City of Austin mandates paid sick leave for employees

The City of Austin recently became what is said to be the first city in Texas, and perhaps in the whole of the southern United States, to guarantee paid sick leave to employees working within the city. After a long meeting marked by generous public participation, the City Council approved an ordinance under which employers must give earned sick time to those who perform 80 hours or more of work within the city during a calendar year. Independent contractors and unpaid interns are expressly excluded. The ordinance also does not apply to federal and state or local governments and agencies that cannot be regulated by city ordinance.

Earned sick time.

Under the new law, employers with more than 15 employees (excluding family members) will be required to provide employees with 8 days (64 hours) of earned sick time each calendar year. Employers with 15 or fewer employees (excluding family members) will be required to provide employees with 6 days (48 hours) of earned sick time. Employees will accrue earned sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.

Sick time purposes.

Employees may request earned sick time for the following purposes:

  • the employee’s physical or mental illness or injury, preventative medical or health care, or health condition; or
  • the employee’s need to care for a family member’s physical or mental illness, preventative medical or health care, injury, or health condition; or
  • the employee’s need to seek medical attention, seek relocation, obtain services of a victim services organization, or to participate in legal or court-ordered action related to an incident of victimization from domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving the employee or employee’s family member.

Effective dates.

The earned sick time requirements are effective October 1, 2018. However, employers with five or fewer employees will have until October 1, 2020, to meet those requirements.

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