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Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Struck Down

2018 has seen many local ordinances passed that would require employers to grant paid sick leave to all their workers within that jurisdiction. Austin, TX is one of the more recent cities to do this, but on November 16, 2018, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that would block it from being enforced. While South Carolina is in the 4th Circuit, it is still worth paying attention to cases like these, because if a jurisdiction has no law on the books, it may look to other jurisdictions for guidance.

The 3rd Circuit Opinion

The ordinance would have guaranteed paid sick leave (1 hour for every 30 hours worked) for every worker who worked at least 80 hours per calendar year for a single employer. However, a coalition of businesses brought a suit seeking an injunction to stop the law going into effect. The rationale was that the ordinance established a wage, which is a violation of the Texas Minimum Wage Act. That Act states that no local government in Texas can establish a minimum wage on its own. The sick leave ordinance, according to the coalition of businesses, did just that.

The state of Texas, by comparison, argued that sick leave was a benefit, rather than a wage, and stated that establishing benefits of this type was not unconstitutional. The Third Circuit disagreed, siding with the business coalition and granting a temporary injunction against the ordinance’s enforcement. This effectively shelves Austin’s ordinance for the foreseeable future. But there is no guarantee that another modified version would not pass.

What It Means For South Carolina

While decisions from the 3rd Circuit are not binding, they can be instructive to later courts and lawmakers on how to rule on a specified issue. South Carolina has no law as of this writing that governs minimum wage or paid sick leave.

It is important to keep in mind that if your employer does grant sick leave, or otherwise has a more permissive sick leave policy than most, that may create a legal obligation for them that has to be honored. There is a concept in law called detrimental reliance, where a person who has created a verbal contract is required to honor it if the other person has relied on its existence. Sometimes sick leave policies are specific enough to qualify as contracts.

South Carolina also has no specific law surrounding the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is used in the state. This means that a Texas-type situation could not occur, because there is no equivalent to the Texas Minimum Wage Act in South Carolina law. A bill has been introduced in the South Carolina legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage to $1 over the federal minimum. Any language contained in that bill might conceivably mirror the TMWA, but nothing is set in stone as of this writing.

Contact An Experienced Attorney Today

While there is no law in South Carolina requiring paid sick leave, this does not mean that your employer can unjustly deny you time off you may require—as long as you have it to spend. If you have questions about sick leave and potentially discriminatory treatment, a knowledgeable employment discrimination lawyer can be of assistance.

Attorney A. Christopher Potts understands that life simply happens sometimes, and we are happy to help answer any questions you may have about these issues. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to set up an appointment.

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