How might the City of Austin manage and fund enforcement of a private employer paid sick leave ordinance?

by Doug Matthews, almost 2 years ago
CLOSED: This discussion has concluded. We are now reviewing all participant feedback and preparing our final report back to Council.

What is a reasonable process the City might use to enforce an ordinance if passed? 

Consultation has concluded

  • Laura R almost 2 years ago
    Robust outreach should be seen as a part of enforcement. When more employers are aware of the policy there should be less violations. Enforcement should be proactive (random audits) particularly of higher risk industries versus complaint driven. Penalties should be enough to deter non-compliance.
  • sclaytor almost 2 years ago
    Seconding Sarah's suggestions, they make a lot of sense and seem like they would enable efficiency :1. Require businesses to inform employees by posting the ordinance.2. Randomly audit or inspect businesses and issue as stiff of fines as possible if businesses are not giving the employees paid sick days that they have earned. 3. More moderate fines for businesses who make mistakes on the details. 4. Make it clear to Austinites where they can report an employer who isn’t letting their employees take paid sick days.
  • Wtaylor23 almost 2 years ago
    The city should give tax breaks to employers for compliance. Fines for non compliance.
  • WorkedMyButtOff almost 2 years ago
    This would be a quick way to deter business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and small business growth in Austin...that would not benefit anyone. City government simply does not have a role in this issue. There IS no equitable way to manage, enforce, and fund such an ordinance. I agree with Jennifer Stevens that local government should stick to a few things and do those things well. We all want this city to be the best it can be, but there is a limit on human and financial resources. We have to spend those resources wisely and this idea just isn't a good one, IMHO. (And just because other cities have done this doesn't mean it's the right thing for Austin. Wait and see how it plays out for them and their business communities in a few years. I will still be on the side of limited government interference in this area of business management.)
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, WorkedMyButtOff. -Moderator
    • Nolan almost 2 years ago
      There are thousands of people moving to Austin from the very places that have these policies. Why? Because Austin has a better cost of living (hard to believe), and has a better environment for start ups. Let's put two and two together...don't make Austin like those other places.
      Hide Replies (3)
      • Ashkan almost 2 years ago
        This is preposterous, there is no basis to say that people are moving away from other cities because of their earned paid sick leave policy or other aspects of the "environment for start ups." Most people are unconcerned with that environment, they are concerned about being able to pay for their rent and food. A robust earned paid sick leave policy alleviates some of those concerns. Perhaps when worker security is higher, more people will be able to contemplate their feelings on which city in the world has the best "start up environment" and how that might intersect with their own lives.
        Hide Replies (2)
        • Nolan almost 2 years ago
          Ashkan, thanks. I should have been clearer. I have seen a lot of people moving here from cities / regions that are more restrictive on business (not necessarily paid sick leave). I believe this policy could make it harder for businesses to start, succeed and grow (more administratively burdensome). Businesses (especially the small ones) are a group of people. If the businesses don't start, succeed and grow, then people lose their jobs (or new jobs aren't created) and there isn't as much opportunity for upward mobility. At least that is what I have seen happening. Why else would someone move from 72 degree California? Other than Texas is great...
          Hide reply (1)
          • Ashkan almost 2 years ago
            Fair enough, thank you for clarifying.
    • Tyson_512 almost 2 years ago
      Nobody is going to leave a city of a million people with a top-ranked university and a strong tech scene just because of a sick leave ordinance. Businesses will keep coming here because the customers with money are here, not in Buda or Kyle. Why is there no equitable way to enforce it? What's different about this than any other regulation?
  • Sarah almost 2 years ago
    1. Require businesses to inform employees by posting the ordinance.2. Randomly audit or inspect businesses and issue as stiff of fines as possible if businesses are not giving the employees paid sick days that they have earned. 3. More moderate fines for businesses who make mistakes on the details. 4. Make it clear to Austinites where they can report an employer who isn’t letting their employees take paid sick days.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Tyson_512 almost 2 years ago
      This is a great solution!
  • Arawin86 almost 2 years ago
    Introduce a tax on cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline tax. Small amount equally divided. Certain Employees may take advantage of sick leave pay.,hopefully not many. Having said that collect an annual report from HR or owner and supply an email or 1-800 number. Make sure it is fair and balance since both sides may have folks that abuse the system or slow to implement the system. Only instill the max for business 50 employees and over.
  • TheRationalAtheist almost 2 years ago
    Greetings! I think a mandatory body overseeing paid sick leave claims can be set up, or integrated in other bodies already overseeing violation of city ordinances. I don't think citizenry at large is familiar enough with the workings of the various legal bodies overseen by the City Hall, so a satisfactory answer is unlikely to emerge from popular consensus alone - I would advise amending your query to be more specific, by giving examples of existing options, for example. Have a glorious day -- The Rational Atheist.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Maryd almost 2 years ago
      So taxpayers pay to oversee a new policy that the majority probably don’t approve of in the first place. Why don’t we enact policies that do away with wasteful government spending?
  • Maryd almost 2 years ago
    This ordinance should not be passed. Thus, no enforcement issues would arise.
  • Nolan almost 2 years ago
    Could the city report the expected costs of enforcement? Perhaps the report could be tiered (complaint based, proactive, etc). If I am not mistaken, there is currently not a mechanism in place to enforce city labor laws and this would have to be created. I am skeptical that the city could do this well. I would prefer they use resources to enforce current labor laws that are poorly enforced (wage theft, OSHA Standards, etc). There are already laws in place that we should support. Additional question: Who would the enforcement team report to? I welcome answers and thoughts.
  • Ashkan almost 2 years ago
    It is critical that there is some sort of awareness campaign. This can be done in part by the businesses themselves- judging by their engagement in the stakeholder process, many employers are aware of this process and would be positioned to inform their employees. Enforcement should be both proactive and responsive. There should be random audits of businesses. These audits should be informed by available data on which industries violations are most likely to be found- for example, hospitality-related enterprises are common wage theft violators (happy to cite this), thus, these businesses may be more frequently audited than businesses with less history of violating workers' rights. For responsive or reactive enforcement- there should be an email and phone number where anyone can anonymously report a potential violation, triggering an investigation identical to the auditing procedure. This investigation should cover more than the single location reported if the business owners or managers are responsible for multiple locations, both because it is likely that a violation is not specific to one worker (reflective of management) and also to protect the identity of the reporter. Otherwise, a reporter of violations may be identified and punished (fired) for speaking out for their rights.
  • lillian_m almost 2 years ago
    This should be pro-actively enforced, not a complaint-based system. There are 223,000 workers in Austin without paid sick days. When this ordinance passes, a lot of those people might not hear the news or employers might intentionally keep the information from them. It's the city's responsibility to make sure people know
    Hide reply (1)
    • Nolan almost 2 years ago
      My only concern with this is the cost to the city. How expensive would it be to enforce a complaint based system and how expensive would it be to enforce proactively?
  • whiteke2 almost 2 years ago
    Although my employer already has a PTO policy that would meet similar paid leave ordinances in other cities, the compliance pains would outweigh the benefits. Our salaried, exempt employees currently do not have to track their time (and boy do they not want to). In order to prove that our employer has provided an hour of sick leave per 30 or 40 hours worked, every salaried employee would have to begin tracking their time. Employers have to stay competitive with the market, which is most critical. With Austin's low unemployment rate, employers are already improving benefits to be competitive. We do not need the government dictating this.
  • overreach 2017 almost 2 years ago
    The City can't manage its too-many responsibilities now. DON'T get involved in mandating sick leave policies for local employers. That will drive them away AND may run afoul of state or federal regulations.
    Hide reply (1)
    • TheRationalAtheist almost 2 years ago
      That's simply not true. The City can Manage lots of Tasks - the question is How to do it! Use your reason and answer will come. -- The Rational Atheist.
  • sbresnen almost 2 years ago
    The COA should not manage or fund employer paid sick leave. If we want to help make Austin more affordable, the COA cannot keep adding to the budget items that are not established municipal functions and deriving up the cost of employing people.
  • Renee787 almost 2 years ago
    The City already had such a bag log on building permits that it took me a year to get my most recent location open here in Austin. The building was ready for 3 months before I could use it. I had to take out a loan just to stay open while waiting for a permit! The City has enough on it's plate to enforce! Creating a section to enforce sick leave would be very costly and inefficient!
    Hide reply (1)
    • VAF84 almost 2 years ago
      Similar experience here. Permitting was a nightmare. Contributed to the early closure of my small business.COA can barely manage the essential (don’t get me started on traffic) and they want to get into trying to enforce more regulation. We don’t even have enough money to hire the necessary police officers to enforce the current laws that actually maintain safety. If this abomination comes to pass, try self enforcement. I think that’s about as good as it will get. Get companies to self report.
  • Renee787 almost 2 years ago
    It should not be passed! This is a free country and businesses should have the freedom to offer what they can to their employees. This will discourage business. Enforcing it would be a huge undertaking! The Texas Workforce Commission is already doing this job as needed and they get lied to all the time and have more cases than they can handle.How about assuming the best of business owner's here in Austin instead of assuming you have to regulate us in order for us to do the best we can for our community!!!!
  • strugglingsmallbizowner almost 2 years ago
    I suggest that the enforcement and lawsuits that follow be deducted from the Mayor, Council and their staff's payroll budget only.
  • bdm2701 almost 2 years ago
    Don't bother. Overbearing government interference is not welcome here.
  • TurboSpencer almost 2 years ago
    Well obviously on the backs of everyone that lives here. The city has NO business doing this and obviously could care less about affordability issues in this city. Instead they seem to just want to burnish their resumes to say they "did" something. This is between the employer and their employees. People are still free to quit if they wish and if the employer cannot find employees they will change their policies. That is the way it should work anyway.
  • gift almost 2 years ago
    Just what we need---more city employees/bureaucracy to control our populace (code enforcement can't even keep up with ongoing issues of unsafe rental housing, residential neighborhood concerns, etc.), disincentives to open and operate a small business in Austin, etc.
  • Ali Shu almost 2 years ago
    Impose fines and penalties on non-compliant employers. MASSIVE fines and penalties for retaliation against employees who file a complaint. Increasing fines and penalties correlated to the number of complaints. Revocation of business license if non-compliant over multiple complaints. Sick people going to work spread illnesses and disease which has a widespread detrimental effect, some of which ends up being addressed on the public nickel.
  • speedyguy almost 2 years ago
    This is another example of the COA placing themselves in an area that they do not need to be in. They are called private employers for a reason-they operate in the private sector. Businesses have a hard enough time sustaining themselves in the Austin area-between rising property taxes, sluggish permitting processes, employees getting to work on time due to poor traffic planning, being able to afford housing, etc. Mandating a HR policy is yet another layer added onto the cost of doing business in Austin. Sadly, this will give another reason for new businesses and existing businesses to look into moving to areas outside of the COH.
    Hide Replies (3)
    • someguy almost 2 years ago
      Agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. Let the market handle this- we don't need City Council dictating policies for local businesses.
      Hide reply (1)
      • Ali Shu almost 2 years ago
        The market would pay in chits if it were permitted to.
    • Ali Shu almost 2 years ago
      This is categorically a function of government.
  • mkcl almost 2 years ago
    This is none of the City’s business. Quit wasting your time and our taxpayer dollars.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, mkcl. -Moderator
  • Bo Delp almost 2 years ago
    The city must ensure robust enforcement of a paid sick day ordinance, where workers know their rights, can feel free to file a complaint with the city free from retaliation, and where employers are held accountable by appropriate city policies to deter employers. Employers who exploit workers and refuse to adhere to the paid sick days ordinance should be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Bo. -Moderator
  • mattwgore almost 2 years ago
    The easiest solution is not to pass additional regulation at the city level. However, if regulation is passed it should be vigorously and evenly enforced across employers. When regulations are poorly enforced, only ethical employers follow them and their unethical competitors gain an unfair advantage. One way to make enforcement less expensive would be to write a simple, narrowly defined law that is easy for enforcers, employers, and employees to understand.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, mattwgore; any suggestions about what the components would be of the simple, narrowly defined law you mention? -Moderator
  • Julia K almost 2 years ago
    Distributing information to employees about their rights and allowing employees to anonymously report employers who don't obey the ordinance. Fines should be levied against repeat offenders.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Julia. -Moderator
  • Wendykalthoff almost 2 years ago
    I am not sure because it is very difficult to enforce these rules.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comment, Wendy. -Moderator
  • Feedback2017 almost 2 years ago
    Should not be enforced
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comment, Feedback2017.
  • onefl almost 2 years ago
    The city should require employers to inform their employees about their rights under this ordinance. The city should also do its part in informing workers of their rights. Finally, a system to report employers for failing to follow the ordinance should be put in place.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, onefl. -Moderator
  • sbz almost 2 years ago
    Require all employers to inform their employees about the policy, and/or run a bilingual ad campaign to inform city residents so that employees know about it. There should be a mechanism for employees to report employers who don't comply with the law.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, sbz. -Moderator
  • kyleafh almost 2 years ago
    There should not be any mandate requiring a private company to provide any sort of incentive. When the government uses force to demand action it oversteps its boundaries. This is a case of totalitarianism that I will not stand for.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, kyleafh. -Moderator
  • Vivian Martin almost 2 years ago
    Through private companies’ reporting and audit processes that City staff oversee.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comment, Vivian. -Moderator
  • ayork almost 2 years ago
    Enforcement should be by complaint to the City with warnings for first offenders, escalating to small fines, then larger fines for repeat offenders. Repeat offenders could also be barred for some time from city contracts. City should bear the entire cost for advertising worker rights and methods for filing complaints. No obligation should be placed on employers. Funding the enforcement office should be limited to fines received.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, ayork. -Moderator
  • Annette Naish almost 2 years ago
    The City of Austin has become an entity that knows what is best for everyone who lives here. Somehow, I don't believe that to be true. Employers should be allowed to manage their business as they choose. If they do not treat employees fairly, they will no longer have employees. That should be simple enough for everyone to understand. Private enterprise is called that because it is owned privately. Allow that to remain true, even in Austin.
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    • dburg almost 2 years ago
      absolutely agree
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Annette. -Moderator
  • dburg almost 2 years ago
    this is a terrible idea and sure to discourage business start up and existing business's expansion. the COA needs to stay out of private enterprise.
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, dburg. -Moderator
  • JasonLockhart almost 2 years ago
    They should stay out of private negotiations between workers and employees. This question is foolish and assumes the government already belongs between two private, consenting parties, which it does not.
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, JasonLockhart. -Moderator
  • roger murray almost 2 years ago
    The city of Austin should not be involved with private business decisions and should stay out of it. It is absolutely none of their business. Adding addition code enforcement rules on private companies already stretched thin with city ordinances that are ridiculous is too much. All of which are costing everyone more money and you politicians should remember, (IT IS OUR MONEY). Stop acting like it is your money.
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Roger. -Moderator
  • Shelley almost 2 years ago
    It shouldn't. This whole thing is misguided. Just because other cities have done it is not a reason to do it. If we want vulnerable people to have a safety net when they get sick (and I agree that might be a nice thing) then the City of Austin should find a way to set it up, administer it, and pay for it. Please stay out of business and requiring more and more costs to do business in Austin. And keep in mind that a large and growing percentage of our workforce is independent contractors. A City-provided safety net could help them, too. This would not. This only hurts businesses and taxpayers, without much benefit to anyone.
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Shelley. -Moderator
  • Gary Stroud about 2 years ago
    By keeping your nose out of private employer business you are helping.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Gary. -Moderator
  • Rob Turk about 2 years ago
    The City of Austin has zero business dictating to private employers what their policies should be. People will want to work places that have good time-off policies, and they will not want to work places with bad policies. If you want to give generous paid time off to City employees, hold a bond election and raise the funds to pay for it. But you shouldn't be making it more expensive to do business in Austin than it already is due to high taxes and high rents. You will just cause businesses to close and that will hurt the people you claim you want to help. Unemployed people have TOO MUCH time off, and its unpaid.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Rob. -Moderator
  • Tres about 2 years ago
    A private employer should not have a sick leave policy dictated to them by the City of Austin.
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Tres. -Moderator
  • Larry Sunderland about 2 years ago
    Here is the problem will all things ordinance. How to enforce it? How much will it cost, how will it be funded, how big a priority is it in the scheme of things and does it actually provide a benefit to those folks it purports to help? Short answer you don't know and no.
    Hide reply (1)
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Larry; could you share more about why you think it does not a provide a benefit to those folks it purports to help? -Moderator
  • Jennifer Stevens about 2 years ago
    The City of Austin should STOP with mandates that COST jobs and COST more tax money and should focus on doing a few things and doing them well. The City of Austin MUST cut taxes, significantly, if we hope to make the city affordable again.
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    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Jennifer. -Moderator
  • Gordon Walton about 2 years ago
    The last thing this city government needs is more "enforcers" or more funding for excessive regulation.
    Hide Replies (2)
    • Jennifer Stevens about 2 years ago
      Amen
    • Larry Schooler almost 2 years ago
      Thanks for your comments, Gordon. -Moderator
  • mturpin almost 2 years ago
    Removed by moderator.