Implementation of San Antonio paid sick-leave requirement delayed amid court fight

The ordinance was supposed to go into effect Aug. 1 but now will be delayed until Dec. 1. It requires businesses with more than 15 employees to allow workers to accrue 64 hours of paid sick leave per year.

San Antonio City Hall.

A district judge signed off on a deal Wednesday to delay the implementation of a paid sick-leave ordinance slated to go into effect Aug. 1 — dealing yet another blow to community organizers who have championed the rule in some of Texas’ biggest cities.

The decision comes after city officials and the business groups suing over the policy agreed Friday to postpone the ordinance’s implementation from August until December. A spokesman for the city argued the delay would give San Antonio a chance to refine the proposal.

The ordinance — versions of which have been approved in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas — requires businesses with more than 15 employees to allow workers to accrue 64 hours of paid sick leave per year. For employers with fewer than 15 workers, the amount would be capped at 48 hours.

While those spearheading the proposals have touted the ordinances as beneficial to workers and public health, some business leaders have argued that they violate the Texas Minimum Wage Act, which business groups claim “explicitly prevents localities from requiring private employers to pay more” than minimum wage.

Ricardo Cedillo, the lawyer representing the business groups, previously said many of his clients provide sick-leave benefits to their employees and that the issue should be regulated at a state level. He said Wednesday’s decision is in “the best interests of both the business community and the proponents of the ordinance” and that the paid sick leave ordinance, as written, “will not stand constitutional scrutiny.”

“The city wants a chance to fix it,” he said. “We think they have their work cut out for them, but we’ll take delay in implementation for now.”

Those who were eager for the ordinance to take effect lamented the judge’s decision.

“Today’s delay on paid sick time was straight out of the national playbook of anti-regulatory, anti-worker corporate lobbyists,” said H. Drew Galloway, the executive director of MOVE Texas, a group geared toward bolstering civic participation among youth. “By delaying this ordinance, the city attorney, corporate lobbyists and the City Council stole money directly out of the pockets of workers in San Antonio.

“We will keep fighting for paid sick time because the rights of workers will not be delayed or denied.”

Still, the delay in San Antonio is not entirely surprising. Austin’s ordinance is on hold after an appeals court deemed it unconstitutional in 2018. The city has asked the Texas Supreme Court to hear the case.

Republican leaders and business groups have long vowed to fight sick-leave proposals, though a bill in the Legislature that would’ve overturned such ordinances died after it became ensnared in a fight over protections for LGBTQ workers.

A sick leave ordinance passed in Dallas earlier is set to take effect next month.