San Antonio Passes Paid Leave Ordinance
On Thursday, August 16, 2018, by a 9-2 vote, the San Antonio City Council passed an ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. San Antonio is following Austin, which passed a very similar ordinance in February of 2018. One difference is that San Antonio’s ordinance will not be effective until August 1, 2019, almost a full year after Austin’s ordinance.
BACKGROUND: AUSTIN'S ORDINANCE
The Austin ordinance passed in February 2018 and will be effective in October 2018 for employers with more than 5 employees. Penalties are not in effect from October 2018 through May 2019, though businesses may receive notice that they are in violation and could be assessed a civil penalty when penalties are in effect; the only exception is if an employer is seen to retaliate against an employee who uses paid sick leave or reports an infraction. Penalties will be assessed starting in June 2019 for employers with more than 5 employees. Then, beginning in October of 2020, the ordinance will be in full effect for all employers, including those with 5 employees or less.
REQUIREMENTS: SAN ANTONIO & AUSTIN
The details of the ordinances in Austin and San Antonio are very similar. The ordinances require that all employers provide paid sick leave to employees. Both ordinances state that employees should accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked, to total as follows:
- Medium/Large Employers: 64 hours per year
- Small Employers: 48 hours per year
Also like the Austin ordinance, employers in San Antonio can craft their policies to not allow employees to use paid sick leave during their first 60 days of work. And of course, both ordinances state that employers cannot retaliate against employees who use paid sick leave, for example, by cutting their hours or firing them.
Whereas the Austin ordinance will be enforced by the City of Austin’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office, the San Antonio ordinance will be enforced by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Both could impose fines up to $500 per violation.
The futures of both the Austin and San Antonio ordinances are uncertain. Currently, the Austin Ordinance is being fought in the judicial system, where the case is heading to the appellate court. The Texas Legislature, which is not in session until January 2019, has also promised to take legislative action to squash any paid sick leave ordinances enacted by Texas cities.
In addition, Ken Paxton’s office has been actively monitoring the progress of these ordinances and sent a letter to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the San Antonio City Council requesting that they reject the ordinance because it is preempted by state law (The Texas Minimum Wage Act).
Mayor Nirenberg communicated with business leaders in the days leading up to the vote and explained he felt it was necessary to pass the ordinance immediately. Reports claim that a petition requesting this issue be placed on the ballot had received between approximately 66,000 signatures (per the San Antonio Business Journal) and 145,000 signatures (per the Mayor’s numbers). Nirenberg stated that if the City Council did not pass the ordinance, they would need to certify the petition and place it on the November ballot, “in which it is almost guaranteed to pass.” He also stated, “Instead of City Hall, this issue must be addressed when the Texas Legislature convenes in January of 2019.” These thoughts are consistent with the implementation date of the San Antonio ordinance, which falls after the full 2019 legislative cycle.
BFG will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates. Please contact our office if you have any questions.