The challenge to Alabama’s preemption law lives to fight another day, according to an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week. In 2016, the plaintiffs made various race-based challenges to the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act. That Act bars political subdivisions from requiring employers to provide employees with wages or “employment benefits,” including paid and unpaid leave, not required by federal or state law. The Alabama legislature enacted the law the day after the City of Birmingham’s passed an ordinance increasing the minimum wage within the city. The state law voided that ordinance. The plaintiffs argued that the state law was unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Last year, a federal district court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ challenges and dismissed the case. The Eleventh Circuit last week affirmed the dismissal of all but one of the challenges. Concerning the plaintiffs “equal protection” constitutional claim, the Eleventh Circuit held that the plaintiffs have plausibly alleged both that the MWA “burdens black citizens more than white ones” and that it was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. The court remanded the equal protection claim to the district court for further proceedings.
New York City (amendment): New York City amended its Earned Sick Time Act to allow accrued time to be used for reasons related to domestic violence. The renamed New York City Safe and Sick Time Law was effective May 7, 2018.
None, though some introduced previously are still pending.
Paid Sick Leave Preemption Developments
Alabama: Marnika Lewis v. State of Alabama et al. (11th Cir) (Case No.17-11009). Last year, a federal district court rejected challenges to the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act, which bars political subdivisions from requiring employers to provide employees with wages or “employment benefits, ”including paid and unpaid leave, not required by federal or state law. The plaintiffs have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which heard oral argument on April 13, 2018.
New Jersey: The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law preempts the existing 13 municipal PSL laws within the state as well as any future local earned sick leave laws. The state law is effective October 29, 2018, at which time the 13 municipal laws will meet their demise, which will reduce by about a third the number of PSL laws nationwide.
Proposed federal bill: The Workflex in the 21st Century Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in November, would expand ERISA preemption to override the patchwork of paid sick leave laws for an employer which voluntarily adopts a written qualified flexible workplace arrangement” (QWFA) that provides the required minimum amount of “compensable leave” and offers employees at least one of the listed “workflex options.” The bill has been referred to U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which held a hearing on the bill on July 24, 2018.
Paid Sick Leave Litigation
Challenges to state PSL laws
Massachusetts: A railroad had argued that the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law (MESTL) was preempted by the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA), the Railway Labor Act and ERISA with regard to interstate rail carriers. The First Circuit held last June that the section of the MESTL dealing with benefits for an employee’s own medical condition was preempted by the RUIA. The court remanded the case to have the district court decide whether any other sections are preempted by the RUIA or the Railway Labor Act or ERISA and whether any sections of the MESTL survive as applied to interstate rail carriers. CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Healey (1st Cir. 2017).
Massachusetts and Washington: The Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law (MESTL) and Washington State Paid Sick Leave Act (WPSL) as applied to flight crew are unconstitutional and preempted by the federal Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), according to complaints filed by the Air Transport Association of America, an association of airline carriers. The plaintiff claims these state laws violate the dormant Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The dormant Commerce Clause is an implicit restriction on the ability of state and local governments to impose an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. The plaintiff also alleges that the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) preempts the state PSL laws with regard to both flight crew and ground crew because they relate to a “price, route or service of an air carrier.” Air Transport Association of America, d/b/a Airlines For America v. Maura Healey in her capacity as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (D.MA); Air Transport Association of America, d/b/a Airlines For America v. The Washington Dep’t of Labor and Industries et al (W.D. WA).
Challenges to local PSL laws
Pittsburgh, PA: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will decide whether the City of Pittsburgh had authority to enact the Sick Days Act, which it enacted in August 2015. Last year, an appellate court affirmed a lower court’s decision that the city did not have the authority to enact it and invalidated the Act. The lone dissenting judge said that Pittsburgh had the right to protect the health and safety of its residents and that the Sick Days Act was an exercise of that right. The appeal will focus on an interpretation of the Home Rule Charter Law, which limits the City’s authority to regulate business “except as expressly provided by statutes….” The briefing by the parties was completed on April 4, 2018. Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Ass’n v. City of Pittsburgh and Service Employees Int’l Union, Local 32 BJ. (Pa. Supreme Court, 227 WAL 2017).
Austin, TX: A cadre of business interests had sued to enjoin implementation of the Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance, which is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2018. Noting that the case “has the aroma of a good political blood fight,” a state district court judge denied the injunction request. However, the plaintiffs might appeal the district judge’s decision or proceed to litigate the substance of their claims. The plaintiffs claim that the Austin Ordinance is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Law which requires employers to follow the federal minimum wage law, which does not require employers to pay for time not worked as the Austin PSL ordinance does. They also claim the ordinance violates the due process clause of the state constitution because the “articulated governmental interests are factually unsupported,” “…its mandates “have no rational connection to furthering those interests” and even if they did, the mandates are “so burdensome as to be oppressive in light of the alleged governmental interest.” They also argue that the Ordinance violates the state constitution’s equal protection clause because it allows employers and unions to modify the yearly cap in their labor contracts but does not afford non-union employers the right to modify the cap. Texas Ass’n of Business et al v City of Austin, Texas et al (D.Ct. Travis County 2018).
Other Paid Sick Leave Developments To Watch
Albany County, NY: The County’s Paid Sick Leave Act was introduced in March and referred to the Legislature’s Law Committee. The Albany bill has the typical PSL architecture: employees accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, to an annual maximum of 72 hours for employers with at least ten employees, lesser and phased-in amounts for smaller employers except that employers with five or fewer employees would provide unpaid leave. The Law Committee is scheduled to consider the bill at a July 23, 2018 meeting.
Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance: Two Cook County municipalities that had previously voted to opt out of the County’s PSL ordinance revisited their decisions. In April, Western Springs opted in to the County PSL ordinance; Wilmette Village again voted to opt out of the County PSL ordinance.
Dallas and San Antonio, TX: PSL proponents in both cities have collected signatures to put the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. In Dallas, PSL proponents submitted what they believed were a sufficient number of signatures to support the ballot initiative but city officials said recently that the number of valid signatures is 871 fewer than required. In San Antonio, PSL supporters also submitted what they believed were sufficient valid signatures to support the PSL ballot initiative. The next step is for the City Council to decide whether to officially certify the issue for a ballot initiative.
Michigan: PSL proponents in Michigan have submitted what they believe are sufficient signatures to have voters decide in November whether to adopt a PSL law. Two business groups have filed challenges with the Board of State Canvassers concerning both the substance of the proposed ballot initiative and the validity of some signatures.
Westchester County, NY: The Westchester County Board of Legislators is considering a PSL bill that is substantially similar to the bill introduced but not passed last year. The proposed Earned Sick Leave Law has the typical PSL architecture: employees will accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked and may earn and use up to 40 hours in a year for itemized reasons. For employees of employers with at least 5 employees, the earned time is paid. A public hearing has been set for September 17, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
On Labor Day 2015, then-President Obama signed Executive Order 13706, Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors, which requires certain government contractors to provide certain employees with paid sick leave. The EO applies to certain government contractors who enter into certain government contracts after January 1, 2017. While there has been speculation about the plight of EO 13706 in the Trump administration, no steps have yet been taken to negate it and, unless and until it is voided, the EO is in effect.
In Dallas, PSL proponents submitted to city officials what they believed were sufficient signatures to allow voters to decide in November whether to adopt a PSL ordinance. Their challenge grew yesterday when city officials said, according to a news report, that the number of valid signatures was 871 signatures fewer than the required number.
PSL proponents in San Antonio also submitted what they believe are more than enough signatures to put PSL on the ballot in November. The city clerk must inform the City Council whether sufficient valid signatures have been submitted. If so, the City Council could choose to enact the PSL ordinance rather than send it to the voters. The next Council meeting is August 2.
In Austin, in April, a cadre of business interests sued to enjoin the implementation of the Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance, which is effective in October. Noting that the case “has the aroma of a good political blood fight,” a state district court judge last month denied the injunction request, according to a news report. The denial does not end the litigation. The plaintiffs might appeal the district judge’s decision or proceed to litigate the substance of their claims.
The threat of state preemption of local PSL ordinances taints all of these PSL efforts. In the Austin case, the Texas Attorney General has intervened to argue that the Austin ordinance is preempted by the state’s minimum wage law. He has also written to San Antonio officials to inform them that they do not have authority to enact a PSL law, whether by ballot initiative or the legislative process, according to a local report. Even if state law now does not preempt local PSL laws, there is concern that the Texas Legislature will enact a law preempting local PSL ordinances when it convenes next year. Texas preemption laws have recently banned local ride-share regulations, plastic ban bans, fracking bans and sanctuary city ordinances.
There’s PSL turbulence in Texas, and it is not likely to end soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.