Waiters, patrons, and tenders gathered around the bar at Bohanan's. Photo by Scott Ball.
A preliminary hearing was set for July 24, just one week before an Aug. 1 deadline in the ordinance requiring employers of a certain size to provide minimum paid sick leave for workers. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A group of local businesses, including the San Antonio Restaurant Association and staffing agencies, made good on a pledge to seek legal action against the City of San Antonio when they filed a lawsuit Monday morning to block its paid sick leave ordinance.

A preliminary hearing was set for July 24, just one week before an Aug. 1 deadline in the ordinance requiring employers of a certain size to provide minimum paid sick leave for workers. The litigation seeks a temporary injunction, which would delay the ordinance’s implementation, while the case is being decided. Click here to download a copy of the suit.

The dozen or so plaintiffs hope that they will receive a similar ruling to the one delivered in the 3rd Court of Appeals when Austin was sued over its paid sick leave ordinance. That ordinance was found unconstitutional because it forces businesses to pay for hours they did not work, violating the Texas Minimum Wage Act. The City of Austin is appealing that finding.

“The effect of the Ordinance is to require employers to pay hourly wage above the
minimum-wages set by Texas law,” the San Antonio lawsuit alleges.” If the Ordinance goes into effect, Plaintiffs’ operations in the City of San Antonio will suffer a competitive disadvantage to similar businesses operating exclusively outside the City of San Antonio where the Ordinance is not applicable.”

Ricardo Cedillo of Davis, Cedillo & Mendoza represents the business coalition and filed the lawsuit on their behalf.

Deputy City Attorney Ed Guzman said in a statement that the City is reviewing the lawsuit. “In the meantime, we will continue to work with and discuss the ordinance with all stakeholders.”

Businesses with between 6 and 14 employees must allow workers to collect 48 hours of paid sick leave per year, according to San Antonio’s ordinance. Larger employers must allow for 68 hours. Employees with fewer than six employees don’t have to provide paid sick leave until 2021.

For months the City has hosted informational sessions for businesses and employees to familiarize themselves with the new rules and a commission of stakeholders has been tinkering with possible changes.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), who chairs that commission, said, “The arguments made in this suit aren’t novel. They’re the ones made in the Austin lawsuit – the same ones that are currently awaiting Supreme Court review. Whether we like it or not, those arguments won the day in Austin.”

Pelaez suggested the two sides were still negotiating.

“If the City Attorney and the plaintiffs’ lawyer don’t agree … then it’ll end up before a local judge. At that point, it’ll be out of the city council and mayor’s hands and up to a district judge to decide the fate of this ordinance,” he told the Rivard Report.

Paid sick leave rules had been expected to be overruled with a statewide ban through the Texas Legislature, but those attempts missed a key deadline.

The Texas Organizing Project, which led the effort to establish the City’s ordinance, will continue to “vigorously defend” it, according to a statement from its executive director Michelle Tremillo.

“It is unconscionable that large temporary staffing agencies and corporate associations would attempt to deprive hardworking men and women the basic right to take care of themselves or a loved one when they are sick, particularly when these same workers are the ones who make their profits possible,” Tremillo stated.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at iris@sareport.org