Texas Sick Leave Law

Eligible Employees

The Texas sick leave law allows state employees to accrue eight hours of sick time benefit per month. Part-time employees are also given the sick leave benefit at a proportionate rate.

A different rule applies to state employees in higher education institutions. To be eligible for state sick leave, they should have at least 20 hours of workload weekly for no less than 4.5 months.

Texas doesn’t have its own Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and, therefore, follows the federal rules in determining an employee’s eligibility.

An employee’s work history must reflect that they have worked for 1250 hours in the last 12 months to be eligible for FMLA benefits. On the other hand, part-time employees’ sick leave benefits are often not covered by FMLA law.

However, the FMLA requires employees to use all their paid leave (vacation and sick) before accessing sick leave under the law. That is unless an employee is on workers’ compensation or temporary benefits.

Covered Employers

Regrettably, neither Texas State nor federal laws require private employers to provide paid or unpaid sick leave benefits to their employees.

Nonetheless, big companies and firms often bring compelling sick leave offers as part of their strategy to attract competent employees.

Employers are legally obliged to grant their employees sick leave if their handbooks mention such policies.  Private-sector employers are advised to consult with employment counsel for further legal advice relating to sick leave benefits.

Suppose a public or private company, agency, or school employer has 50 or more employees employed within a 75-mile radius. In these cases, such employers are obliged to grant their employees paid or unpaid sick leave under the FMLA.

Texas Sick Leave Ordinance

A 2018/19 ordinance mandated employers with six or more employees to provide one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work. Respective ordinances were mandated in three cities: Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.

However, the federal court only filed a legal challenge against the Dallas ordinance after it was enacted on August 1, 2019. The Federal court enjoined the Dallas paid sick leave ordinance on March 31, 2021, stating that the ordinance doesn’t align with the Texas city Minimum Wage Act.

The court dismissed the ordinance, reasoning that making the paid sick leave compulsory was equivalent to mandating higher wages. Such an ordinance could result in a rise in the state minimum wage limit.

Sick and Safe Leave Accrual

Public employees can immediately take a month’s worth of sick leave on the first day of employment.

After that, one month’s accrual leave is credited to their leave record at the beginning of every month during their employment. Additionally, employees can carry the unused hours forward to the next month.

Under FMLA law, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave in a 12-month duration. The 12 weeks of leave are renewed annually for covered employees and can be used at once or intermittently.

Suppose an employee is on sick leave to care for a family member or near-blood relative with an illness or injury resulting from military duty. In such cases, the outside limit of the FMLA law is 26 weeks.

Private sector employees accrue sick leave at the rate specified in their company policies if they have any.

Texas public employers are also required to have an Extended Sick Leave Policy. This policy allows discretionary time off for ill employees if they have exhausted all their paid leaves. There is also a Sick Leave Pool available in many state agencies to which employees can prudently donate their partial or full sick leave accrual.

Permitted Uses

Given the aforementioned criteria, employees in the following situations can be granted sick leave without a deduction in their salary.

  1. The employee is sick, injured, or pregnant and is unable to perform their responsibilities well in the workspace.
  2. The employee’s immediate family member is ill or in need of immediate medical attention.

FMLA Leave Eligibility

Eligible employees are granted FMLA leave under the following conditions:

  1. When the employee has a serious health condition
  2. When the employee has an immediate family member with a serious health condition
  3. When the employee is about to give birth, adopt a child, or welcome a foster child into their home
  4. When the employee needs to attend to any urgencies related to a child’s, spouse’s, or parent’s active military duty
  5. When the employee is caring for injuries and illnesses suffered by an immediate family member or near-blood relative from active military duty

Immediate Family Member Defined

Individuals residing in the same household and being related by kinship, marriage, or adoption and foster children are considered immediate family members of the employee. Minor children, despite their residency, are immediate family members per the law.

Texas Sick Leave Law Use, Requirements, and Limits

Employees will not accrue sick leave on the month they’re on paid/unpaid leave. If an employee is on leave, they’re not entitled to the sick time leave accrued through that month unless they return to work.

That being said, there’s no limitation to the accrual of sick days in state agencies, and the remaining balance is forwarded to next month.

Suppose an employee needs to leave work in the case of children’s educational activities. Such an employee is allowed to use eight hours of their sick leave in one fiscal year for this purpose. However, the benefit is only provided if the child is studying in grades K-12.

Employee Notice of Use Requirement

The Texas sick leave law, like in any other state, requires employees to notify their supervisors or responsible authority on the earliest date possible.

Unless the employee has taken a long-term leave or made an agreement with the agency accordingly, they are mandated to inform their absence each morning.

Suppose the leave is for more than three days. An employee should submit medical reports or a doctor’s statement clarifying the nature of the illness to their employer.

Payment for Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Upon Separation From Employment

When it comes to accrued but unused leave payouts, no employers are legally required to make any payouts. In case of an employee’s death, half their sick time leave balance with a limit of 336 hours is paid to their estate.

Moreover, employers should restore sick leave balances to employees re-employed within 12 months of being terminated or subjected to a formal workforce reduction.

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