Vows made to crush, pass or replace Austin’s sick pay ordinance

With the Austin City Council looking at a Thursday vote on a proposed ordinance that would require employers to provide paid sick leave, efforts ramped up Monday to pass the ordinance or replace it with one that lessens its requirements — all as a state lawmaker vowed to crush any sick pay ordinance.

First on Monday came an announcement from three council members calling for no delays or major alterations to the sick pay ordinance, which would require all non-government employers in Austin to begin accruing sick pay leave for their employees.

Council Members Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen and Kathie Tovo announced Monday they are going to push for the ordinance’s approval on Thursday. Casar is the main author behind the proposal.

Second came a posting from Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who offered a substitute ordinance he will seek to have passed on first reading only.

While Casar’s ordinance applies to all non-government businesses and caps the total amount of sick leave accrued at 64 hours — or eight eight-hour work days — Flannigan’s ordinance would give exemptions to “micro-businesses” with fewer than five employees. It also would cap the amount of total paid sick leave for employees of businesses with fewer than 50 employees at the number of hours worked per that employee’s typical work week.

It means that under Flannigan’s substitute ordinance, an employee working 20 hours a week would only be eligible for 20 total hours of paid sick leave each year. Under Casar’s ordinance, that employee would be eligible for roughly 35 hours of paid sick leave.

“After reviewing the original proposed ordinance and engaging in multiple meetings with stakeholders and advocates, it seems clear that despite much consensus on the value of a paid sick leave policy, there is room for debate on the details we include and the complexity of the issue,” Flannigan said in a post to the City Council’s online message board.”

Any ordinance passed regulating paid sick leave citywide would be the first of its kind in Texas. Advocates estimate that 223,000 employees in Austin — about 37 percent of the workforce — receive no sick pay.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, sent a message that several council members openly anticipated: The Republican-controlled Legislature would likely crush any municipal sick pay ordinance with a state law.

“Just as last session the state Legislature was successful in preempting the city of Austin’s ruinous ride sharing mandates and ‘linkage fees’ scheme, so too will the state Legislature step in and protect job creators from the Austin mayor and City Council’s employee-leave mandated on private employers,” Workman said in a press release.

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