Will Texas Sick Leave Bill Imperil City Protections for Gay Workers in Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano?

AUSTIN — A bill to undo city's paid sick leave policies is being criticized for potentially imperiling, or at least undermining, local laws that protect gay and transgender workers.Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, filed Senate Bill 15 to prohibit municipalities from requiring private employers to offer paid sick leave and other benefits to workers. But a tweak made to the bill a few weeks ago has some worried it could threaten city ordinances that prohibit employers from discriminating against a worker based on sexual orientation or gender identity.Creighton insists the bill doesn't target the LGBT community, an assurance echoed by some business leaders leaders who support his effort. But gay rights groups and city leaders say it could have unintended consequences for nondiscrimination ordinances in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Austin. The fight over paid sick leave has suddenly become the latest flashpoint in the gay rights debate."We just came out of a session two years ago when the bathroom bill was a major wedge issue," Texas AFL-CIO spokesman Ed Sills said Tuesday. "This certainly looks like it's walking in the same direction."'Poison the well'Creighton's bill would ban cities from adopting any ordinance, rule or requirement "regulating a private employer's terms of employment" in the areas of paid leave, vacation and days off, health and disability benefits, or "scheduling practices." It would also ax any other local laws that bar employers from taking a job applicant's criminal history into account.When it was filed last month, the bill included an assurance it would not invalidate other city ordinances than ban discrimination in the workplace. But that clause was stripped when the legislation was debated in committee. Creighton told The News he decided to remove the disclaimer because "the bill is not about discrimination." His intent is to target sick leave policies in cities like Austin and San Antonio and discourage more cities from putting such mandates on private businesses, he said, not to undo general employment ordinances in cities like Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano."We saw the Third Court of Appeals strike down the paid sick leave requirements for Austin as unconstitutional," Creighton said Tuesday. "The spirit of the bill is exactly that. It's not to do with nuanced arguments about who should be allowed certain benefits and who shouldn't."He added that comparing his legislation to the bathroom bill, which would have restricted transgender restroom access, was a "reach." He does not believe it would negate local nondiscrimination ordinances for LGBT workers: "I'm very capable of adding bathroom bill language in as a substitute and I certainly did not."  Continue reading...

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