Austin is the latest city to join the paid sick leave bandwagon. On February 19, 2018, the Austin City Council passed the ordinance requiring employers to provide employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year to accrue paid sick and safe leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Although the ordinance does not go into effect until October 1, 2018, employers must start preparing for their new obligations.
Under the new law, employees can take the leave for their own illness, injury, health condition or preventative care or that of a family member. Employees may also take the leave 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. A family member is defined as “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.”
Employees can start accruing sick and safe time on their first day of employment or when the law becomes effective, whichever is later. The earned time will be available as it is accrued. However, if an employer establishes that the employee’s term of employment is at least one year, the employee may be restricted from using sick time during the first 60 days of employment. When requesting more than three consecutive work days off, employees may be asked to provide verification. Any employer with more than 15 employees in the preceding 12 months must provide up to 64 accrued hours per year. Any employer with less than 14 employees in the preceding 12 months must provide up to 48 accrued hours per year. All available earned sick and safe time will carry over to the following year.
An employer may not transfer, demote, discharge, suspend, reduce hours, or directly threaten these actions against an employee for requesting or using earned sick time, or for reporting a violation or participating in an administrative proceeding under the law. If an employee would like file a complaint, he or she must file with the City of Austin Equal Employment Opportunity/Fair Housing Office within two years from the date of the violation.
Employers must provide each employee with a monthly statement showing the employee’s available earned sick time. Employers must also provide a notice about the new law if they provide employees with an employee handbook. The City of Austin is expected to release a poster with information on the paid sick and safe leave law by the effective date. Employers will be required to display the poster in both English and Spanish in a conspicuous place in the workplace. CPC will continue to monitor the release of the new poster.