Continuing the trend of states and localities throughout the country requiring paid sick leave for private sector workers, the Dallas City Council passed an ordinance on April 24, 2019, requiring all private employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees who work at least 80 hours a year in the City of Dallas. The ordinance does not apply to independent contractors or unpaid interns. See our earlier reporting of this issue here and here.
For employers with five or more employees, the ordinance is scheduled to take effect this summer, on August 1, 2019; for those with fewer than five employees, the effective date is delayed until August 1, 2021.
Whether this ordinance will take effect remains to be seen. Austin and San Antonio both passed similar ordinances in 2018, but the Third Court of Appeals found Austin's ordinance unconstitutional, and Attorney General Ken Paxton notified the City of San Antonio that its ordinance was similarly preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act.
More recently, on April 11, 2019, the Texas Senate approved a bill which, if passed, would prevent cities from mandating that employers offer paid sick leave to their employees. The clock, though, is ticking for Senate Bill 2487, which has yet to be debated despite the end of the regular session looming less than a month away.
While future challenges to the ordinance are uncertain, with the effective date rapidly approaching, companies with employees in the City of Dallas should start becoming familiar with the ordinance and reviewing their applicable policies to ensure they meet the accrual, usage, and other requirements of the ordinance.
Following are a few key facts to know:
- Employees must accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Accrued sick time is capped by the ordinance at 64 hours a year for companies with 15 or more employees and 48 hours a year for smaller employers. Employers may elect to provide additional paid leave beyond that which is required.
- Generally, employees may use earned sick time as soon as it is accrued. However, employees employed for a set term of at least one year may be prohibited from using sick time during the first 60 days of their employment.
- Accrued but unused sick time must be carried over from one year to the next, but employers may restrict employees' use of sick leave to no more than the annual cap (either 64 or 48 hours, depending on the employer's size) per year.
- Employees will be able to use sick leave for (i) the employee's own physical or mental illness, physical injury, preventative medical or health care, or health condition; (ii) the employee's need to care for a family member's physical or mental illness, physical injury, preventative medical or health care, or health condition; or (iii) the employee's or a family member's need to seek medical attention, seek relocation, obtain victim services, or participate in legal action related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving the employee or the employee's family member.
- The ordinance permits employers to require advanced notice if the need for sick leave is foreseeable.
- Employees rehired within six months of their separation must have their prior accrued, unused sick time reinstated.
- Employers who already offer paid leave benefits that meet the minimum requirements set forth by the ordinance are not required to provide additional earned paid sick time.
- The ordinance imposes limited recordkeeping and employer notice requirements, and prohibits retaliation against employees for exercising their rights under the ordinance. Civil penalties for retaliation may be assessed beginning April 1, 2020. In addition, employers found to have violated the ordinance may be assessed a civil penalty up to $500 for each offense.