Austin Paid-Sick-Leave Ordinance Temporarily Suspended

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. August 20, 2018
Austin Paid-Sick-Leave Ordinance Temporarily Suspended

​The Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) challenge of the paid-sick-leave law in Austin, Texas, resulted in the ordinance being put on hold on Aug. 17 while the Texas state appeals court reviews the arguments against it.

"Austin, and now San Antonio, are pursuing ordinances mandating paid sick leave within their city limits. Creating different rules in different locations makes it very difficult for employers who may have employees in multiple locations," said Nancy Hammer, SHRM's vice president of regulatory affairs and judicial counsel. "This is the reason SHRM supports H.R. 4219, Workflex in the 21st Century Act, which allows employers to implement a nationwide standard rather than complying with a patchwork of state and local laws. The Austin ordinance was set to go into effect for most employers on Oct. 1. This stay is important because it will allow the courts to determine the legality of the ordinance before employers incur the cost of changing their existing leave systems."

SHRM Supports Challenge

The ordinance would require an employer to provide paid-sick-leave benefits to employees who work 80 or more hours in Austin in a calendar year for that employer. Employees would accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked in the city.

The Texas Association of Business is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Austin and is joined by several other business groups, including SHRM. The groups contend that the city's ordinance violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act, which bars municipalities from regulating private-sector employees' wages.

(SHRM Online)

Review of Ordinance Starts Next Month

Judicial review of Austin's ordinance will begin in September but Austin's HR department already has taken steps since the law was passed in February. These steps include developing a marketing and community education plan, holding a series of community meetings to develop an outreach strategy, and publicizing the administrative rules for the policy.

The city maintains that sick leave is separate from minimum wage. But on Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that Austin and other cities creating similar ordinances were violating state law.

(Austin Monitor)

[SHRM members-only state coverage: Texas Employment Law]

San Antonio Has Passed Similar Ordinance

San Antonio passed a paid-sick-leave ordinance Aug. 16 but it may be subject to legal challenges as well. Under the San Antonio ordinance, workers in the city may accrue up to 64 hours of paid sick leave each year. Business opposition to Austin's ordinance is likely to extend to San Antonio's law. Paxton's office warned San Antonio leaders last month that "no matter the council's decision or the result of any ballot initiative, Texas law pre-empts a municipal paid sick leave ordinance."

(Texas Tribune)

Ordinances Passed Across the Nation

The enactment of paid-sick-leave ordinances is a national issue that SHRM is seeking to address through the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, proposed last year in the House of Representatives. The bill would give employees more options and flexibility when taking time off to meet their individual and family needs while providing predictability for employers who now face a hodgepodge of overlapping state and local requirements.

The act would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to create a qualified flexible work arrangement plan. To qualify as an ERISA-covered plan, the plan would have to include two components: a federal paid leave standard and flexible work arrangements for all employees. Employer participation would be voluntary.

(SHRM Online)

House Hears Testimony in Favor of SHRM-Supported Legislation

Inconsistent paid-sick-leave rules across states and localities make it difficult for employers to manage their businesses, noted Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM, testifying in support of the bill before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions on July 24. More workers are requesting flexible work arrangements to help them meet life's demands.

"But outdated workplace rules and government-mandated leave requirements make it hard for employers to offer the arrangements that employees want," he said. The bill would provide employees with leave and flexibility, help businesses attract and retain the talent they need, and allow businesses to grow and thrive, Taylor said.

(SHRM Online)



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.


HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.