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San Antonio paid sick leave requirement blocked by state judge

A judge blocked an ordinance that would provide paid sick leave for employees who work in the city of San Antonio starting Dec. 1.

San Antonio City Hall in June 2017.

A district judge blocked a San Antonio ordinance Friday that would have required businesses in the city to provide paid sick leave for employees starting Dec. 1.

In October, the council approved the latest version of the ordinance, calling it the “safe and sick time” ordinance. It would've required companies and nonprofits of all sizes to provide 56 hours’ worth of earned paid sick time per year. Under the rule — approved in an 8-3 vote — workers would've been able to use the leave if they were sick or if they or a family member had suffered domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

Multiple business groups, including the Associated Builders and Subcontractors, sued to block the ordinance with the backing of the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation. District Judge Peter Sakai issued a temporary injunction, meaning his ruling is not permanent but will block the implementation of the ordinance while the court case proceeds.

The ruling will affect an estimated 354,000 workers, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision to enjoin the ordinance," said Andy Segovia, San Antonio city attorney, in a written statement. "We will evaluate our legal options going forward, including appealing this decision to the Fourth Court of Appeals."

Drew Galloway, the executive director of MOVE Texas, a group geared toward bolstering youth civic participation, called the ruling an "attack" on the working people of San Antonio.

"No young worker should have to choose between paying their bills and maintaining their health," Galloway said.

Robert Henneke, general counsel at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, praised the ruling in a written statement.

“The state district court was correct to step in to protect business owners and workers from the city taking away their ability to negotiate the benefits that best work for them," he wrote.

The city's original ordinance, which was supposed to take effect Aug. 1, was put on hold in July so city officials could have a chance to refine it. Under the initial ordinance — versions of which have been approved in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas — businesses with more than 15 employees would've been required to allow workers to accrue 64 hours of paid sick leave per year. For employers with fewer than 15 workers, the amount would've been capped at 48 hours.

State lawmakers attempted to impose a ban on paid sick leave ordinances earlier this year, but efforts failed before the legislative session wrapped up. A state appeals court, however, blocked the Austin ordinance, but the Dallas version remains in effect.

Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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