It Could Become the San Antonio 'Paid Sick and Safe Time' Ordinance

A committee is recommending to San Antonio City Council that the controversial Mandatory Sick Leave Ordinance become the 'Sick and Safe Time' Ordinance, as paid leave for victims of domestic violence would be added to the law, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The ordinance is currently on hold until December as the City and business groups try to work out details, and Council is taking an opportunity to tweak the law.

Another change recommended by attorney Danielle Hargrove, who chairs the Citizens Committee on Paid Sick eliminate special exemptions for the smallest employers, and require all companies to play by the same rules. The ordinance currently exempts small employers from compliance for one year, and also allow smaller companies to provide fewer paid sick days.

But Hargrove said if the ordinance is all about public health, it doesn't make sense to continue to exempt some sick employees from receiving benefits under the law.

"It did not bode well for publci health to still allow employees to not take sick leave when they are sick, even for small employers," she told City Council at a special work session.

Another change would end the 'waiting period' before a new employee could use paid sick leave, making them eligible at the time of their hire.

Hargrove said one of the reasons behind the laws is to make San Antonio's ordinance significantly different from similar laws approved in Austin and Dallas, which are now under attack in the courts. She says if the San Antonio ordinance is different, than it would nor be automatically thrown out if a judge rules against the other laws.

Business groups statewide are concerned about the impact of mandatory sick leave ordinances on their ability to schedule employees, and their impact on their profitability.

But Dr. Jennifer Romich, a professor at the University of Washington who has studies a 'Sick and Safe Time' ordinance which has been on the books in Seattle since 2013, told City Council via video hook up that, while businesses there expressed some of the same concerns before that ordinance took effect, by and large their fears have not materlialized.

"By the end of the first year, most employers in Seattle supported the ordinance, and worker viewed it as helpful," she said.

"In our one year survey and our follow up interviews, businesses reproted that the costs were modest, and were far smaller than anticipated," she said.

She said the fear which has also been expressed by Texas employers, that workers will call in sick when they are not sick, to avoid heavy work loads, or, in the case of tipped employees at restaurants, would call in sick during slow times because they can actually make more money collecting sick pay, also did not materialize.

She said only two of 24 who were interviewed in Seattle had any suspicions of workers faking being sick because of the ordinance, and each only had one worker who's sick claim was questionable.

San Antonio's law is still set to take effect on December 1.

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