September 28, 2020

Volume X, Number 272

September 28, 2020

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Austin Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: The First of Many in the Lone Star State?

On February 15, 2018, Austin became the first city in Texas to adopt a mandatory paid sick leave ordinance (the “ordinance”).  To prepare for compliance, Texas employers with employees in Austin will want to review the ordinance’s requirements:

  • Effective October 1, 2018, all private employers with 16 or more employees must provide 8 days of earned sick time (“EST”) to employees who work at least 80 hours per calendar year. Employers with 6-15 employees must provide 6 days of EST per year.

  • Employees will accrue EST at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, in one-hour increments, and will accrue EST at the commencement of employment, or the effective date of the ordinance, whichever is later.  

  • Employees may use EST for their own, or a family member’s, physical or mental health or preventative care; or for medical attention, services, or legal actions as a result of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

  • Employees may carry over accrued but unused EST, up to the maximum yearly cap, unless the employer grants the employee at least the minimum required amount of EST at the beginning of each year.

  • Employers must: (i) provide monthly statements regarding an employee’s accrued EST; (ii) post a notice of the ordinance; and (iii) include notice of the ordinance and its requirements in the employers’ handbooks. 

  • The ordinance provides for a civil penalty of up to $500 for each violation.

  • Effective October 1, 2020 employers with 5 or fewer employees must provide 6 days of EST each year.

What’s Next?

Local businesses currently oppose the ordinance.  On April 24, 2018 the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed suit in Travis County [Austin] on behalf of seven plaintiffs -- including the Texas Association of Business, National Federation of Independent Business, and the American Staffing Association -- challenging the ordinance as preempted by state minimum wage law and as violative of the Texas Constitution.

In addition, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act (the “Act”), currently pending before the U.S. Congress, could neutralize the Austin ordinance and the growing number of county and city ordinances across the country regarding mandatory paid sick leave. Under the Act, employers that allow for paid time off and offer their employees options for flexible work arrangements would qualify for ERISA coverage and, thus, would likely pre-empt state and local paid leave and workflex laws.

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in CaliforniaNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 123


About this Author

Lon Williams, Polsinelli Law Firm, Dallas, Labor and Employment and Health Law Attorney

Lon Williams is not just a litigator, but a counselor to clients. In fact, his employment-related litigation practice is often described as an advice and counsel practice. Lon’s experience includes assisting his clients at the highest levels of management, including the Board level as well as executives in operations, finance and human resources, to determine solutions to day-to-day challenges regarding compliance with the numerous employment-related federal and state laws.

He regularly assists clients on matters relating to the Fair Labor...

LaToya Alexander, Polsinelli, Wage and Hour Litigation Lawyer, Employment Class Actions Attorney

LaToya Alexander has a passion for employment and labor litigation, and believes that forming strong relationships with clients is critical to providing effective legal counsel. For each engagement in which LaToya is involved, she seeks to provide concise and articulate legal counsel that aligns with clients’ business objectives. 

Prior to joining Polsinelli, LaToya worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Brian S. Miller, Chief Judge, in the Eastern District of Arkansas. She was exposed to a number of areas of law and developed a solid understanding of the litigation process. Her prior clerkship experience provides her with a unique perspective concerning the far reaching consequences of actions taken even in the earliest stages of litigation. Through LaToya's client-centered practice, she anticipates clients' needs in order to avoid litigation, and crafts solutions to best meet clients' immediate and long-term goals.

During law school LaToya served on the editorial board of the Arkansas Law Review and worked as a teaching assistant in Criminal Law and Property Law. She also received the Award for Excellence in Legal Writing, as well as the Bard Rogan Natural Resources Law Award for obtaining the highest grade in Oil and Gas Law and Water Law.