Should Texas Workers Be Guaranteed Paid Sick Leave?

The City of Austin has passed an ordinance requiring employers to provide sick leave to workers. Other Texas cities are considering similar measures.

By Jan Ross PiedadMay 16, 2018 9:30 am| , , , ,

From Texas Public Radio:

About 40 percent of Texas workers lack access to paid sick time, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

If offered by an employer, paid sick time would continue to compensate workers for hours lost because of illness, injury, medical appointments, or time off to take care of a family member.

At 22 percent, workers in food preparation and serving-related jobs have the least access to paid sick time compared to other occupations in Texas.

Ale Tierra-Williams, a San Antonio-based cook, says the issue is not only a professional concern but also a matter of public health.

“The thing is that I work in the service industry so I cannot be at work if I’m sick,” she says. “So that will be, for me, it’s losing hours, losing money and possibly getting fired. It’s that serious.”

Currently, there are no state or federal laws requiring paid sick time.

Salena Santibanez, who owns a small business in the construction industry in San Antonio, says she would be in favor of more support for employees, especially those working manual labor.

“This is very much a way of supporting the working class, and not only supporting them but valuing them,” Santibanez says. “It’s not only for us as small business owners to appreciate our workforce, but then it’s to say that we talk the talk but we walk the walk, and I think that’s a holistic approach for our city.”

Almost 354,000 people in the San Antonio area and about 302,000 workers in Dallas lack access to paid sick time.

These are two Texas municipalities with petition campaigns for guaranteed paid sick time, following Austin after the state capital became the first city in the South to approve a local ordinance earlier this year.

Austin’s mandate is currently the subject of a legal challenge arguing that local governments are overreaching on the role of employers.

Robert Henneke is the lead counsel for a coalition of Texas business groups, which filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin to prevent the ordinance from taking effect on October 1.

He told Texas Public Radio’s “The Source” that debate about paid sick leave could be a key issue for the next state legislative session.

“I think anything that San Antonio is looking to do needs to wait for now,” Henneke says. “Wait to see how the pending lawsuit turns out, wait to see how the Texas legislature handles this when they come into session in January, because if there’s going to be a policy adopted, it’s really best for the entire Texas economy for it to be addressed on a statewide basis rather than there to be this patchwork quilt of regulations depending on cities and different cities having different policies.”

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, over 4 million Texans working in the private sector lack access to paid sick time.