The City of Austin is being sued over its controversial new paid sick leave ordinance.

A group of local businesses and statewide organizations are teaming up and attempting to stop the city from implementing the recently approved ordinance. The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), an Austin-based conservative think tank, is spearheading the lawsuit and representing a coalition that includes the Texas Association of Business, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the American Staffing Association.

If the law takes effect, it would require every business within city limits to provide paid sick time off to their employees.

TPPF’s general counsel, Robert Henneke, argued that the mandate is unconstitutional. “With its mandatory paid sick leave ordinance, the City of Austin once again violates Texas state law and infringes upon the rights of Austin businesses protected by the Texas Constitution,” he said.  “Furthermore, the City lacks evidence to support any legitimate governmental interest that would support imposing this regulatory burden on all business owners.”

Supporters of the ordinance had a slightly different perspective.

Work Strong Austin, a local progressive group who advocated for the law, called the lawsuit “cowardly, desperate, and shameful,” adding that the move is an attempt to “take away this basic human right from 223,000 working families.”

Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, who led the passage of the law back in February, said “Extremist organizations like the Texas Public Policy Foundation have made it clear that they want to keep working people down.”

Yet history shows paid sick leave mandates have proven harmful wherever they are tried. In fact, they’ve harmed employees the most—the very people the policy claims to help.

In previous reports, Texas Scorecard detailed evidence where this kind of mandate produced negative consequences in cities across the country. The results were the same: because of the costly mandate, employers were forced to cut employee wages and benefits, raise prices, and even lay off employees.

The problem the city faces is how to best provide for sick workers. A government mandate has proven to be a horrid solution.

Local businesses have warned of coming troubles if the mandate is upheld. Rebecca Melançon, executive director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, has stated that many Austin businesses would be forced to “either shut down, or their owners would lay off workers, adjust their current vacation and paid holiday plans or drop plans for raises or benefits increases.”

The mandate is set to begin on October 1. TPPF is requesting a court hearing for May 29, as well as a temporary injunction to prevent the ordinance from taking effect.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.


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