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Judge Delays Request To Hold San Antonio's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Mercedes Leyva leads a chant in support of paid sick time in 2018 before a council vote to approve the petition driven ordinance

A Bexar County judge has initially denied a request to delay the implementation of San Antonio’s paid sick leave ordinance to December. Judge Monique Diaz decided intervenors — the Texas Organizing Project — did not have enough time to prepare for today’s hearing.

Several business groups are suing the city over the ordinance. The city and plaintiffs filed a request late Friday to delay its implementation.

But attorneys for the Texas Organizing Project argued that violates a three-day notice rule, and the judge agreed.

Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, when the judge will consider the delay request.

The ordinance is set to begin August 1.

The lawsuit was filed July 15 by several business groups who said the ordinance violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act. The city has been in conversation with attorneys since at last week.

“Today, the City and opposing counsel submitted an agreed order for the Court’s consideration to delay implementation of the paid sick leave ordinance until December 1, 2019,” said according to Deputy City Attorney Ed Guzman. “This additional time will allow us to continue working with the paid sick leave commission, committees and our stakeholders to refine the ordinance.” 

Ricardo Cedillo represents the plaintiffs, which include the San Antonio Restaurant Association and other trade groups. He said the delay is what the ordinance needs.

“I think that this course that we’re following now makes a lot of common sense, it makes a lot of economic sense,” Cedillo said. “It allows us to not have the August 1 deadline… that made going to war mandatory.”

The ordinance requires businesses to provide each employee with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. It caps at either 48 hours of time or 64 hours of time per year depending oin the business size. While the ordinance is still set to take effect on August 1, enforcement and penalties wouldn’t be assessed until April.  The fine for each violation of the ordinance would be about $500.

It was enacted through a petition by which gathered more than 144,000 signatures in 2018 by Working Texans for Paid Sick Time and other organizations like MOVE Texas and the Texas Organizing Project.

“The hard working families of San Antonio need to have their day in court. This order is not a done deal by any means,” said Joleen Garcia with Working Texans for Paid Sick Time.

Garcia is also an organizer with the Texas Organizing Project. TOP filed an intervention on Thursday.

“Some of the impacted working families have all intervened in the lawsuit with the goal of ensuring our needs and our voices are at the table and are being considered by the court as well. We do not agree with of any backroom deal is done with the business community,” Garcia said.

On Friday, an intervention opposing the ordinance was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and other cities cannot be allowed to pass their own laws simply because they dislike state law or disagree with the judgment of the state’s elected representatives,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The Legislature established the minimum amount of compensation for workers, and the Texas Constitution prohibits local municipalities from ignoring the Legislature’s decision.”

The Paid Sick Leave ordinance faces an uphill battle in Texas’ legal system. A similar ordinance in Austin was blocked by the state’s 3rd Court of Appeals and is awaiting a hearing from the state’s highly conservative Supreme Court.  

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules