Over the next several months, the fate of local paid sick leave laws may well be decided by the Texas legislature. But while lawmakers continue to debate whether Texas cities should be prohibited from establishing their own paid sick time mandates, efforts to expand their reach are marching forward. Last week, the City of Dallas boldly entered the fray.
On April 24, 2019, Dallas became the third major city in Texas to pass an ordinance requiring businesses to provide employees working in the city with paid sick leave when they or a family member experience illness, injury, stalking, domestic abuse or sexual assault or otherwise need medical or mental health care. The Dallas Earned Paid Sick Time Ordinance will become effective on August 1, 2019 for employers with more than five employees and on August 1, 2021 for those employing five or less workers. Its provisions track those of the Austin Earned Sick Time Ordinance passed in February 2018, which we have discussed previously. While the Austin ordinance was held unconstitutional by the Third Court of Appeals (a decision now before the Texas Supreme Court), a largely-identical San Antonio ordinance took effect on January 1 of this year, with enforcement to begin on August 1.
Meanwhile, challenges to such ordinances are being lodged at the state legislative level. Specifically, SB 2485 and SB 2487 would prohibit cities from regulating certain employment benefits and leave, as is the case with the Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio ordinances. The two bills will be heard in the Texas House on Wednesday, May 1; that hearing could determine their fate during the regular legislative session. A controversy surrounding the bills is whether they will infringe on existing municipal non-discrimination ordinances.
In short, employers should stay tuned as the legislative and legal challenges to city-driven paid sick and safe leave laws continue. If the Dallas and San Antonio ordinances go into effect on August 1, they will require immediate action. This includes tracking leave accruals, providing leave and issuing employee handbook updates and other notices.