Newton’s Third Law of Motion and Paid Sick Leave

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, or a variation of it, is at work with paid sick leave laws. The Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Let’s look at a few examples. I posted earlier this week about a federal court’s decision upholding Alabama’s preemption law, which bars political subdivisions from requiring employers to provide employment benefits or compensation not required by federal or state law. As I noted in that post, the initial “action” was the City of Birmingham’s passing an ordinance to increase the minimum wage. The State of Alabama’s “reaction” was to pass its preemption law, an opposite but superior reaction since states dictate the authority of its political subdivisions.

Then there is Minnesota. Two cities–Minneapolis and St. Paul–have enacted paid sick leave laws while a third, Duluth, is studying the issue. Legislators in the Minnesota House and Senate have introduced legislation to preempt a politician subdivision’s ability to require employers to provide any paid leave benefits beyond those required by federal or state law, i.e., a preemption law. The state’s superior reaction would void the two city ordinances and likely end the study in Duluth.

Will the Minnesota bill pass? Applying my less than scientific analysis, described here, it is unlikely to pass. Minnesota is a blue state, giving Secretary Clinton 49.6% of the votes last November. While Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives, Governor Mark Dayton is a Democrat. Assuming he would veto the bill, it would take two-thirds of each house to override his veto, a margin the Republicans do not have in either house. Bottom line: a preemption law is unlikely to get enacted in Minnesota.

Pennsylvania is considering a similar preemption law. The “actions” were two: Pittsburgh enacted a PSL law but in 2015, a court held that Pittsburgh did not have the authority to enact such a law. An appeal is pending. Philadelphia enacted a PSL in 2015.  The “reaction” is Pennsylvania Senate Bill 128 which, like the Minnesota bill, would prohibit political subdivisions from requiring private employers to provide wages or benefits beyond that required by federal or state laws. If SB 128 is enacted, it would void the Philadelphia ordinance and moot the Pittsburgh appeal.

What is the likelihood that the Pennsylvania preemption law will pass? Applying my same cryptic analysis, President Trump carried Pennsylvania last November by the narrowest of margins, less than three-quarters of one percent. Republicans control both the Senate and House but do not have a sufficiently large margin in the House to overturn Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s likely veto. Bottom line: I am not counting on adding Pennsylvania to the list of preemption states either.

I suspect Newton would be proud to see his Third Law at work on PSL. Perhaps he could develop a Fourth Law of PSL Motion that instructs multiple jurisdiction employers about how to comply with a growing number of PSL laws. Now that would be a valuable contribution!