Business Coalition Forms to Fight Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Laws

More than a dozen prominent business and professionals organizations statewide have joined forces to fight municipal ordinances mandating paid sick leave and other internal company policies.

The Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas "ASSET" represents nearly every industry in Texas, from the Associated General Contractors to the Texas Association of Manufacturers to the Hotel and Lodging Association and the Texas Retail Association, demonstrating, members say, the urgent need to strike down municipal attempts to regulate business in the state.

ASSET's Annie Spilman says paid sick leave acts are not just an 'overreaching job killer, they are unconstitutional.'

She says the firms' first battle is with the paid sick leave ordinance in Dallas, which is the only one which has been allowed to take effect. San Antonio's ordinance has been voluntarily placed on hold, and one in Austin has been blocked by the courts.

ASSET has joined in lawsuits challenging the Dallas ordinance.

“The Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance creates inconsistent regulations, confusion, and unnecessary complications for employers and employees across the Dallas region and state of Texas, which deters continued growth. The one size-fits all approach mandated in the Ordinance regarding the record-keeping and method of calculating paid sick leave is not practical for businesses currently operating in the region,” the amicus brief states. “The Ordinance violates the Constitutional rights of various employers, employees and businesses. The far-reaching consequences of the Ordinance threaten economic sustainability, business attraction and growth in the Dallas region.”

The groups raise a series of objections against the ordiannces, which mandate that full time employees be paid for days in which they are sick and don't come to work. Supporters say without paid sick leave, employees are forced to come to work sick, or are forced to risk losing a day's pay if they stay home with a sick child.

But business groups raise a number of objections to the ordinances, not the least of which is the fact that local governments are trying to insert themselves into the daily operations of private businesses.

They say the laws illegally set up a two-tiered system, by which an employer in San Antonio has to play by a different set of rules than a competitor across the street in a suburb or in the unincorporated county where mandatory sick pay is not required, putting it at a competitive disadvantage. Business groups question whether a municipal government has any right to regulate the operations of a company which may be based outside of the city, or in another state or in another country, and they say with more and more workers operating as contractors working for staffing agencies, or working independently, the definition of who exactly is an 'employee' is unclear. They point out that if firms which operate in the 'gig economy,' like, for example, the ride share firm Uber, which technically has no employees, is allowed to skirt the ordinance, that will simply incentivize current employers to fire their staffs the take the same route, which would be devastating for employees.

There are also questions about how tipped workers are handled. The San Antonio ordinance, for example, requires them to be compensated for sick days at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which means employees could actually make more money by not going to work than by working. Restaurant owners say they expect a lot of tipped employees to call in 'sick' on traditionally slow evenings.

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