San Antonio Lawmaker Would Make Mandatory Sick Pay a Statewide Law

Since opponents of San Antonio's mandatory sick leave ordinance say setting private employer wages is a matter for the state, a San Antonio lawmaker has introduced a bill to make paid sick leave mandatory statewide, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) says the law would actually increase business productivity.

"I know people who have worked in pain, due to something that could have developed into a long term sickness or injury," Menendez told News Radio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board.

San Antonio Council, under prodding from organized labor groups, approved a measure last summer which mandates that employers provide sick leave benefits up to 50 hours a week for every full time employee. The vote came after workers in several fields, but generally in the restraurant and hospitality industries, complained of having to go to work while they were sick, because they can't afford to miss a paycheck, or to send their kids to school sick, because they can't afford to miss work to stay home with them.

The opposition to the San Antonio law, and to a similar law approved in Austin, both in the Legislature and in lawsuits filed against San Antonio's law by business groups, is based on the fact that state law overrides local ordinances which dictate workplace benefits. So Menendez says if that is the case, then the easiest avenue is to rewrite state law.

"No one likes being told what they have to do," Menendez says of businesses which oppose paid sick leave. "But some times you have to do the right thing."

Menendez' bill does not carry the inspection requirements included in the city ordinance, which had bothered businesses. Many said they don't mind paying sick leave, but they don't care for the idea of having to keep detailed records, and face a costly city 'audit' of their books if an employee filed a complaint.

But Menendez' bill does vastly expand the definition of sick leave, allowing employees to claim 'sick days' for things like moving, helping a family member move, and participate in a legal proceding, as well is the sickness of an employee or a family members.

Menendez' bill allows one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours an employee works, up to at least 64 hours per calendar year of paid sick leave, or eight days, and it also allows the accrued sick leave to 'roll over,' from year to year.

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