San Antonio Joins Austin in Passing a Paid Sick Leave Law—But Will These Laws Survive, and What’s Next for Paid Sick Leave?

On August 16, 2018, San Antonio joined Austin to become the second major city in Texas to pass a paid sick leave ordinance.  The law allows workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in San Antonio, up to a maximum of 64 hours of paid leave each year for workers at companies with more than 15 employees.  Employees at companies with 15 employees or fewer are capped at 48 hours of paid sick leave per year.  Employees who are not working the requisite number of hours in San Antonio are not eligible.

The law is set to take effect on August 1, 2019 for companies with five or more employees, but that assumes it survives a near-certain court challenge, a potential state legislative override, or changes made by San Antonio itself.  Austin’s ordinance is currently the subject of a court challenge, and on August 17, a Texas court of appeals blocked implementation of the ordinance pending the resolution of an appeal to determine whether it is preempted by state law and thus invalid.

The Bottom Line for Employers

The Austin and San Antonio ordinances are part of a much bigger trend in which paid sick leave requirements have been implemented by dozens of localities, some states, and the federal government itself (with respect to federal contractors).  This has led to a patchwork of laws that are becoming increasingly difficult for employers to track and comply with.  Federal paid sick leave legislation that would override state and local laws has been proposed in Congress, but so far the proposed bills have gained little traction.

In the meantime, employers with operations in San Antonio, Austin, and other major metropolitan areas around the country would be wise to continue to monitor developments and to consider whether to implement different paid sick leave policies by jurisdiction, or a single policy that complies with the most stringent of the applicable laws—and hope that a more stringent applicable law is not passed somewhere else in the near future.  An employer’s decision should be influenced by factors such as its risk tolerance, ability to stay on top of developments, employee morale, and the degree to which it is able to administer different policies.

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