All employers who do business in Austin, Texas, need to prepare themselves for complying with the first paid sick leave law enacted in the South. On February 15, 2018, the City of Austin passed a city ordinance that will essentially require all private employers with employees who work at least 80 paid hours within Austin to provide those employees with 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in Austin. For all but the smallest employers, this paid sick leave requirement goes into effect on October 1, 2018; employers with five employees or fewer have until October 1, 2020, before they must comply with the ordinance.
- The ordinance applies to all private sector employers, of any size, with paid employees who perform “at least 80 hours of work for pay within the City of Austin in a calendar year … including work performed through the services of a temporary or employment agency.”
- The ordinance DOES NOT apply to independent contractors or unpaid interns; it DOES apply to part-time, temporary, and/or seasonal workers.
- All covered employees are entitled to 1 full hour (fractions of hours not allowed) of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in the City of Austin, and employees are permitted to use accrued sick leave immediately, with limited exceptions.
- “Small” employers – those with 15 or fewer non-family member employees at any time in the preceding 12 months – may cap accrued sick leave at 48 hours per year per employee.
- “Medium or large” employers – more than 15 non-family member employees at any time in the preceding 12 months – may cap accrued sick leave at 64 hours per year per employee.
- Unused paid sick leave must be carried over, up to the applicable annual per employee cap.
- Paid leave may be taken for the employee’s own or a family member’s illness or injury, preventative care, or health condition, and/or for certain actions related to the medical and safety needs of the employee or a family member who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- The ordinance requires employers to post approved signage (not yet developed) in the workplace, and also requires any employee handbook to include a notice of employees’ rights to paid leave under the ordinance within the handbook.
- The ordinance also prohibits retaliation against any employee who requests or uses paid sick leave, reports a violation of the ordinance, or assists in the investigation of any alleged violation.
- Each violation may result in a civil penalty of up to $500.
- The ordinance goes into effect on October 1, 2018, for employers with more than five employees; it goes into effect on October 1, 2020, for employers with five or fewer employees.
If you have any employees who work within the City of Austin for at least 80 hours during the year, you will want to start preparing now to comply with the ordinance by its effective date, including updating your employee handbook, record-keeping policies, and other employment practices that could be affected, such as employee scheduling. J. Shannon Gatlin and the labor and employment attorneys at Cokinos | Young are ready to assist you with preparing for this upcoming change in the law, as well as any other labor and employment needs your company may have.
J. Shannon Gatlin