Updated Nov. 16 at 12:16 p.m.
The 3rd Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 16 to uphold a temporary injunction regarding the city of Austin’s paid sick ordinance, sending the case back to the lower district court for final ruling.
While this ruling only addresses the injunction, which was issued earlier this year, the appeals court issued a rebuke of the ordinance itself, holding that “the city’s paid sick leave ordinance violates the Texas Constitution because it is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act,” according to its opinion.
“This Court of Appeals opinion reverses and usurps the ruling of the Austin trial judge, who heard the case, weighed the evidence and ruled in the city’s favor earlier this year,” a city of Austin spokesperson said in a statement. “Going forward, the city of Austin will be reviewing our options in this case.”
“We won,” wrote Robert Henneke, general counsel and litigation director for TPPF’s Center for the American Future, in a tweet about the ruling.
Supporters of the ordinance, however, hold out hope for a different outcome in the district court.
“Moving forward, we are confident this case will prevail on the merits in District Court,” said the Workers Defense Project, a local nonprofit that was instrumental in rallying support for the ordinance in Austin prior to council’s adoption of it, in a statement.
WDP also noted that “a majority of the judges involved” in this ruling will not return to office in January.
Two of the three Republican justices who ruled on this case were recently voted out of office during the Nov. 6 election and will be replaced with Democratic justices.
“We don’t think that any judge, regardless of who they are or who supported them in the election, would disregard precedent in the third court of appeals,” said Ryan Walters, a lawyer with TPPF. “We’re confident that this ruling will stand the test of time.”
The ordinance, which required private businesses that operate in Austin to provide paid sick leave to their employees, was approved by Austin City Council 9-2 in February and was scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.
Along with a number of business interest groups, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin, filed a challenge against the city of Austin in April, requesting that the ordinance be suspended until the question of its legality could be resolved in court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other conservative legislators lent their support to the lawsuit.
On Nov. 12, Texas House Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, recently submitted a bill to the Texas Legislature that, if passed, would prohibit municipalities from requiring an employer to provide paid sick leave.
The upcoming legislative session begins on Jan. 8.