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Judge rejects plan to delay implementing city’s paid sick leave ordinance

Judge rejects plan to delay implementing city’s paid sick leave ordinance

State District Judge Monique Diaz refused on Monday to consider approving a compromise order between the city of San Antonio and a group of business organizations suing the city that would have delayed implementation of a municipal paid sick leave ordinance until at least Dec. 1.

Diaz or another presiding judge could still sign off on the order as soon as Wednesday when the two sides are expected to meet in court for a hearing on the lawsuit.

Last week, lawyers with local law practice Davis, Cedillo & Mendoza Inc. filed a lawsuit on behalf of a dozen business groups seeking to block the Aug. 1 implementation. Since then, the city and plaintiffs found common ground that would defer the effective date to give both sides time to address potential changes to the ordinance.

“The proposed agreed order to delay implementation of the paid sick leave ordinance preserves the ordinance, the work of the council-appointed commission and the ability of the City Council to make timely adjustments to the ordinance, if it chooses,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement. “By contrast, a court order indefinitely suspending implementation — such as what happened in the city of Austin — risks losing all of those things.”

That court’s decision to not approve the order on Monday was a surprise to local labor and employment lawyer Kelli Cubeta, who has worked to educate businesses on the ordinance and its scheduled Aug. 1 rollout.

“This is unprecedented and was not at all expected,” said Cubeta of Cubeta Law Group.

Meanwhile, both sides are expected back in court on July 24 for the hearing. Lawyer Ricardo Cedillo of DC&M, who is representing the plaintiffs, is optimistic the judge will issue an injunction. But Cedillo also told me he has not taken the agreed compromise order with the city off the table, as more time could benefit everyone involved. It’s still possible Diaz could approve the order.

“By December, we may have a ruling by the [Texas] Supreme Court, and the game is over,” Cedillo said.

Under the ordinance, employers in San Antonio with 16 or more employees will be required to let each worker who is eligible accrue up to 64 hours in annual paid sick leave. Those businesses with six to 15 employees will have to provide eligible workers up to 48 hours of paid sick leave.

A temporary injunction, Cubeta said, “is not a permanent solution.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened on Friday. In a filing with the Texas state district court in Bexar County, Paxton argued that the State Legislature has sole purview over imposing requirements regarding paid sick leave.

“The Legislature established the minimum amount of compensation for workers, and the Texas Constitution prohibits local municipalities from ignoring the Legislature’s decision,” he said in a statement.

The Texas Supreme Court could have the final word on whether San Antonio’s ordinance is constitutionally sound.

In the interim, there is likely to be further confusion for San Antonio businesses.

“Whomever wins or loses on July 24th, the losing side will likely appeal,” Cubeta said.

By   – Senior Reporter, San Antonio Business Journal
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