On April 24th, the Dallas City Council issued an ordinance that would force those in the private sector to provide paid sick leave benefits to eligible employees in certain medical and safety-related situations. Whether the ordinance will come in effect remains to be seen.
At the end of 2018, a Texas court of appeal ruled that a similar sick leave ordinance issued in Austin violated the Texas Minimum Wage Act and the Texas Constitution, making it unenforceable by law. That decision now rests before the Texas Supreme Court of Appeal. The Dallas ordinance was modeled after the Austin ordinance.
To make matters trickier still, on April 11th, 2019, lawmakers in the Texas state senate put forward a bill that, if adopted, would ban local jurisdictions from passing legislation regulating private employer's leave.
The Dallas ordinance was scheduled to go into effect on August 1, 2019. Businesses with more than five employees would be responsible for providing one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours per year. Businesses with a staff of 15 or less would need to provide a total of 48 hours of paid sick leave each year, and businesses with 5 employees or less would be exempt until August 1st, 2021. Eligible staff would be able to use accrued leave in one-hour increments, and any unused leave accrued would carry over into the following year.
Medical conditions for which an individual could earn paid leave would include physical or mental illness, preventative care, injury, and a list of other health conditions. Other situations not strictly medical in nature could also grant paid leave, including instances involving domestic abuse or stalking which resulted in the victim requiring time off to move, seek legal help, or seek help from a treatment center. Leave would also be granted to individuals who were called upon to care for an immediate family member who has fallen ill. In cases where the employee would require a period of leave beyond three days time, it would be within the employers' power to request a letter of documentation supporting the circumstances surrounding their need to leave.
While it is by no means a matter of certainty whether the many private businesses of Texas will need to adhere to these conditions by law, at least not in the short term, those concerned have their eyes fixed on the 1st. Until then, as they say, it's business as usual.