panel of judges has now deemed it to violate state law.
“Today’s ruling provides business owners confidence that any future attempts by the City of San Antonio to impose similar types of mandatory employee wage benefits will also be deemed unconstitutional,” said Cubeta Law Firm, which represents a group of restaurants and other businesses that are challenging the ordinance.
Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, which lobbied for the paid sick protections and is a defendant in the case, called the ruling an “absolute insult.”
“As COVID-19 continues to chip away at the health and financial stability of Texans, laying bare the disturbing lack of protections that exist to keep people healthy on the job, this court ruling is an absolute insult to San Antonians who fuel our city each and every day through their labor,” said
While the San Antonio City Council passed the ordinance in October 2019, it didn’t go into effect after a judge two months later granted a temporary injunction as a coalition of businesses and associations fought the controversial ordinance.
KSAT 12 is seeking comment from the city regarding the ruling and will update this story when we get it.
Read the full order below.