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San Antonio Prepares For Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Enforcement

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
Employers and employees of various businesses in San Antonio listen to a presentation lead by San Antonio Metro Health

Starting in August, San Antonio employers are required to offer paid sick leave to employees — or they could face a $500 fine each time they don’t.

The ordinance was drafted by Working Texans for Paid Sick Leave, and initiated by obtaining more than 140,000 signatures. The 86th Texas Legislature did not create a ban on municipal paid sick leave as some city officials expected. Now the city is preparing for the enforcement of the ordinance by providing education workshops.

Employers and employees packed the information session held at Stinson Municipal Airport on Thursday. It was the first of five additional sessions the city has planned. Jennifer Herriott is the interim director of San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health Department, which will oversee the ordinance.

“We’ve had to bring on a team of three people very quickly to help work on this ordinance, but the fact is we’ve been researching and looking at what other communities have been doing throughout the country, so we’re very ready to implement the ordinance and share best practices with the community,” she said.

The paid sick leave ordinance requires employers to provide one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. However, how much sick time can be accrued differs based on company size.

Companies with 15 employees or less must offer at least 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. If a company has more than 15 employees, it must offer at least 68 hours per year. Compliance for companies with less than five employees won’t begin until mid-2021. The sick leave must be available to all employees, regardless of full-time or part-time status.  It does not apply to independent contractors or unpaid interns at all. 

The ordinance goes into enforcement on Aug. 1, with a grace period for the first few months.

“This first eight-month period between now and April 1, we are helping them in terms of compliance we’re not going to be issuing violations with the exception of retaliation,” she said.

Employees hired are immediately available to start earning sick time but must work at least 80 hours in a year to be eligible. The civil penalties for violating the ordinance can reach up to $500 per instance. An employer may be provided 10 days to comply with the violation before a penalty is assessed.

The ordinance will only affect companies with a business that operates in San Antonio.

For example, if an Austin-based business has a brick-and-mortar office, restaurant or storefront inside San Antonio limits, all of the employees in that building must be offered paid sick leave. But if that same company has a brick-and-mortar storefront or office outside of San Antonio, employees at that location are not covered by the ordinance.

Mark Matheny owns James Francis Electric, which has about 33 employees in San Antonio. He attended Thursday’s session and said he supports employee rights but being required to offer sick leave a certain way may force his company to scale back on other benefits like health insurance.

“It’s tough environment and there’s just not that kind of money available so unfortunately we’ll have to look at other options. This is going to affect the bottom line of the employees whether it comes in health insurance benefits,” he said. “We’ll just have to look at cutting costs in other places. There’s just not enough money to survive like this.”

Joleen Garcia is with the Texas Organizing project which helped gather the signatures that created the ordinance. She said San Antonio will set an example on municipal paid sick leave.

“I think San Antonio is going to prove itself to be a leader when it comes to implementing employment rights,” Garcia said.

The next information session on the ordinance will be  Monday, July 1 at the Urban Ecology Center in Hardberger Park at 5 p.m. 

 

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.