4 questions about Austin’s new sick leave law

What’s this I hear about a new mandatory sick leave law in Austin?

Q. I have employees in Austin and I’ve heard there’s a new leave law I have to worry about. Can you help?

A. In February, the Austin City Council passed a new ordinance on earned sick time that affects employers in the city.

The ordinance takes effect Oct. 1, 2018, but is likely to be challenged in court almost immediately.

Nevertheless, local employers should be aware of the basic requirements of the law so that they can prepare for the possibility of enforcement this fall.

Employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Earned sick time is generally available for use as soon as it is accrued. An employer may restrict an employee from using sick time during the first 60 days of employment, but only if the employer establishes that the employee’s term of employment is at least one year.

For employers with six or more employees, the ordinance takes effect Oct. 1, 2018. For those with five or fewer emp­loyees in the preceding 12 months, the ordinance takes effect two years later, on Oct. 1, 2020.

What does Austin’s sick leave law cover?

Q. What qualifies for sick time under the new law? What kinds of conditions are covered?

A. The ordinance grants time off needed because of an employee’s own health condition, physical or mental illness, or injury, or that of the employee’s blood-related family member.

Employees may also take leave to seek medical attention, seek relocation, obtain victim services or participate in legal action related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving the employee or a family member.

Employees must make a timely request for the use of earned sick time before their scheduled work time, with potential exceptions for unforeseen emergencies.

How does leave accrue?

Q. How much sick time does the law let employees accrue and use?

A. An employer with more than 15 employees (not including family member employees) in the preceding 12 months must provide up to 64 accrued hours per year. An employer with one to 14 employees (not including family member employees) in the preceding 12 months must provide up to 48 accrued hours per year.

Earned sick time carries over to the following year. Em­­ploy­­­ers do not have to allow employees to utilize earned sick time on more than eight calendar days in a given calendar year

What are the record-keeping requirements?

Q. Which records must employers maintain, provide, or display?

A. Employers must provide each employee with a monthly statement showing the amount of the available earned sick time. Employers must also keep records to show the amount of sick time accrued by each employee. Employers with handbooks must include a notice to employees about the contents of the ordinance. Once the city of Austin provides signage on its website, employers must display a sign about the ordinance in English and Spanish.