Last month Austin, Texas became the first city in Texas and the Southern United States to pass an ordinance mandating paid sick leave for approximately 87,000 Austin workers. Almost immediately, the law came under fire from state legislators and business groups promising to repeal the law during the next legislative session in 2019. State Representative Paul Workman (R), told the Texas Tribune Austin has “declared war” on businesses and promised to “file legislation on the first day possible to reverse this and the other liberal Austin policies that they’ve enacted.” Until then, this FAQ will endeavor to outline the basic requirements of the new ordinance, and what employers need to know.

When does the new law go into effect?

October 1, 2018 for most businesses. Employers with fewer than 5 employees would have a delayed effective date of October 2020.

Who is eligible to receive paid leave under the new law?

Any employee performing at least 80 hours of work for pay within the Austin city limits, regardless of where the employer is headquartered.

How is the paid sick leave accrued?

Employees receive 1 hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked. Accrued hours must carry over into the next year.

Are there any caps on how much leave a worker can accrue?

Yes. Employers with more than 15 employees have a cap of 64 hours (or 8 days) per employee Employers with 15 or fewer employees have a cap of 48 hours (or 6 days) per employee. Employers with 5 or fewer employees have the same cap of 48 hours (or 6 days), but the law delays implementation on these employers until October 1, 2020.

What is a permissible use of paid sick leave under the new law?

Employees are allowed to take paid sick leave for their own care, or that of a family member. A family member is loosely defined by the new legislation to include a spouse, parent, child, blood relative or anyone “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The new law also provide victims of domestic violence with the ability to take “safe days” when dealing with the legal and health ramifications of domestic violence.

What are the penalties for violating the new law?

$500 per violation. The new law is enforced by the City of Austin’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Fair Housing Office (“EEO/FHO”).