Injunction Denied in Austin Sick Time “Political Blood Fight”

Noting that the case “has the aroma of a good political blood fight,” a state district court judge yesterday denied the request of a cadre of business interests to enjoin implementation of the Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance, scheduled to go into effect on October 1, according to a news report. The judge also ruled that the Texas Attorney General’s office could remain in the case as a plaintiff-intervenor but tossed the Workers Defense Project as a defendant-intervenor from the case, according to that report.

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The denial of the requested temporary injunction does not end the challenge to the Austin ordinance. The plaintiffs might appeal the district judge’s decision or proceed to litigate the substance of their claims.

PSL opponents are also anticipating a legislative fix. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been vocal in his displeasure with local PSL laws (see here), raising the possibility that the legislature will enact a law preempting the Austin ordinance’ in its 2019 session. Texas preemption laws have recently banned local ride-share regulations, fracking bans and sanctuary cities.

There’s PSL-turbulence in the Lone Star State and plenty more to come. PSL proponents in Dallas and San Antonio hope to let voters decide in November whether to adopt a PSL ordinance.

Paid Sick Leave Turbulence in Texas

There’s paid sick leave turbulence in the Lone Star State. Austin passed its PSL ordinance in February, the first PSL law in the South.   Last month, PSL advocates in San Antonio submitted signatures to support their effort to have voters decide in November whether to enact a PSL ordinance. And this week, PSL advocates in Dallas have submitted signatures in support of a similar November ballot initiative there.

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PSL opponents have been busy as well. In April, a cadre of business interests sued to enjoin the implementation of the Austin ordinance, which is effective in October. It claims the ordinance violates the state constitution and is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Law which requires employers to pay the federal minimum wage under the FLSA and does not require employers to pay for time not worked as the Austin PSL ordinance does.  The State of Texas has intervened in support of the minimum wage argument. PSL advocates have intervened to defend the ordinance.

Beyond that, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been vocal in his displeasure with local PSL laws (see here), raising the possibility that if the Austin ordinance survives the litigation, the next threat to its existence may be a preemption law. Texas preemption laws have recently banned local ride-share regulations, fracking bans and sanctuary cities.

The first PSL ordinance in the South, two ballot initiatives, a PSL litigation cloud , and a possible preemption law combine to create PSL turbulence in Texas.

 

 

Paid Sick Leave Ballot Initiatives in Michigan and San Antonio

Voters in Michigan and San Antonio (TX) may have the opportunity in November to enact a paid sick leave law.  PSL proponents in both jurisdictions recently submitted what they claim are a sufficient number of valid signatures to support the initiative although neither initiative has yet to be formally certified. As I have posted often, when voters have an opportunity to vote for paid time off, the odds are very high that they will approve that measure.  Voters have rejected more paid time off only twice, in Denver (2011) and Albuquerque (2017).

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Michigan is not new to the PSL debate. In 2015, it enacted a preemption law prohibiting local governments from requiring an employer to provide paid or unpaid leave time. Efforts to enact a statewide PSL law through either legislation or a ballot initiative have been unsuccessful. The proposed PSL law which may be on the November 2018 ballot is here.

Pending legal challenges to the recently enacted Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance will likely affect the San Antonio PSL effort. In April, a cadre of business interests filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin implementation of the Austin ordinance, which is effective October 1, 2018.  They claim that the ordinance is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA) and violates various provisions of the state constitution. The State of Texas has intervened in the case, arguing only that the Ordinance was preempted by the TMWA. A few weeks ago, a workers’ rights organization, a restaurant and an electrician, together, intervened in the case and asked the court to dismiss the challenges to the ordinance.  The San Antonio proposed ordinance is modeled after, if not identical to, the Austin ordinance. My prior posts on this PSL litigation are here and here and here.

Duluth Passes Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

The Duluth (MN) City Council last night passed an Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, requiring employers to allow employees to accrue an hour of leave for every 50 hours worked. The ordinance is effective January, 2020. The Council’s action came nearly two years after it created a task force to study and make recommendations concerning a PSL law in Duluth.

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A legal cloud hangs over the scope of the Duluth ordinance due to a state district court decision earlier this month rejecting a Minneapolis effort to require employers not located within the city limits to provide paid sick leave to their employees who work within the city.  The rejected provision would have required an employer not located within the city limits to allow an employee who works in Minneapolis at least 80 hours per year to accrue PSL time while working within the geographic boundaries of the city for use when the employee is scheduled to work within the geographic boundaries of the city.  The city has appealed the court’s decision.

The Duluth proposal requires employers located outside the city limits to allow its employees who work within Duluth “for more than 50 percent of the employee’s working time in a 12-month period” to accrue PSL time. Whether Duluth’s ordinance will be applicable to employers outside of its city limits will likely depend on the outcome of the litigation concerning the Minneapolis PSL ordinance.

For those following the relationship between jurisdictions enacting a paid sick leave law and their “blue” status, Duluth follows the established pattern. In the 2016 presidential election, just short of 60% of voters cast their ballots for Secretary Hillary R. Clinton.

 

Extraterritorial Reach of Minneapolis Sick Time Ordinance Rejected, Yet Again

When we last left the Minneapolis PSL law, the Minnesota Court of Appeals had affirmed a district court decision temporarily enjoining Minneapolis from enforcing its Sick and Safe Time Ordinance against businesses outside the City limits.  The Supreme Court of Minnesota in December 2017 declined to review the Court of Appeals’ decision, which left the appeals decision in place.  The Ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2017 with regard to businesses within the City limits only.

Since those decisions dealt only with the request for a temporary injunction, the case continued on the plaintiff’s further request that the Minneapolis PSL law be permanently enjoined because it was preempted by state law and because its purported application to businesses outside the City whose employees work within the City exceeded the City’s legislative authority.

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To attempt to address the territorial issue, in March 2018, the City amended its ordinance in two respects. Under the Ordinance, an employee who works in Minneapolis at least 80 hours per year is entitled to accrue PSL time. The amendments added that employees accrue PSL time for hours worked “within the geographic boundaries of the city” and could use that time only when scheduled to work “within the geographic boundaries of the city.” Continue reading

Three More Intervene in Austin Sick Time Litigation

Add three more voices to be heard in the case challenging the Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance. Last week, a workers’ rights organization, a restaurant and an electrician, together, intervened in the case and asked the court to dismiss the challenges to the ordinance.

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Last month, a cadre of business interests filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin implementation of the ordinance, which is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2018.  They claim that the ordinance is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA) and violates various provisions of the state constitution. The TMWA requires Texas employers to pay employees a minimum wage established by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The State of Texas has already intervened in the case, arguing only that the Ordinance was preempted by the TMWA. My prior posts on this PSL litigation are here and here.

Texas Joins Challenge to Austin Sick Time Ordinance

The State of Texas yesterday requested to intervene in the lawsuit brought by a cadre of business interests challenging the validity of the Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance. While the lawsuit seeks to invalidate the ordinance on both preemption and constitutional grounds, in its plea to intervene, Texas argues only that the Austin ordinance is preempted by the state Minimum Wage Act (MWA).  That law requires Texas employers to pay employees a minimum wage established by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

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The State’s preemption argument is very similar to that made by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit: that the MWA supersedes a wage established by a municipal ordinance, and that the Austin ordinance establishes a wage because it goes beyond the FLSA in two respects: it requires employers to pay wages for hours not worked and that employee pay be based on the hour or day rather than a work week.

Dallas and San Antonio will likely follow this case very closely since petition drives are underway in both cities to have voters consider paid sick time initiatives in November.