Chapter 20 of the Dallas City Code entitled Earned Paid Sick Time went into effect August 1, 2019. The provision requires employers to provide paid sick leave to workers. It applies to any private business (governmental employers are exempt) that employs at least one person either full or part time at a minimum of eighty hours a year within the Dallas city limits.
Overview of the Ordinance
The ordinance calculates the accrual of paid leave time at the rate of one hour for every thirty hours worked. An employee can use this accrued hour for illness, injury, preventive medical or healthcare, or health condition. This also extends to the care of a family member’s physical or mental illness. Time off for relating to being the victim of a criminal attack that resulted in injury or illness also qualifies. However, an employer may not inquire as to the nature of the circumstances for employees taking time off for this purpose.
If an employer has sixteen or more employees, an employee may accrue up to sixty-four hours in paid leave time. For employers with fifteen or fewer employees, this total is reduced to forty-eight hours, and for employers with five or fewer employees, this ordinance does not go into effect for two more years.
Employers operating a fiscal year other than a calendar year must provide each employee with written notice of such policy by August 1, 2019, and thereafter at the commencement of employment. Employers are required to maintain records of the accrued paid sick time used and/or available to each employee.
The ordinance also affects bookkeeping and HR departments. It requires that each employee receive a monthly written or electronic statement showing the amount of the employee’s available earned paid sick time. If an employer issues an employee handbook, it must be amended to include a notice of an employee’s rights and remedies under this ordinance.
Fines for violating the ordinance for non-compliance will not be levied until April 1st, 2020, and per the City of Dallas Chief of Equality and Inclusion, the City will seek “voluntary compliance with the ordinance before seeking payment of a fine.” Civil fines can range up to five hundred dollars per violation.
Lawsuits and Injunctions
Similar ordinances passed by the cities of San Antonio and Austin have been challenged by lawsuits. This litigation has resulted in the City of San Antonio delaying implementation of its program until December 1, 2019. However, the city’s concession did not dispose of the case.
Austin’s paid sick and safe leave law ordinance is subject to a temporary injunction, suspending enforcement of the ordinance. The Austin Court of Appeals has found the ordinance to be unconstitutional. The lawsuit is expected to be resolved in the Supreme Court of Texas.
As of the date of this article (August 15, 2019), the status of Dallas’s ordinance is unclear. The State of Texas, joined by a staffing agency and a law firm, has filed suit in the federal court in Sherman, Texas, to challenge the ordinance. The situation is unresolved and changing week by week, but until the court enters a temporary injunction suspending the Dallas ordinance, it remains in effect.
Employers and employees are urged to contact counsel for legal advice concerning status and enforcement of the ordinance. This article is intended as an overview only, and is not a full legal analysis.
Henry S. Wehrmann practices in the primary areas of employment litigation defense, trade secrets and other intellectual property litigation, personal injury litigation defense, and products liability litigation defense. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a former chair of the Sports & Entertainment Law section of the Dallas Bar Association.