With the vote on the proposed sick leave ordinance in Austin coming Feb. 15, we asked Fred Sultan, a member Gardere’s labor and employment group in Austin, on what local employers need to know.
Here are Fred’s main takeaways:
The City of Austin’s proposed sick-leave ordinance clearly has implications for private employers that do not currently provide sick leave or paid time off to their employees. Should the ordinance go into effect, those employers will need to begin providing benefits and should seek counsel to ensure they are complying with the record-keeping and other aspects of the ordinance.
What is easy to overlook is that businesses that already offer sick leave would also be impacted. For example, many businesses offer leave for full-time employees, but do not do so for some part time or seasonal employees. As currently proposed, the ordinance requires an employer to provide sick leave for any employee who works for more than 80 hours in a year within the City of Austin. That means that a college student hired over the summer would need to accrue leave. Also, a year-round part-time employee working less than an average of 2 hours per week would begin to earn sick leave. As a result, all employers should review their leave policies to make sure they are ready to comply with these proposed changes to the law.
The proposed ordinance’s broad definition of what constitutes an “employer” along with its record-keeping requirements also pose potential traps for the unwary. As currently drafted, the ordinance defines “employer” to include any individual or entity, regardless of size, “that pays an employee to perform work for the employer and exercises control over the employee’s wages, hours and working conditions.” That means anyone who employs a single part-time employee could be considered an employer required to conform to the ordinance. Employers are not only required to provide leave, but also required to provide a monthly accounting to their employees of any accrued leave and to keep the ordinance’s requirements posted conspicuously in the workplace. Small businesses, and particularly individuals, may be caught unaware that they are subject to these new sick-leave requirements.
Fred and the rest of the team will continue to monitor developments on this ordinance as they arise.
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