Texas supreme court declines city of austin’s invitation to approve paid sick leave ordinance

Last Friday, June 5, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court declined the City of Austin’s request to validate the constitutionality of its Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. The Court’s decision not to hear the City’s appeal means that the appellate court’s determination that the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act remains in effect, and the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance will continue to be unenforceable.

This dispute began in February 2018, after the Austin City Council approved a paid sick leave ordinance requiring all private Austin employers to provide paid sick leave to their full- and part-time employees who worked at least 80 hours per year. While the ordinance was supposed to take effect on October 1, 2018, it was quickly met by opposition, including a challenge in court by a group of Austin business owners. The City had hoped that the Texas Supreme Court would reverse the appellate court decision, allowing Austin workers to receive paid sick leave under the ordinance. Those opposing similar ordinances in Dallas and San Antonio hoped the Court would issue an opinion striking down Austin’s ordinance, and be binding state-wide.  Instead, the high court announced it would not hear the appeal, providing no explanation for its declination.

There are similar paid sick leave ordinances in both Dallas and San Antonio that have been making their way through the courts. This latest Texas Supreme Court decision not to consider the City of Austin’s appeal will undoubtedly impact Dallas’ and San Antonio’s litigation strategy moving forward. However, because the Court did not issue an opinion, the new decision will not foreclose those cases.

For Austin employers, especially, the Texas Supreme Court’s decision means that they no longer need to worry about compliance under the ordinance. There is no legal requirement that Austin employers provide paid sick leave to their workers – to the extent that they decide to provide such leave, it is entirely voluntarily, and can be administered in any non-discriminatory manner.

If you have any questions about this latest development and what it means for future paid sick leave legislation or its effect on other municipal paid sick leave ordinances around the State, contact Sheila Gladstone at 512.970.5815 or sgladstone@lglawfirm.com, Sarah Glaser at 512.221.6585 or sglaser@lglawfirm.com, or Emily Linn at 214.755.9433 or elinn@lglawfirm.com.

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