March 12, 2018

City of Austin Enacts Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (article)

Austin became the latest jurisdiction to require private sector employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.  The City Council of Austin enacted the Earned Sick Time Ordinance on February 15, 2018.  The law requires private sector employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees beginning October 1, 2018.  For employers with fewer than 5 employees, the applicability date of the law is delayed until October 1, 2020.  Following is a summary of this Ordinance.

Employers subject to the law.  For purposes of this Ordinance, an employer is defined as any person, company, corporation, firm, partnership, labor organization, non-profit organization or association that pays an employee to perform work for the employer, and exercises control over the employee’s wages, hours and working conditions.  Employer does not include the United States, the state of Texas, or a political subdivision of the state that cannot be regulated by city ordinance.

Eligible employees.  An eligible employee is one who performs at least 80 hours of work in a calendar year within the City of Austin for the employer subject to the law, including those who work through a temporary or employment agency. Independent contractors, and unpaid interns, are not eligible for the earned sick time benefit.

Amount of leave.  Employees accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked in the City.

Accrual, Cap, Frontloading, and Carryover

Employees begin to accrue earned sick time beginning on the later of 1) the date of hire, or, 2) October 1, 2018.  Earned sick time can be used as soon as it is accrued.  An employer can delay usage of an individual’s accrued leave until after he/she has worked 60 days, but only in the event where the individual is expected to be employed at least one year.

The accrual cap and use of leave is contingent upon the employer size, as follows:

  • Employers with 16 or more employees must allow employees to accrue, and use up to 64 hours of earned sick time per year;
  • Employers with 15 or fewer employees must allow employees to accrue and use up to 48 hours of earned sick time per year.

Alternatively, an employer that provides earned sick time for immediate use at the beginning of each year 64 (or 48 hours, as applicable) is not required to provide carryover, or additional accrual.  Unused accrued earned sick time can be carried over to the next following year, subject to these 64 or 48 hour limits. 

Use of leave.  Earned sick time can be taken for the following reasons:

  • To attend to one’s own needs, or to attend to the needs of a family member’s illness, injury, medical diagnosis or treatment, including preventative medical care; or,
  • To obtain services or care as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

For this purpose, a family member includes the 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.

Notice Requirements

  • Employee notice obligations.  An employee’s request for the use of earned sick time shall be made as timely as possible prior to the employee’s scheduled work time.  An employer may adopt reasonable verification procedures to establish that an employee's request for earned sick time for more than three consecutive work days meets the requirements of the ordinance.
  • Employer workplace posting and notice obligations. Employers are required to display a poster describing the requirements of this Ordinance, in all appropriate languages of its employee population, in a conspicuous place where employee notices are customarily posted.   In addition, an employer must include information about the earned sick time benefit in its employee handbook. The City of Austin’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Fair Housing Office is delegated to create and make available on its website, a model workplace posting that can be used for this purpose. In addition, employers are required to provide a monthly earned sick time statement, either by paper or electronically, reflecting the usage and available amount of the employee's earned sick time.

Coordination with employer’s existing time off policy.  An employer’s existing leave policy can satisfy the obligations of the City of Austin’s paid sick leave law as long it is at least as generous as the Ordinance requires.

Coordination with other laws.  This law must be coordinated with other federal, state or local laws, where applicable.

Record retention.  Employers are required to maintain records establishing the amount of earned sick time accrued and used by each covered employee for three years.

Enforcement.  The City of Austin’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Fair Housing Office (EEO/FHO) enforces the provisions of this law, including complaints of violations and employment retaliation matters.  Violations of the Ordinance could result in civil penalties.

The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein. 

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