Council to Tweak Sick Leave Law to Deal With Legislative, Court Challenges

As San Antonio's mandatory sick leave law faces challenges in the courts and in the Legislature, City Council is looking to make changes to the law that will make it easier to enforce if it is upheld, and allow some form of sick leave legislation to remain in place if it is thrown out, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Northwest side Councilman Manny Pelaez, who is a labor attorney, is in charge of a commission which will examine what changes can be made to the sick leave law, which was approved by City Council last summer.

"The process should explicitly target business input, and seek data and analysis regarding the impact of the ordinance," Pelaez said.

The San Antonio law, which requires all private employers to provide paid sick leave to their full time employees, was essentially written by a labor organization. It used the petition provisions of the City Charter to circulate petitions to have the law implemented. Council agreed to simply implement the law rather than choose the other option of putting it to a public vote.

But the Charter does not prohibit the city from adjusting the law once it goes into effect.

"This committee empanels a commission to recommend to us appropriate changes to the existing ordinance in order to give it effect," Pelaez said.

Several measures in the Legislature would throw out the San Antonio ordinance, and similar mandatory sick leave laws in place in Austin and Dallas, on the grounds that the Texas constitution reserves to the state the right to set workplace conditions, including the minimum wage. A lawsuit challenging the laws in court has already been successful.

But on the other hand, San Antonio State Senator Jose Menendez has introduced a rival bill that would make mandatory sick leave a statewide law, overcoming the current objections to the San Antonio statute.

Business groups, which were shut out of drafting the sick leave ordinance, say they have nothing against paying sick leave to their employees, but the law is written in such a heavy handed fashion, allowing City inspectors to scour their books and their employee handbooks to find violations, requiring small companies to hire auditors and attorneys to insure compliance.

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