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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council is going forward with its sick pay ordinance. It passed early Friday morning around 12:40 a.m. Council members Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair voted against it. The ordinance takes effect Oct. 1.
The vote came after four hours of public feedback, and about an hour of debate over amendments. The ordinance says that denying earned sick time to employees “is unjust,” “is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the City” and “contributes to employee turnover and unemployment, and harms the local economy.”
“This is going to affect a lot of people in our city that probably are right now coming into work sick and probably serving food on days that they shouldn’t be,” Mayor Steve Adler said after the vote.
WATCH: Local business owners debate pros and cons of sick pay ordinance
The ordinance will allow all Austin employees to earn up to eight paid sick days each year, accruing one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers will not be allowed to ask for a doctor’s note unless employees miss three straight days of work.
While the council chamber was packed with those supporting the measure, some small business owners spoke before council saying while they are for paid sick leave, some of the wording in the ordinance is tricky.
“One of the biggest issues with the language that we have an issue with is the subpoena power that the city is giving themselves,” says Frank Fuentes with the US Hispanic Contractors Association. “When somebody will file a complaint, the city gets the subpoena power to request or get the books from small businesses. It’s unimaginable. It’s very worrisome to small businesses because now they will have to find a way to defend themselves.”
Mayor Adler tried to calm the fears of business owners.
“I understand and I appreciate the concerns that many businesses have about the potential impact, but there have been lots of studies in lots of cities that have done this, and it just does not bear out the way some of the businesses are concerned, and I would expect the experience in Austin to be the same,” Adler said.
Troxclair, who voted against the measure, got emotional during some of the feedback for the way the public was reacting.
“Being in this room tonight and hearing this crowd hiss at people who have given up their time away from their families to testify. I take responsibility for what I say up here and the votes that I take, but it was so incredibly disrespectful for those people to be treated the way that they were tonight, and so I have no doubt that that’s exactly how they were treated throughout this inclusive stakeholder process.”
The new ordinance will impact an average of 200,000 people.
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