Keeping It Well in Austin: The City Will Now Mandate Paid Sick Leave

Shot of a young businesswoman blowing her nose while texting on a cellphone in an office
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Looks like in addition to keeping it weird, Austin is trying to keep it well.

At least that’s what the Austin City Council is attempting to do by being the first city in the southern United States to pass a law requiring private businesses to offer paid sick leave.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2018, employers with more than five employees must offer workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers with five or fewer employees will be subject to the same law, but it will not go into effect until Oct. 1, 2020.

To help protect employers, the law also includes caps on the amount of leave workers can earn: 64 hours for companies with more than 15 employees and 48 hours for companies with 15 or fewer employees.

Austin joins other cities like Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago and Washington D.C. and eight states — Arizona, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — that guarantee paid sick leave.

But as the only city in Texas to pass this policy so far, Austin could face the same fate as Milwaukee, which passed a city-level law in 2008 only to have a state law prohibiting mandated paid sick leave override the ordinance. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker argued the city’s paid sick leave policy was a barrier to creating jobs.

The benefits of having a sick day are not limited to the health benefits of, you know, getting well. It also decreases the spread of germs to co-workers — helpful considering the particularly awful flu season we’ve enjoyed this year — and could be essential to workers living paycheck to paycheck.

So to the rest of the South, wash your hands and try to stay well, y’all.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s grateful every day to work at a company that offers paid sick leave.