By Annie Spilman – Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas
The Texas Supreme Court has given Austin employers some much needed certainty in these very uncertain times.
By declining to hear the city of Austin’s paid sick leave case, the Supreme Court left standing a Third Court of Appeals ruling deeming the city’s ordinance unconstitutional, as employers across the state have long believed.
That’s a step in the right direction for Austin job creators already struggling to keep their doors open and make payroll in the face of the worst recession in over a decade. For many of those who have survived this tumultuous year, navigating the web of municipal red tape and stretching already tight resources to comply with this mandate would have been business ending.
But employers in other cities that have passed local employment ordinances cannot yet breathe the same sigh of relief. Although the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling effectively shut down Austin’s ordinance, it did nothing to those in Dallas and San Antonio, which are currently tied up in separate legal battles. It’s clear this is an issue the Texas Legislature must tackle in 2021 to ensure employment regulations across the state are consistent, and finally put an end to this local government overreach.
The Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas, or ASSET, has long maintained that it is simply not within any individual local jurisdiction’s purview to regulate private employment practices. Employment benefits are both ubiquitous and unique to every employer and employee. Not only is regulating them on a city-by-city basis illogical, inefficient and unpredictable, it is unconstitutional and unenforceable.
This has never been about paid sick leave or any other specific benefit. Every employer is responsible for putting policies in place to best protect their employees, and is committed to working with employees on an individual basis when issues arise. We’ve clearly seen this in practice throughout the pandemic. And even before Covid-19 became a household name, 68% of Texans had paid time off, the highest percentage of all the states according to the Trust for America’s Health.
Our coalition is comprised of employers of all sizes from a wide cross section of industries in our state’s economy. Across the board, all of them have felt the effects of the pandemic. Many have been deemed essential businesses. Whether it is an independent contractor, a small IT business, a restaurant or a hotel, all of them have made significant adjustments to keep their employees and customers safe in the last few months and beyond as they begin to reopen.
We should be doing everything we can to help get our neighbors back to work. The Texas Legislature can support Texas jobs by supporting Texas employers. Smart, predictable, consistent regulations have long been part of Texas’ economic foundation. We need consistent employment regulations now, more than ever, to help reinvigorate our economy.
Annie Spilman is a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas.