Ready or not, the City of San Antonio’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is going into effect August 1, and many unanswered questions remain regarding implementation. Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature did not manage to deliver on a preemption bill this legislative session, even though most thought it would be a slam dunk. The business community is now left to decipher how to comply.
A Paid Sick Leave Commission chaired by Councilman Manny Pelaez was appointed by City Council shortly after the ordinance was passed last August with the goal of developing recommendations to make it more acceptable to the business community and other nonprofit agencies. Your Chamber chose to not participate and focus on getting the ordinance preempted at the state, as it was our top legislative priority. However, we have been attending the meetings to stay on top of the issue. To-date guidelines have yet to be drafted, and questions brought forward by the business community have not been answered.
The ordinance mandates small employers to provide six days (48 hours) of paid sick time per year and medium-to-large employers eight days (64 hours). There would be delayed implementation for very small employers, no more than five employees, making the effective date August 1, 2021.
According to the ordinance, the Metro Health Director is authorized to carry out and enforce the provisions, educate employers and employees, render interpretations and to adopt policies and procedures in order to clarify and administer the application of the ordinance. As per the most recent Paid Sick Leave Commission meeting, these things are in the works but with August 1 right around the corner, the business community is becoming very concerned. Dr. Colleen Bridger, Metro Health Director and Interim Assistant City Manager has assured the Paid Sick Leave Commission that her department has been working for months on plans to implement through a 4-pronged approach:
- (Outreach – through 6 city-wide town halls between June 24-July 12);
- Compliance training;
- Resources; and
- Investigations and enforcement
Dr. Bridger also informed the commission that the City will hire four new employees by June 24 for the purposes of Paid Sick Leave compliance and enforcement.
We understand that delayed implementation is off the table, so we will now work to find clarification on the guidelines and method of enforcement. Your Chamber will be working to develop a one-page informational document as well as schedule some information sessions to help you understand the ordinance. We want to be the clearinghouse for any questions you may have regarding implementation. Please submit any questions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can consolidate and send to City Council. Below are some questions we have already received from our business members:
- Does this apply to interns?
- Does the ordinance include PTO?
- How will employers be informed of the ordinance?
- Following HR best practices regarding privacy, what type of documentation is needed of an allowable absence? For example, in the case of stalking, is a police report enough or does it need to be accompanied by a doctor’s note?
- What if an employee does not feel comfortable disclosing that they are experiencing domestic violence or does not want to file a police report?
- What protections does the employee have for being absent, even if excused as per the ordinance.
- How is “family” defined in the ordinance?
- What, if any technical support is the city going to provide to companies who operate in multiple municipalities in Bexar County?
In addition, the Metro Health Department has committed to having their own information sessions for businesses to attend, so we will make sure to share that information when it becomes available.
Your Chamber has and will continue to be at the forefront of all conversations regarding the Paid Sick Leave ordinance, both locally and at the state. Several of our Chamber members met with legislators, testified and wrote letters to stress the implications of a Paid Sick ordinance. We thank our members for providing feedback and offering to help advocate for a preemption bill. We now ask that you join us in seeking support and clarification from the City regarding implementation.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Reyes, Vice President of Public Policy at email@example.com.