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What does San Antonio’s sick leave ordinance say about stress and hangovers?

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – Is a hangover a legitimate excuse for taking a day off under San Antonio’s new Paid Sick Leave ordinance?

That was just one of the questions that came up during Wednesday’s crowded information session at the Pre-K 4 SA facility on Eisenhauer Road.

Acting Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger says the answer is “yes.”

“You feel sick. You feel like you have the flu, but if you use that hangover excuse frequently, you may lose your job,” Bridger told KTSA News.

Someone else asked about mental health issues, and whether an employee can get paid sick leave because he or she claims to be stressed out. The answer again is “yes.”

Most in the audience Wednesday were business owners who are growing more concerned with time running out before  the ordinance goes into effect.

Page’s Printing owner Shannon Dunn expressed her frustration.

“We’ve got people in government offices making these laws that don’t help the employers or small businesses,” she told KTSA News. “One of the companies that we have ties with has 35 employees and this is going to cost them $31,000 a year to implement this.”

Many of the questions raised online and at the information session Wednesday concerned the accrual of paid sick leave hours.

The ordinance states that an employee accrues at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. An employer with 1-15 workers (excluding family member employees) must provide accrual of 48 hours of paid sick leave per year as a minimum. Larger businesses must provide accrual of 64 hours of paid sick leave per year as a minimum.

Starting August first, San Antonio businesses with more than 5 employees will have to start paying sick leave to those who work more than 80 hours a year. Companies with five employees or less won’t have to abide by the city’s paid sick leave ordinance until 2021.

Even those businesses located outside the city will have to pay sick leave to employees who do work within the San Antonio city limits.

While the ordinance goes into effect August first for the larger companies, there will be a grace period.  From August 1 to April 1, 2020, no penalties will be assessed . The focus will be on education and helping businesses comply.

However, penalties will be assessed during that time for retaliation.  An employer may not transfer, demote, discharge, suspend, or reduce hours or directly threaten these actions against an employee for requesting or using paid sick leave or for reporting a violation. Penalties are $500 per violation.

Sylvia Arriola with Bexar County Home Care, a private business, says there are good intentions, but the ordinance needs some tweaking.

“I foresee, more than likely, a lawsuit being filed or a temporary restraining order until the kinks can be ironed out,” she said.

San Antonio Metro Health, which is overseeing implementation of the Paid Sick Leave ordinance, will hold two more information sessions before the ordinance goes into effect.  They are scheduled from 5:30 to 7 pm July 18 at the Central Library on Soledad, and 2 to 3:30 pm July 22 at the San Antonio Food Bank on Enrique Barrera Parkway.

Elda Martinez, Director of Human Resources at San Antonio Museum of Art, found Wednesday’s session informative.

“We don’t currently offer paid sick leave to part-time, on-call or seasonal employees, so we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to comply with the ordinance,” she told KTSA News.

You can see a list of Frequently Asked Questions concerning the paid sick leave ordinance here.


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