Whether they realize it or not, working Austinites gained a victory Friday when a court order protected them from a harmful new city law.

On Friday morning, Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals ordered a temporary injunction on Austin City Council’s mandatory paid sick leave law, preventing it from being enforced while the law’s fate is decided in court. The court determined the policy violated state minimum wage law.

The policy, approved in February, forces all businesses within the city limits to provide paid sick time off to their employees — at least six to eight days per year depending on the size of the company.

Those who supported the law often argued a seemingly straightforward point: paid sick leave is a benefit all citizens should have, therefore the government should require all businesses to provide it.

But their proposed solution is where the problem occurs. In reality, using a government mandate to solve paid sick leave has been shown to hurt the very citizens the mandate claims to help.

Robert Henneke, General Counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who filed the lawsuit against the city of Austin, said the city council did not thoroughly examine the consequences of their proposed policy but rather focused only on its intent.

“Allowing for little time for review and analysis, the council passed the ordinance after 1:00 a.m. on Feb. 15,” said Henneke. “The cost and impact of the ordinance were not up for discussion despite the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s estimate that the ordinance will have a negative $140 million impact on the Austin economy.”

That $140 million negative impact estimate may seem like an arbitrary number until it hits working Austinites in the form of less pay, fewer hours, and even layoffs. At least that is what has happened to working citizens in other cities where this harmful, costly regulation has been tried.

In fact, a comprehensive report by the Freedom Foundation examined the 10 most significant studies on paid sick leave mandates across the country and found the same troubling consequences.

Despite the harsh reality of this kind of law, the Austin City Council is still adamantly fighting for it. Austin’s communist council member Greg Casar, who helped craft the ordinance, tweeted after the court ruling Friday.

“The majority of these [3rd Court] judges just lost their elections, so we anticipated they may rush out anti-worker rulings before January,” wrote Casar. “Guaranteeing paid sick days is legal & good for Texans.”

Not according to real-world consequences.

Sure, more Austinites would benefit from paid sick leave as a part of their job’s benefits package — but a government mandate is not the way to achieve that. Just ask the working citizens in Seattle or San Francisco, who lost wages, vacation time, and even their jobs, all while paying higher prices for everyday goods and services because of the mandate.

Using a government mandate to get paid sick leave is like setting your couch on fire to warm your house: it may increase the temperature, but simply using the heater is normally a better, less destructive solution.

The case now heads back to the lower district court for a full trial. Regardless of the outcome, State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth) has already filed legislation to prohibit all cities in Texas from enacting these harmful mandates.

While the law’s ultimate fate is yet to be determined, working Austinites will be safe from its costly effects in the meantime.

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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