Employers should be prepared to comply with new paid sick leave ordinances as of August 1, 2019, in both Dallas and San Antonio. Penalties will be $500 per violation. A third ordinance in Austin, nearly identical to the others, is currently being challenged in court.
Since February 2018, three cities in Texas—Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas—have passed paid sick leave ordinances. Initially, it appeared almost certain that the Texas legislature would pass a law preventing the ordinances from taking effect, but failed to do so by the close of session on May 27. While there has been talk of calling a special session to address the issue, it has not yet happened and would be an extreme measure.
The Austin ordinance is currently being challenged in court. In November 2018, the Austin-based Texas Third Court of Appeals enjoined the ordinance, reasoning that it is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act. The appellate court’s ruling is currently on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, and the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling likely will impact the Dallas and San Antonio ordinances as well. The briefing deadline for the appeal to the Texas Supreme Court recently was extended to June 28, so it now appears unlikely that a decision will be rendered before the Dallas and San Antonio ordinances are set to take effect on August 1, 2019.
In light of the foregoing, employers with Dallas and San Antonio employees should be aware of the ordinances’ requirements. All three of the ordinances are nearly identical, and their main elements are as follows.
- The ordinances apply to any individual who works at least 80 hours per year in the respective city—excluding unpaid interns and independent contractors, but including temporary or employment agency workers.
- Workers can use qualified leave for either their own physical or mental illness, or a family member’s physical or mental illness. A qualified physical or mental illness includes treatment related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or preventive care.
- One hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked is required.
- Such leave is capped at 64 hours per employee for employers with more than 15 employees, or 48 hours for employers with less than 15 employees.
- Retaliation against a worker who uses qualifying leave is prohibited.
- Employers must provide workers with monthly electronic or written statements reflecting the workers’ available paid sick leave.
- If the employer has a handbook, it must outline workers’ paid sick leave rights.
- Certain signage is required, but the ordinances have largely deferred this requirement until specific content requirements are detailed by the cities’ respective enforcement agencies.
- The penalty for noncompliance is $500 per violation.
- Employers have the opportunity to avoid a monetary penalty by engaging in voluntary compliance within 10 business days of receiving a notice of violation.
- Penalties are generally deferred under both the Dallas and the San Antonio ordinances until April 1, 2020. Penalties for violations of the ordinances’ antiretaliation provision are not deferred.
While there is still a chance that the ordinances may not take effect on August 1, 2019, the odds are far less likely than initially anticipated. As a result, employers should take measures to comply with the ordinances’ requirements by August 1.