Ahead of ‘paid sick leave' vote, businesses speak out

Thursday evening the Austin City Council is set to discuss Council Member Greg Casar’s “item 49” — earned paid sick time standards. “We’ve applied an even standard that you should be able to earn at least 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work regardless of whether you're working for an out of town company or an in-town company. Regardless of whether it's a really big company or a moderate sized company,” Casar told FOX 7.

The one-size fits all approach is not sitting well with some council members, including Ellen Troxclair.

“Not only does the City itself not offer mandatory paid sick leave to all of its employees, but our City staff has no idea how much this is going to cost because even they haven’t had enough time to fully understand the impact,” she said.

Frank Fuentes is with the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association.

“Whenever you have an ordinance that is written such as this...an ordinance that gives the city subpoena power based on a complaint, we should be appalled. That’s un-American,” he said.

Fuentes says it makes the companies he represents feel vulnerable

“In a private industry that hires a tremendous amount of undocumented workers...that’s worrisome to a lot. I think that community would be affected,” Fuentes said.

Thursday afternoon just hours ahead of the discussion Council Member Casar posted an updated version of his ordinance. It still applies to all businesses but it does give micro-businesses with 5 or fewer employees until 2020 to get this figured out.

The revised ordinance also says a small business, no more than 15 employees, will only have to pay a cap of 48 hours of earned sick time to an employee per year.

The cap is 64 hours for companies larger than 15.

Rita Conner, president of 360 Electrical Contractors says she has 19 employees.

“If it was even at a minimum of 40 hours per year for the small number of employees we have, we’re looking at $25,000 a year just for being paid sick leave. And that’s a lot of money. May not be a lot of money to the big guys but it really hits home when you’re a small company like we are,” Conner said.

Robert Mayfield owns Austin-area Dairy Queens and Wally’s Burger Express. He says they don’t pay sick time but they do take care of their employees. “What we do is we let them make up the time say the next week when we have time, say it’s overtime. We look after these folks,” Mayfield said.