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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — City Council members have approved an ordinance requiring all non-government employers in Austin to offer workers paid sick leave, becoming the first city in Texas to do so.

The Austin City Council voted 9-2 Friday morning in favor of the ordinance. The vote came after more than 200 people testified on the issue, with a majority in favor of the ordinance.

“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,” said Steve Adler, mayor of Austin.

The ordinance will allow those who work for an Austin business with 15 or more employees to earn up to eight paid sick days each year, accruing one hour for every 30 worked. Any unused time can be carried over to the next year.

“I’ve seen firsthand what this can do,” said Ryan Garrett, general manager of Stubb’s Barbecue. “I’ve seen what this can do to morale. … It means the world to the people I work with, and it is 100 percent the right thing to do.”

Some small businesses testified that the ordinance’s wording isn’t inclusive for them.

“One of the biggest issues with the language that we have an issue with is the subpoena power that the city is giving themselves,” said Frank Fuentes with the U.S. 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.”

Employers who violate the ordinance will be fined up to $500 by the city.

Former state Sen. Wendy Davis said that Austin is becoming a progressive leader in the region.

“You have continually led the way for other cities in this state and across the country on what good governance looks like,” she said.

The ordinance will take effect Oct. 1.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman,