A First in the Lone Star State — Austin Mandates Paid Sick Leave
Austin recently became the first Texas city to
join San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C.,
among over two dozen other cities and several states (including, most recently,
Maryland), in requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.
On February 15, the Austin City Council approved
a new rule requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The
ordinance applies to all private employers operating in the city, regardless of
whether they may be based elsewhere or whether an employee lives outside the
city. The rule takes effect on October 1, 2018.
An employee must earn a minimum of one hour of
sick time for every 30 hours worked. Mandated
sick leave is capped at 64 hours (or eight 8-hour days) per year for employers
with more than 15 employees, and 48 hours (six 8-hour days) for those with less
than 15 employees. Employers with less than 5 employees have until October 2020
to comply. Employers who already provide more generous benefits will not be
affected by the ordinance.
The Texas Legislature may have something to say
about how long Austin employees’ paid sick leave will last. Already at least
one legislator from the area has promised that the state legislature will act
to undo the Austin rule, much as it undid Austin’s ride-sharing ordinance last
session. About fifteen states have already acted to prohibit local jurisdictions
from enacting paid leave mandates.
The patchwork of city and state laws addressing
paid sick leave may be causing headaches for multistate employers, who must pay
attention to state and local requirements wherever they operate. Employers with
existing paid leave or paid time off (PTO) programs should confirm they satisfy
specific requirements, including notice, in each jurisdiction.
Austin’s action serves as a wake-up call for
Texas employers who thought they were immune to laws that are commonly viewed
as “pro-employee” and associated with blue states like California. Only time
will tell if the Texas Legislature has also heard the alarm.