Should San Antonio Require Private Employers to Offer Paid Sick Days?

A group that has been successful in convincing the City of Austin to pass an ordinance mandating employers offer paid sick leave to their workers is now trying to get similar laws approved in Dallas and San Antonio, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The group ‘Texans for Paid Sick Leave’ is circulating petitions in the two cities hoping to get city councils to take note.But the state has already taken note, and has asked a court to throw out the Austin law, claiming it violates the constitutional right of the state government to set policies like wages and working conditions for private employers.

Texans for Paid Sick Leave volunteer Diana Ramirez tells News Radio 1200 WOAI it is an important issue.

“This (the state lawsuit) makes me want to go out and get even more signatures,” she said.  “We need to show the state that this is what voters want, this is what they need, and this should be a reality for them.”

While many employers offer a certain amount of paid sick leave to workers as a job benefit, there is no local, state, or federal law that requires that they do so.  In fact, no employee benefits, other than the minimum wage and anti-discrimination protections, are required by law, although the Obamacare law requires all companies with fifty or more employees to offer health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

Many labor and civil rights groups have begun taking advantage of the fact that, although Texas and the U.S. governments are dominated by Republicans, most Texas cities, including San Antonio, are overwhelmingly Democrat, and have begun pressing issues like labor protections and minimum wage increases, on the local, rather than the state or national level.

The San Antonio Manufacturers Association has already come out against the mandatory sick leave proposals, and other local business groups are expected to do so if the issue gains more traction locally.

The state lawsuit, which is supported by several business groups, claims that the Austin law will result in layoffs, pay cuts, or less paid vacation as small businesses try to adjust to the costs of the new mandate. 

But the state also claims that the Austin law is a violation of the Texas Minimum Wage Act, which prohibits municipalities of regulating the wages of private businesses.

“In direct conflict, the Austin Paid Sick Leave Ordinance requires that employers must pay minimum wage to employees for hours not actually worked,” the lawsuit states.  This effect is to push their minimum wage above the minimum wage ceiling set by Texas law.”

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