Austin is now the first city in Texas to regulate paid sick leave as a result of Austin City Council’s approval of an ordinance on February 16, 2018, that mandates all private employers in the city to offer their employees paid sick leave. Depending on the size of the company, employees must be provided with at least six to eight days’ paid sick leave. The law applies to all of Austin’s circa 13,500 employees, which include temporary employees who receive no paid leave at present. The ordinance is due to take effect on October 1, 2018.
Employees who work shifts in places like bars, coffee shops, and restaurants who traditionally rarely receive paid sick leave will be covered by the Austin, Texas sick leave law. If employees work in the private sector on a full-time, part-time or temporary basis, they will be eligible to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. The employee can use the sick leave to care for themselves or for family members.
This sick leave law in Austin, Texas, requires businesses that employ:
- 15 or more employees to provide eight days of paid sick leave annually.
- Six to 15 workers to offer six days of paid sick leave a year.
- Five or fewer workers to start offering paid leave from October 2020.
Although the Council voted 9-2 in favor of the ordinance, The Austin, Texas sick leave law has both strong support and opposition.
Support for the Austin, Texas sick leave law
It’s reported that the majority of the 300 people who testified in relation to the proposed law were in favor of the sick leave proposals. Supporters declared that the ordinance would have a positive impact on the city of Austin. Council Member, Greg Casar, who was a sponsor of the law, stated:
“Our ordinance recognizes that everyone gets sick and that no one should have to choose between their job and taking care of their health. We are driving forward an ordinance that protects everyone.”
Casar also added that:
“We have structures in place that say … who lives and who dies, who has health care and who doesn’t have health care. This has all been about organizing people around reducing that inequality. By passing this ordinance, if somebody works for a company and somebody else works for another company, there isn’t some people with paid sick days and some people without.”
Opposition to the Austin, Texas sick leave law
Council members, Ellen Troxclair and Ora Houston, voted against the new laws and advised that the expense of enacting the new measures was not properly considered.
Small business owners and business interest organizations also registered their dissent, stating reasons such as a lack of clarity around the financial implications and that the law is a solution to an unrecognized problem.
A total of 137 local businesses showed their opposition to the law by signing the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) list against the ordinance. Rebecca Melançon, Executive Director of the AIBA, explained why she was against the new law:
“The policy is a problem because I think it’s overreaching, it’s heavy-handed, part of it. Eight days is a lot for a small business to absorb…What we have done is identified a pain point in our community that some people can’t take a day off to be sick and we’ve just shifted, and we’ve just shifted that pain point from one segment of the community to another.”
A number of state legislators stated that they would raise a challenge to the new law on the grounds that it would cause damage to small business. Ellen Troxclair, a Council member who voted “no” to the law, has commented that she would enthusiastically support state-level efforts to withdraw an ordinance that “was really unfortunate for so many reasons.”
Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance Q&A
- When does the law come into effect?
- Who is covered?
- How employees can earn (and use) paid sick leave
- The accumulation (and the carryover) of paid sick leave
- Reasons employees can use paid sick leave
- How much notice must employers receive from employees when asking for paid sick leave?
- What records are required?
- What is banned?
- How will the new law be enforced?
- What should employers do to comply with the new law?
When does the Austin, Texas paid sick law come into effect?
- For employers who employ more than six people, the new law takes effect on October 1, 2018.
- If employers have five or less employees, the law will be effective from October 1, 2020.
Who is covered by the Austin, Texas paid sick law?
- An eligible employee is someone who carries out at least 80 hours of work in a calendar year. This definition excludes unpaid interns and independent contractors.
- Employees and employers operating in the city of Austin.
- An employer for the purposes of the paid sick leave law is classified as any company, person, labor organization, firm, corporation, partnership, association, or non-profit organization that pays an employee to do work and has control over the employee’s hours, wages, and working conditions. State and federal employees are excluded from this definition.
How employees can earn (and use) paid sick leave under the new Austin, Texas law
- Employees will earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Sick time will accumulate in one-hour increments.
- Employees can use paid sick leave as soon as it’s accumulated. But employers could limit an employee from taking earned sick time throughout the employee’s first 60 days on the job – however, with the condition that the employee’s employment will last at least one year.
- Paid sick leave will start to accumulate at the start of employment or on October 1, 2018, whichever comes later.
The accumulation (and the carryover) of paid sick leave
The size of the employer will determine the amount of paid sick leave an employee can accumulate:
- For employers who have employed 16 or more people in the last 12 months, the annual accumulation is eight days (64 hours).
- For employers with 15 or less employees in the last 12 months, the accumulation amount is 6 days (48 hours) annually.
- Any paid sick leave that has not been used will carry over to the next year.
Employers are not obligated to give employees more than the mandated number of paid sick days in one year. Where an employee is rehired by the same employer within a six month period, the employer must restore the employee’s previously accumulated sick time.
For what reasons can employees use paid sick leave under the new Austin, Texas law?
Employees can use earned sick time for the following reasons:
- Take time off to take care of a family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or preventative medical health care.
- Take time off for the employee’s health condition, physical or mental illness, preventative medical or health care or injury or health condition.
- Take time off for the employee to look for medical attention, relocation, get services from a victim services organization, participate in legal or court-ordered action in relation to an incident of victimization from domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving the employee or employee’s family member.
A family member, as defined by the Austin paid sick leave law includes an employee’s “spouse, child, parent, or any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
How much notice must employers receive from employees when asking for paid sick leave?
Employees must make “timely requests” before they are scheduled to work in order to have time off under Austin’s paid sick leave law. Provisions have been made for exceptions to the necessary notice period in unexpected circumstances. Employees don’t need to find replacements to cover their hours when arranging and using earned sick time.
What records must employers keep to satisfy Austin, Texas new paid sick leave law?
Employers will be obligated to retain specific records to show compliance with Austin, Texas’s new sick laws. The records and documentation that should be kept by employers include:
- Records demonstrating the amount of earned sick time accumulated and used by every employee.
- Employers must give employees a monthly statement (in writing or electronically) detailing the amount of earned sick time that is available.
- Where the employer has a handbook, the handbook must contain a notice to employees about their entitlements, rights and remedies under the new Austin paid sick leave law.
- When the City of Austin releases the new paid sick leave poster, employers must display it in English and Spanish in an obvious place where other notices are normally posted in the place of work.
What is banned under Austin, Texas new paid sick leave laws?
Any retaliatory action from an employer to an employee who is exercising their rights under the new paid sick leave law is forbidden. Retaliatory action includes:
- Reduced hours
Employers aren’t allowed to retaliate against employees who have reported a violation or are taking part in an administrative proceeding in relation to Austin’s paid sick leave law.
How will Austin’s paid sick leave law be enforced?
The City of Austin’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Fair Housing Office (EEO/FHO) is in charge of enforcing the new law. Employers will be liable to pay a fine of up to $500 per violation if they fail to comply with Austin, Texas sick pay leave laws. The EEO/FHO has the power to provide a 10-day grace period to employers to willingly meet the terms of the law before applying a civil penalty.
What should employers do to comply with Austin, Texas new paid sick leave laws?
Since Austin is the first city in Texas to ratify paid sick leave, employers need to be prepared to be fully compliant before October 1, 2018. Employers’ preparation should include using a workforce management solution to satisfy some of the paid sick leave law requirements. Other features should include:
- A notification feature to communicate employees’ right and remedies can be used to inform all employees about the new law.
- An automated scheduling feature to calculate the number of sick paid leave accrued in relation to the number of hours work.
- A reporting function to send employees’ information about the number of paid sick leave days they have accrued will also be necessary.
For record keeping purposes, an employer’s workforce management tool should be capable of retaining records indefinitely so that, if an accusation of non-compliance with the paid sick leave law is made, the employer can readily and easily provide evidence of compliance.
Austin, Texas’s new sick leave law doesn’t require employees to arrange cover when taking paid sick leave. This means that the responsibility will fall on employers to ensure that their business is adequately covered. Again, a fit for purpose workforce management tool will make it easy to suggest a suitable cover for the employee who is taking paid sick leave according to criteria such as pay grade, skill level, and whether overtime will be triggered.
Keep your business compliant
A proactive approach to complying with Austin, Texas new scheduling law is necessary. This involves using a workforce management and scheduling tool, like Deputy, to be compliant with the law. Your workforce is one of your biggest assets, but it’s also one of your biggest liabilities.
If your business is affected by Austin’s new paid sick leave law, sign up for a free trial to see how Deputy can help to keep you on the right side of the law.
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