The Austin, Texas City Council has enacted a paid sick and safe leave ordinance, becoming the first southern city to pass such a law for private sector employees.  The ordinance will take effect on October 1, 2018 for employers with five or more employees; coverage for smaller employers begins on October 1, 2020.

Employees who work at least 80 hours in Austin in a calendar year will be covered.  Eligible employees will accrue paid sick and safe leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours annually (or up to 48 hours annually for businesses with 15 or fewer employees).  Employers may also limit usage of accrued leave to no more than 8 calendar days per year.  For employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, the accrual cap may be modified so long as the modification is explicitly set forth in the CBA.

Employees shall be entitled to carry over unused leave time into the following year up to the annual accrual cap, unless the employer chooses to frontload at least 64 hours of leave (or 48 hours for employers with 15 or fewer employees) to the employee at the start of the year.  While leave accrual begins as of the first day of employment, employers may restrict new employees from using accrued leave during the employee’s first 60 days of employment if the employer establishes that the employee’s term of employment is at least one year.

Paid sick and safe leave can be used for:

  • an employee’s own physical or mental illness or injury, preventative medical or health care, or health condition;
  • care for a family member with a physical or mental illness, preventative medical or health care, injury or health condition; and
  • an employee’s need to seek medical attention, seek relocation, obtain services of a victim services organization, or to participate in legal or court ordered action related to an incident of victimization from domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking involving the employee or a family member.

A “family member” is defined as an employee’s spouse, child, parent, or any other individual related by blood whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

While employees are required to make a “timely” request for leave before their scheduled work time, they may not be denied leave for an unforeseeable qualified absence.  Employers may implement reasonable verification procedures to establish that leave was taken for a covered purpose under the law when an employee requests to use accrued sick or safe leave for more than three consecutive work days.

Employers will be required to provide written notice to employees of their rights under the law in an employee handbook (if one exists), as well as display a notice of rights poster that will be issued by the City of Austin.  Employers will also be required to provide employees with a statement showing available sick and safe leave on at least a monthly basis.

With this ordinance, Austin joins a number of state, county and local governments that have passed similar paid sick leave laws in recent months.  However, the new law is already seeing some pushback.  Shortly after the ordinance was passed, several Texas state representatives expressed opposition to the law and stated they plan to introduce legislation aimed at overturning it.

We will continue to monitor this law and report on any additional developments in advance of the effective date.

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Photo of Allan Bloom Allan Bloom

Allan Bloom is the co-chair of Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Law Department and a nationally recognized litigator and advisor who represents employers, business owners, and management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended…

Allan Bloom is the co-chair of Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Law Department and a nationally recognized litigator and advisor who represents employers, business owners, and management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended many of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages, employment discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge, both at the trial and appellate court levels as well as in arbitration, before government agencies, and in private negotiations. He has secured complete defense verdicts for clients in front of juries, as well as injunctions to protect clients’ confidential information and assets.

As the leader of Proskauer’s Wage and Hour Practice Group, Allan has been a strategic partner to a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them avoid, minimize and manage exposure to wage and hour-related risk. Allan’s views on wage and hour issues have been featured in The New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg and Fortune, among other leading publications. His class-action defense work for clients has saved billions of dollars in potential damages.

Allan is regularly called on to advise operating companies, management companies, fund sponsors, boards of directors and senior leadership on highly sensitive matters including executive and key person transitions, internal investigations and strategic workforce planning. He has particular expertise in the financial services industry, where he has litigated, arbitrated, and mediated disputes for more than 20 years.

A prolific author and speaker, Allan was the Editor of the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Journal from 2012 to 2017. He has served as an author, editor and contributor to a number of leading treatises in the field of employment law, including ADR in Employment Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA), Employment Discrimination Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA), Cutting Edge Advances in Resolving Workplace Disputes (Cornell University/CPR), The Employment Law Review (Law Business Research, U.S. Chapter Author), and The Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual (SCCE).

Allan has served as longtime pro bono counsel to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and The Public Theater, among other nonprofit organizations.  He is a past Vice Chair of Repair the World, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes volunteers and their communities to take action to pursue a just world, and a past recipient of the Lawyers Alliance Cornerstone Award for extraordinary contributions through pro bono legal services.

Allan is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and has been recognized as a leading practitioner by Chambers since 2011.

Photo of Arielle E. Kobetz Arielle E. Kobetz

Arielle E. Kobetz is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Counseling & Training Group. Her practice focuses on providing clients with strategies and counseling related to a variety of workplace-related disputes, including employee terminations…

Arielle E. Kobetz is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Counseling & Training Group. Her practice focuses on providing clients with strategies and counseling related to a variety of workplace-related disputes, including employee terminations and discipline, leave and accommodation requests, and general employee relations matters. She also counsels clients on developing, implementing and enforcing personnel policies and procedures and reviewing and revising employee handbooks under federal, state and local law.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Arielle served as a law clerk at the New York City Human Resources Administration, Employment Law Unit, where she worked on a variety of employment discrimination and internal employee disciplinary issues.

Photo of Laura Fant Laura Fant

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns…

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns, with a focus on legal compliance, risk management and mitigation strategies, and workplace culture considerations.

Laura regularly counsels clients across numerous industries on a wide variety of employment matters involving recruitment and hiring, employee leave and reasonable accommodation issues, performance management, and termination of employment . She also advises on preparing, implementing and enforcing employment and separation agreements, employee handbooks and company policies, as well as provides training on topics including discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Laura is a frequent contributor to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace blog and The Proskauer Brief podcast.