Friday, August 17, 2018
San Antonio City Council approves paid sick leave ordinance
The San Antonio City Council on Thursday adopted an ordinance mandating that employers within the city provide paid sick time to workers.
The amendment to the city’s health code requires employers in San Antonio to let workers accrue such paid time off — one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked — to use if they or a family member become sick or injured; are victims of stalking, domestic abuse or sexual assault; or otherwise require medical, mental or preventive care.
The San Antonio City Council's decision, by a 9-2 vote, follows a similar vote by the Austin City Council in February. That 9-2 vote triggered immediate criticism from some state lawmakers, who have vowed to enact legislation to negate the Capital City ordinance.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who voted for the ordinance, said the City Council had limited options. He believes the ordinance will give the city more "flexibility to craft a San Antonio-specific policy," rather than having to deal with a voter-approved measure.
Under San Antonio's ordinance, employees at medium-size and large businesses can accrue at least 64 hours of paid sick leave per year — more if employers so choose. At smaller businesses, employees can accrue at least 48 hours per year.
The ordinance requires employees to be paid the wage they would have earned if at work and that they be allowed to carry over accrued sick leave to the following year.
The new ordinance is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, 2019. Employers with five or fewer workers will have until Aug. 1, 2021, to comply.
There are certain protections for employers in the new ordinance. For example, businesses can restrict employees from using paid sick leave during their first 60 days on the job.
Meanwhile, employers are not permitted to retaliate against workers who use earned paid sick leave by transferring, demoting, firing or suspending them, or reducing their hours.
The City Council's vote comes less than three months after a coalition of labor leaders and community organizations delivered more than 66,000 signatures to San Antonio’s city clerk supporting a petition seeking to put a paid sick leave referendum before voters on the November ballot. Proponents said it will reduce the number of workers who are uncompensated when ill.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will oversee and enforce the ordinance's provisions. It may impose civil penalties up to $500 per violation.
Louis Barrios, president and CEO of Los Barrios Enterprises, which operates several restaurants in San Antonio, warned in May that such an ordinance, which “looks good on the surface,” could inflict a significant amount of “collateral damage” on the city's economy.
Council members could have chosen to place the issue on the ballot in November. There was concern among some city officials that doing so would have created more confusion for voters who will see several charter amendments on the November ballot.