On February 16, 2018, the Austin City Council passed a long-anticipated ordinance that requires private companies with employees in Austin to provide paid sick leave. The ordinance goes into effect on October 1, 2018 for all employers with six or more employees within the City and on October 1, 2020 for all employers with five or fewer employees. The law only applies to W-2 employees and does not apply to Independent Contractors.

What is required under the new law?

Employers must grant an employee one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked in the City, up to the annual cap. The annual cap differs based on the size of the employer. For employers with 16 or more employees within the City during the past 12 months, the yearly cap is 64 hours. For employers with 6-15 employees within the City during the past 12 months, the cap is 48 hours. Accrual can only be applied in one hour increments and must begin the date the ordinance becomes effective or the date an employee is hired, whichever is earlier.

Employees are entitled to use sick leave as it accrues. The leave may be used for (1) an employee’s own physical or mental illness, preventive care, or health condition; (2) caring for the same for a family member; (3) employee’s need to seek medical attention, relocation, or obtain services from a victim services organization, or participate in legal action related to victimization of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving the employee or employee’s family member. An employer is permitted to seek verification of the above when the employee misses three or more consecutive days of work. If an employee makes a request for use of the sick leave before the employee’s scheduled shift or the employee has an unforeseeable qualifying event, the employer may not deny the employee’s use of the accrued paid sick leave.

Importantly, sick leave must roll over to the next year, unless the employer provides the maximum number of accruable hours at the outset of each year and permits the employee to use those hours immediately. An employer may not require an employee to find a replacement to cover hours worked as a condition for using paid sick leave.

Employers must post the requirements of the law in both English and Spanish in a conspicuous place within the workplace. The City of Austin will make such signage available to employers on its website. The City may fine employers up to $500 per violation of the new law.

Monthly Statement of Accrued Sick Leave

If you already have a policy in place that complies with the above, you may not need to make any changes. However, many employers do not provide monthly accrual notices, which is required under the new law. The new law provides that an employer must provide an electronic or written notice to each employee on a monthly basis that shows the amount of the employee’s available earned sick leave.

What do you need to do?

The above is a brief summary of what the new ordinance requires for Austin employers. Employers must be sure that their sick leave or paid time off policies comply with the above requirements and the requirements as more thoroughly set forth in the ordinance, available here. The employment team at Wittliff Cutter Austin can assist in both reviewing your existing policies for compliance or drafting new policies. Please contact Karen Vladeck at karen@witffliffcutter.com or 512-649-2434 for assistance.