Vote on mandating sick pay in Austin could face delay


Austin City Council is set to vote Feb. 15 on an ordinance requiring all employers to provide paid sick days.

Some trade organizations have called for the vote to be delayed.

The Austin City Council on Tuesday took its first crack at an ordinance that would require all private businesses in Austin to provide employees with sick pay, a measure that could become a test of council members’ progressive bona fides.

The council is set to vote Feb. 15 on the ordinance, which would mandate that all employees begin accruing sick leave at a rate of one hour of leave per every 30 worked, with an annual cap of 64 hours of paid sick leave (or eight full eight-hour work days.)

While the ordinance has garnered endorsements from progressive organizations, including the county and state Democratic parties and a coalition of labor groups, trade groups have begun raising questions about it. Many have noted that a majority of their members are against the ordinance, and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has asked for the council vote to be delayed at least 90 days and called for further study of the measure’s potential impact.

RELATED: Austin ordinance requiring paid sick leave taking shape

The specter of a delay crept onto the dais Tuesday when Council Member Ora Houston asked a procedural question as to when she would be able to proposed delaying the vote. Mayor Steve Adler said that would be taken up on the day of the scheduled vote.

The ordinance would be the first of its kind in Texas.

Council Member Leslie Pool floated the idea of creating exemptions for small businesses. Pool also said she was wondering why the council was taking this up, when it seems likely that the Texas Legislature would nuke any such ordinance during next year’s session.

“This feels like something that should be a statewide benefit,” Pool said. “I know we are in Texas, so I know that is a high mountain to climb, but it feels like what we should be doing here is directing a statewide policy.”

Council Member Kathie Tovo said that because of Austin’s left-leaning tendencies, the city could emerge as a statewide leader on this issue.

TWO VIEWS: Austin sick-leave policy pushes entrepreneurs to suburbs

“Frankly, there would be a lot of good work we wouldn’t do if we worried about what the Legislature will do,” Tovo said. “Perhaps it will be a model for other municipalities throughout the state.”

Council Member Greg Casar, the architect of the ordinance, has been publicly pushing since September for the city to regulate sick leave.

Though applying a broad regulation to all private businesses with employees who work in Austin is not unprecedented, the city has generally extended those regulations, such as living wage requirements, to those who do business with the city.

Investigating violations would be a complaint-based process conducted by the city’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Opportunity Office. Businesses caught in violation of the ordinance would be given 10 days to comply. If they refuse, they would face a $500 fine.

TWO VIEWS: Sick-leave policy lifts struggling workers, city’s economy

A coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups that support the ordinance have put forth a study showing that 223,000 Austin workers — 37 percent of the city’s total workforce — are given no paid sick leave.

Though the ordinance would change that, more than 100,000 government jobs would be exempted.

Some amendments to the ordinance were proposed Tuesday. Casar proposed delaying enforcement until October and allowing employers to provide notification of paid sick leave accrual through electronic communications.

Correction: This article has been updated to correctly attribute a quote to Council Member Leslie Pool.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Officials: Grand jury indicts son of slain jeweler on capital murder charge
Officials: Grand jury indicts son of slain jeweler on capital murder charge

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted Nicolas Shaughnessy, who Travis County investigators have accused of planning to kill his father, on a charge of capital murder, court records show. A two-page indictment said Shaughnessy “knowingly caused the death of an individual” by hiring a man detectives identified as 21-year-old Johnny...
Some Austin-area schools get failing scores under new grading system
Some Austin-area schools get failing scores under new grading system

Multiple campuses in a handful of Austin-area school districts failed to meet Texas academic standards under the state’s new letter grade accountability system. Under the new statewide system, districts on Wednesday received A-through-F letter grades and campuses were labeled “met requirement” or “improvement required.&rdquo...
Fire crews fighting home blaze in Bee Cave
Fire crews fighting home blaze in Bee Cave

Firefighters are fighting a home blaze in Bee Cave, according to Austin fire officials. The fire was reported at 2608 Cascade Falls near Bee Cave Road around 2 p.m. Wednesday. Austin fire, Oak Hill and Ce-Bar are on scene assisting. A heavy fire in the garage with vehicles were involved in the fire. This story is developing; check back for updates...
BLOTTER: Men steal guns from South Austin pawn shop, feds say
BLOTTER: Men steal guns from South Austin pawn shop, feds say

SOUTH AUSTIN Feds: Men steal guns, jewelry from pawn shop Two men on Monday robbed a South Austin pawn shop, threatening an employee with a sledgehammer and breaking display cases, according to officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The men stole five pistols and over $6,000 in jewelry, officials said. The robbery...
Austin man accused of stealing rifle from Round Rock police car
Austin man accused of stealing rifle from Round Rock police car

An Austin man is accused of stealing an AR-15 rifle from a locked gun rack inside a Round Rock police car, according to an arrest affidavit. Louis Philip Reyes, 26, was charged with theft of a firearm, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years behind bars. On June 22, Round Rock police discovered the rifle was stolen from a patrol car at an...
More Stories