Litigating Paid Sick Leave in the Land of Enchantment

Two paid sick leave lawsuits are pending in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Both deal with the effort to have a voter referendum in Albuquerque in October 2017 on a local Healthy Workforce Ordinance (HWO).


One lawsuit deals with how the HWO must be presented on the ballot. A district court judge ruled last fall that the entire seven page ordinance must be on the ballot; a summary was not sufficient. An appeals court earlier this month rejected the HWO proponents’ request that an appeals court review that issue while the case is still pending in the district court. Apparently the seven page ordinance could fit on a double-sided one page ballot, according to one report. Watch for arguments by HWO opponents concerning appropriate margins and font size.

In the other lawsuit, a cadre of business interests claim that the HWO is unconstitutional “logrolling” because it combines multiple issues on the ballot, depriving voters of the opportunity to vote separately on each one. My post on that lawsuit is here.  Last December, an Arizona court had rejected an analogous “single subject” argument challenging the state-wide PSL ballot initiative held last November. Earlier this month, a Washington court reached the same result in a case challenging its state-wide PSL ballot initiative held last November.  My posts on those decisions are here and here.

On a Land of Enchantment PSL preemption note, the Uniformity of Employment Law Terms had been introduced in the New Mexico Senate this legislative term but died in committee when the session ended.  Senate Bill 488 would have prevented political subdivisions from enacting paid sick leave laws, among other employment terms.

Second “Single Subject” Challenge to Voter-Approved Paid Sick Leave Rejected

The challenge to the constitutionality of the Washington State November 2016 voter referendum approving paid sick leave and a minimum wage increase has been rejected. A similar challenge to last year’s Arizona referendum approving paid sick leave and a minimum wage increase was rejected by the Arizona Supreme Court a few weeks ago.


In Washington, a cadre of business interests argued that the voter initiative violated the state constitution because it combined two “distinct and unrelated matters” in one bill.

Rejecting that argument, the Kittitas County Superior Court judge held that the ballot title referenced “labor standards”; that minimum wages and paid sick leave are compensation, a subset of “labor standards”; and that “rational unity” exists between the title and content of the Initiative.  The court also held that the ballot title gave voters adequate notice of the issues within and that the initiative could “stand alone,” without reference to amending any other law, because mandatory paid sick leave was a “new category of employee leave.”

The judge’s three page ruling relied extensively on a 2015 Supreme Court of Washington decision rejecting a similar challenge to a bill providing paid sick days and minimum wage increase in SeaTac, Washington.

Another “single subject” legal challenge to a voter referendum is pending in New Mexico.  There, a cadre of business interests have challenged this fall’s anticipated ballot initiative on paid sick leave.  They claim that combining the fourteen “non-interdependent” provisions into one voter initiative is “logrolling” in violation of  the state constitution. My post on that lawsuit is here.