Industry Article

Austin’s Sick Pay Law: 4 Questions Employers Should Ask

At face value, offering paid sick leave for full-time employees seems like a great idea. Who would be opposed to the city mandating it? The Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Technology Council are, for starters. That’s because the issue is much more nuanced than meets the eye. Opposition isn’t necessarily about whether offering paid sick leave is a good idea, but whether it should be mandated at the city level and, additionally, with blanket requirements across all industries and sectors.

If you’re an employer in Austin, below are four questions you should be asking.

1. Does a blanket law make sense?
Austin Technology Council CEO Barbary Brunner told the Austin Business Journal that her organization is against the city adopting standardized, mandatory sick leave requirements.
In her own words: “While I appreciate there may be issues with some business sectors, tech companies develop PTO, sick leave and vacation policies that best suit their innovative environments and businesses, and they are already very favorable for the employee. Most also have generous work-from-home policies as well. Requiring tech companies to adopt the same PTO policy as retail and service industries have may actually create a more restrictive sick-leave policy for workers in tech businesses….”

2. Should it even be a municipal issue at all?
We found 14 states — including neighboring Oklahoma and Louisiana — have enacted statewide bans on similar local-level mandates. Why? Mandating paid sick leave at a municipal level can put businesses within city limits at a disadvantage.
As we told the Austin Business Journal, “the Louisiana legislature recognized that employee benefits like paid sick leave ‘comprise the most significant expense of operating a business’ and that requiring it from businesses at the municipal level can put those businesses at a severe competitive disadvantage. In short, mandates like this one are bad for small- and mid-sized businesses in Austin. It will become yet another reason to not start, keep or move a business here.”

3. Can it really be opposed?
Austin City Council (led on this issue by Council Member Greg Casar) asserts that it has been providing public forums to collect opinions about a paid sick leave mandate, but those attending the sessions have found little interest in hearing opposing opinions about a mandate at all.
Austin Chronicle reports that, following the second stakeholder meeting on Nov. 16, Austin Chamber of Commerce Senior Director of Government Relations Tina Cannon was disappointed with how the sessions have run, calling them “less than productive. … I think the number one question that has to be asked is ‘Should this policy exist?’ And it has yet to be asked at any of these forums.” touted an online survey but, again, as the Austin Chamber pointed out in a letter to the mayor and council members, no question on the survey asked whether respondents would support a city-mandated requirement in the first place.

4. What about the studies that prove a mandate works?
For every study that backs the policy, other studies prove it doesn’t work. As we told the Austin American-Statesman, “Among cities with similar mandates, San Francisco employers report being forced to pass along the cost by reducing benefits and labor hours and still experienced a significant decline in profit — by 12 to 23 percent. Most Seattle-based employers saw no measurable increase in areas like employee morale or predictability of employee absenteeism — areas the City Council cites as important reasons for the initiative. In fact, among five studies examining the effect of mandatory paid sick leave laws in cities nationwide, four found no reduction in the frequency of employees coming to work sick.”

Time is running out to voice your opinion. If you’re opposed to the law, the odds are already against you in getting your voice heard. Contact your representative Austin City Council Member now, then attend the Feb. 1 Austin City Council Meeting where Council member Casar plans to introduce the drafted ordinance. If you’re a member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Technology Council, or another organization opposed to the ordinance, contact them to ask how you can help.

To view the original article on The HT Group website, visit



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Blockchain by the Box

Lately, I have been contemplating when GRC should come out of blockchain stealth mode, and let the crypto-currency mining community know what GRC is doing to help folks take advantage of the most widely adopted application of the blockchain. GRC has acquired significant experience in the space by deploying our patented liquid immersion cooling technology for a number of Bitcoin miners . GRC’s ability to cool these powerful, heat-generating mining computers at over 100kw per rack proved to be most valuable – especially since GRC’s technology is extraordinarily power efficient. Afterall, low electricity cost is one of the key factors in achieving a profitable mining operation. Upon observing that many people wishing to participate in this gold rush have limited IT and Data Center operations experience, we decided to do something a little different.

Over the last several years, GRC has also been building containerized data centers for the Air Force. So, we decided to mash together our blockchain experience with our containerized datacenter experience and voila – the HashTank was launched late this summer. The HashTank is, first and foremost, a turn-key Bitcoin mining operation. We deliver to our customers a 40 foot ISO shipping container complete with 432 S9 Antminers, racks, power distribution, and cooling infrastructure. The customer just needs to provide a cement pad upon which we place the HashTank, as well as power, water, and internet connections. We’ve even formed a partnership with a power company that can provide low cost power rates and land upon which a customer can place their HashTanks.

Despite the fact that we have done virtually nothing to promote this offering, our Sales team has been overwhelmed with people who are finding us. So, perhaps we are kidding ourselves when we claim to be in stealth mode. As we start to ramp our production capacity, we have decided that it’s probably OK to let more people in on the “secret”.

Yet, this is only the beginning of our blockchain journey. And while the future of crypto-currencies is uncertain, the future of the blockchain is not. Blockchain will continue to require tremendous computing power, and where there is tremendous computing power, there is a tremendous amount of heat that needs to be efficiently removed from the data center. That is what we do best.

The Blockchain is one of several vertical markets that GRC serves. The company has data center customers deployed across the world in the HPC (High Performance Computing), Defense, Oil & Gas, and Financial Service markets. By radically simplifying how data center operators address their ever growing heat loads, GRC can reduce data center construction costs by up to 60%, reduce cooling energy costs by up to 90%, and reduce infrastructure maintenance costs by up to 50%.

Green Revolution Cooling


Technology continues to transform society at an ever-increasing rate. In fact, the pace is so rapid that companies often find it difficult to stay current and equip their people to be the best. How does a leading corporation ensure it has the capacity to grow and maintain its leadership position? I see the answer as a three-legged approach, where success depends on all three supports.

The first two are familiar to anyone who knows higher education: a skilled entry-level workforce (recent engineering graduates) and innovative research (technological advancement). The Cockrell School, along with other top-ranked U.S. engineering schools, do a great job of preparing people to immediately make contributions to their employers. Regarding research, the technology-driven business community — whether involved in STEM or not — benefits from the thought leadership and tech breakthroughs discovered by our faculty and students.

The third support, which is critically important and too often overlooked, is upskilling the corporation’s current workforce to ensure that its people are its biggest assets. It is imperative for STEM and business professionals to continually grow, develop and re-train. Engineering professional education programs, like those offered in the Cockrell School and at other select schools across the country, are the vehicles for this effort. The programs offer a unique education that links the expertise of the university’s thought leaders with tailored curriculum and training designed for people who work full time.

As a result of growing demand for this type of advanced education, we are seeing a rush of innovation in the professional development programs of several top engineering schools. In the Cockrell School, we are now offering micro-credentials, fully online degrees, better certificate programs and creative models for adult learning. Our master’s degrees, weekend executive master’s degrees, certificates in engineering leadership and customized, cutting-edge training programs in fields like nanotechnology, health care and energy are transforming workforces and enabling long-serving employees to remain secure and competitive in their companies—no matter how much younger their coworkers are becoming.

I understand that both employees and their companies constantly require new skills, and they need to gain them quickly and cost-effectively. Programs like ours will continue to evolve and improve to meet the needs of changing industries. The bottom line is this: great engineering schools thrive on partnerships with great companies, and great companies—along with their employees—thrive when leveraging the educational assets of great engineering schools.

Learn more about Texas Engineering Executive Education programs at

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