San Antonio Council Today will Approve Revised Mandatory Sick Pay Law

With the fate of the measure in the courts very much in doubt, San Antonio City council today willl approve the new version of the city's mandatory sick leave law, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

It is now the 'Safe and Sick Leave Ordinance,' according to Joleen Garcia, whose group the Texas Organizing Project has fought for the measure.

"There are about 340,000 workers who currently do not have this benefit, which would receive it after this law is approved," she said.

The law now includes provisions allowing employees to receive paid time off, for example, if they are victims of domestic violence.

She says business groups which have attended numerous open meetings designed to improve the ordinance have generally expressed their support.

"So many people didn't realize how beneficial this ordinance will be to our community," Garcia said.

A study done at the University of Washington showed that similar complaints have been heard in Seattle before a mandatory Sick Leave Ordinance ws approved there, and in teh several years since the law has been in place, the study showed that many of the concerns raised by business groups, worried about excessive city regulation of their finances and oversight of their operations, did not come to pass. In fact, many of the employers who opposed the Seattle ordinance have come to embrace it.

"I think that the new ordinance is in the spirit of the original ordinance," Garcia said. "It covers the majority of workers who lack paid sick leave in San Antonio."

The new ordinance removed 'carve outs' which allowed smaller employers to avoid the main provisions of the ordinance, and requre that all employers follow the law.

The law will not take effect until December 1 under a compromise worked out with the city and several business groups.

Threats of legal action to try to have the ordinance overturned in court are still being heard. Many legal observers say the city ordinance runs foul of a state law which reserves for the state the ability to set wagest, arguing that requiring an employer to pay a person for work they do not perfrom amounts a a violation of the state's minimum wage law.

But Garcia says the new ordinance hopes to get around that provision by casting it as a benefit, which local governments can mandate, and not as a wage.

A similar law in place in Austin has been thrown out by an appeals court, so the eventual fate of the San Antonio ordinance remains uncertain.

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