In a city ordinance slated to take effect Aug. 1, private employers will be required to pay workers for leave in instances of illness of them or a family member.
Similar to ordinances in Austin and San Antonio, employers in Dallas will be legally obligated to pay one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours per year. Previous to the ordinance being passed in Dallas City Council in April, employers were only required to offer unpaid leave. Ten states, in addition to Washington, D.C., currently offer paid sick leave.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and some business owners tried passing a bill in the 86th Legislative Session to block the law’s legality, preventing individual cities from allowing specific paid leave ordinances. The effort was unsuccessful.
Though the Austin ordinance was approved in 2018, it’s currently blocked from being enacted due to a lawsuit, which is currently going to the Texas Supreme Court to determine constitutionality after being deemed unconstitutional in the court of appeals.
Under the new Dallas ordinance — similar to one being enacted in San Antonio on the same date — paid leave accrual is capped depending on how many workers a firm employs. For companies with 16 or more employees, the most an employee could collect is 64 hours, while for a company with less than 16 employees, the maximum is 48 hours. Unused paid leave can roll over to the next year.
In four weeks, employers will have to adhere to the new law, which protects any physical or mental illness, injury, preventative care, seeking medical care, relocating or attending legal proceedings if a victim of domestic abuse of an employee or their relative.
Marcus Fettinger, a management-side employment lawyer for Gray Reed and McGraw LLP, said employers need to be prepared for changes that need to be made to their policies, if necessary.
“Generally business owners are not in favor of this ordinance. It’s a further imposition on employers to regulate their workplace,” he said. “That being said, most employers already offer this type of leave.”
He added it could be a benefit for employee morale to know that, if workers needed time to see a doctor or stay home, they’d have those hours paid.
But it’s possible that, if the Austin law is determined unconstitutional in the Texas Supreme Court, it could set a precedent to challenge the law in Dallas, Fettinger said.
Employers with five or more workers are expected to comply with the ordinance by Aug. 1 this year, while firms with five or fewer employees have until Aug. 1, 2021.