San Antonio v. Texas: Paid Sick Leave & Chicken Co. Controversy

August 1, 2019

San Antonio has faced repeated challenges by the State of Texas over what has become a cultural, social, legal, and political chasm between city and state. In December 2017, Texas’ Attorney General, Ken Paxton, filed against San Antonio regarding an immigration-related police department policy. The San Antonio Police Department refused to alert Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to immigrants unless provided with a federal deportation warrant. In other words, San Antonio declared itself a “sanctuary city.” Texas recently faced a setback in that case, though that has not stopped this and other controversies.

More recently, the State of Texas challenged San Antonio over the approval of a San Antonio International Airport concessions contract. The contract contained the condition that Chick-fil-A be excluded due to what one council member described as “anti-LGBTQ behavior.” 

In addition, San Antonio’s new paid sick leave law, which was scheduled to go into effect on August 1, 2019, has been put on hold after Attorney General Paxton, on behalf of the Great State of Texas, joined in as “Intervenor-Plaintiff” for what the State of Texas terms as a preempted law.

Paid Sick Leave, a Continued Texas Trend

Though many employers provide some kind of paid time off, mandatory paid sick leave is a legal mandate that requires employers to provide a certain number of days off, with pay, to its employees if such absences are related to illness. 

Other Texas cities have passed ordinances adopting paid sick leave requirements for its employers. San Antonio passed its version of the paid sick leave law last year in August of 2018. Its passage was preceded by Austin and Dallas this last April. San Antonio planned to implement its paid sick leave law for many employers beginning August 1, 2019. It has been delayed to December 1, 2019. Dallas’ law has also been challenged.

While big cities in Texas seem to want this new employee protection, the state government and some of the employers in these towns, do not.

Paid sick leave has been popping up throughout the country over the last few years. The avalanche likely started when the entire state of California passed its version back in 2015.

Each state and city’s paid sick leave law varies in application and scope. However, each law typically addresses these elements:

  • When an employee can start using paid leave: e.g. in California it is after 90 days.
  • The rate at which sick days accrue: e.g. in many states and cities it is one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • The maximum cap of accrued hours: e.g. for large businesses in Dallas (more than 15 employees), the cap would be 64 hours.
  • The employers the law applies to: e.g. the San Antonio law requires the employer to have at least six or more employees for the initial. phase of the law to apply (with two more years given to employers of five employees or fewer).
  • Applicable exemptions: e.g. in Massachusetts, the law does not apply to city or town employees.

Compared to paid sick leave, there are few employment related laws that have such a wide variance between federal, state, and local city ordinances. 

Chick-fil-A and Religious Freedom

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law in June, a new provision that supporters say defends the fast-food restaurant and protects religious freedoms. The passage is in direct response to San Antonio’s efforts to prohibit Chick-fil-A moving into its local airport.

Back in May 2019, Gov. Abbot seemed to mock his opposition with this tweet:

The mockery continued with the day of signing:

The meat of the actual law states in part, “[n]otwithstanding any other law, a governmental entity may not take any adverse action against any person based wholly or partly on the person’s membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation, or other support provided to a religious organization.” It begs the question why you would need such a law in the first place since religious discrimination from public entities is already prohibited under federal and Texas state constitution.

Remember the Alamo

The State of Texas is clearly at odds with not only San Antonio but many of its blue-leaning urban areas. Texas is known for its business-friendly environment, but that may change as cities start passing employee-friendly ordinances or even pushing out big businesses because of their political or religious leanings.

Nasir Pasha

By

Nasir N. Pasha is the managing attorney of Pasha Law, providing essential legal services and support to businesses and corporations in California, Illinois, New York, and Texas. He oversees all of the firm’s operations and is a pivotal force in maintaining client relationships and ensuring that each transaction is brought to its best possible conclusion.

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