Earned Sick Time Update: The Final Rules

At the time of this writing, two things have happened:
1. The implementation of the Ordinance is in limbo. Originally passed to take effect on October 1, 2018, lawsuits, appeals and counter suits have put this date on hold. Only the courts can activate this so it’s in a wait and see position. Of course the Texas Legislature (in session in January) can kill the ordinance passed by the Austin City Council, rendering it null and void.
So what is a business owner to do? The on, off, on, off again process has left the local business community confused about implementation. My advice is to treat your employees like family (in all the good ways), be fair always and generous when you can. Prepare for the regulations and stand by.
2. The Rules for Investigation of Complaints and Assessment of Civil Penalties under City Code Chapter 4-90 (the Earned Sick Time Ordinance) have been approved and contain a couple of surprises. The entire document is 411 pages and includes comments and answers during a public participation period addressing, not the ordinance, but the rules. Most all of the comments are contained in an 80 page chart which I did read.
At the end of this input, the city made a few changes to the rules. The most concerning is that they increased the penalties to businesses, effectively doubling the fines of businesses with fewer than 14 employees. Just to note, of 80 pages of comments, 12 people requested that the fines be raised and thus it was so.
The time investigators have to schedule interviews was shortened from 10 days to 8 days. The time to complete a final determination was shortened from 120 days to 75 days. 10 people requested some form of shortened process time.
While the most requested change (from both sides of the issue) was to add an appeals process. 13 people requested this. There is no option for an appeal of a determination in the rules and none was added.
No request for any adjustment from a business or business entity was granted.
Once again, it appears that divisiveness rules the day and local business loses.

The Damage Done

Dear Local Businesses,
I’ve spent more than 10 years advocating for you at city hall. Some of that effort included educating and wooing city officials. Some of that time was spent fighting for you even when the odds weren’t in our favor.
I’m not one to shy away from a good fight for a good cause. But the fights this year have not been good, they’ve been divisive by design. They’ve been created to make a point. While the victors relish their success at any cost, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment of the damage left behind. The damage of disregard and disrespect of local business. The damage of allowing the demonization of local business at city hall.
I have been deeply affected by this damage and find myself in a dark place. The community of local businesses that I care so much for is under attack. Our beloved local businesses have been labeled the enemy. This is a new reality that is difficult to face and even harder to comprehend. It’s led me to many sleepless nights and a lot of soul searching. Not only for me, but for all the amazing local business owners I know. This is painful. I know you to be kind, supportive community folks who strive to do good and turn a modest profit, not at the expense of your employees but in concert with your team. How has an orchestrated political agenda come to define us otherwise?
Should public policymaking include great debates? Of course. Should stakeholders fight hard for what they believe in? Certainly. But we don’t destroy one another in our quest to win—until now.
Many of you know that Jim Murphy recently sold Sweetish Hill Bakery. I wrote to him saying AIBA would miss him. His reply was shocking:
 “And I have to say that council meeting was a real turning point for me. I walked out of there and decided I was done owing a business in Austin. And it had nothing to do with the Sick Pay ordinance, but rather the way business owners were treated by the council and the Mayor.”
While Jim took immediate and drastic action, he is not alone in this sentiment. Who believes that destroying someone’s business so painstakingly built is acceptable damage?
Austin is filled with smart, creative and compassionate people. We are better than this. I’ve grappled with how to engage in challenging this new reality. I am unwilling to damage others in pursuit of, well, anything. I am unwilling to demonize employees or anyone else to make a point. I care too deeply about the importance of having thriving local business to let short-sighted political agendas divide us.
I am an unapologetic and optimistic idealist. I believe that the only effective way to solve community problems is to work together. I believe that most people are inherently good and do try to do the right thing. I believe in you, Austin. And that is the light that brings me out of this dark place.
AIBA has begun charting a path to bring us together to solve our issues with A Better Process Proposal. This was crafted with a team of two conservatives and two liberals working together to produce a draft that gives us a starting point for gathering the best ideas to address community problems in a way that achieves the best long-term results for everyone-—employees, businesses and the public.
Thank you awesome local business owners for being who you are. You are my light.
Warmest regards as always,
Rebecca
Rebecca Melançon, Executive Director, AIBA

Why Care about Independent, Locally Owned Businesses?

Locally owned businesses play a central role in healthy communities and are among the best engines that cities and towns have for advancing economic opportunity and building resilient places. Small business ownership has been a pathway to the middle class for generations of Americans and continues to be a crucial tool for expanding prosperity and community self-determination. Here, we outline five important reasons for local officials to support independent businesses, based on a growing body of research. READ MORE.

City of Austin Redesigns 380 Incentive Policy. And It’s NOT Good News!

We Believe…

We believe that the pursuit of owning a local business is the pursuit of happiness.


We believe
 that locally owned businesses run by people who care about our community are the foundation of a healthy local economy, not by creating commerce over people but by creating commerce with people.

We believe
 that local business is more than the exchange of money for goods and services. It is the action of needs being fulfilled, of human to human interaction. The “hello, how are you doing?” from a clerk, the smile from a waiter or a warm greeting from your favorite barista give us connectivity and a sense of place. Yes, I do need a cup of coffee. But I also need your smile, the chatter of other customers, the scent of warm pastries.

We believe
 that connectivity means more than 100 people in a room exchanging business cards. That’s an exchange of information. True connectivity comes from shared experiences, shared struggles, shared hopes and dreams. Local business owners share a connectivity because of who they are—they all had the ambition and courage to pursue a talent, a passion, a dream.

We believe
 in sharing while competing. Competition makes us all better at what we do. It compels us to push harder and strive longer. But competition should not be at the destruction of others. We all benefit from a healthy local business ecosystem and helping others is part of that.
Come join us in these beliefs. Come join your peers. Become an AIBA member.

Thoughts on Predictive Scheduling? 3 Minute Survey

Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. AIBA is seeking to engage our members and the larger local business community in dialogue about possible upcoming issues with the intent of having a voice in the larger community debate.
The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was destructive and divisive. We want to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (in some municipalities it is X days and others are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don’t know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions.
The City Council will likely address this issue with specific parameters that must be adhered to or penalties will be applied. The specific ordinance is yet to be written but it will determine specifications such as how much advance notice is required (could be a few days to several weeks), what happens if an employer needs to change the schedule after it is set and what penalties will apply.
We would really value your input on this issue. Please take a few minutes to give us your thoughts. We will share your voice with our elected officials.
This survey was created by AIBA’s Better Process Committee. The Committee seeks to add civility and respect to the governance of our city and the creation of its policies. The information gathered in this survey will help us advocate for local business. All indetity and contact information will be kept confidential.