On April 24, 2019, the Dallas City Council passed an ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave beginning as early as August 1, 2019. Dallas is the third Texas city (after Austin and San Antonio) to pass such an ordinance. The likelihood of the new Dallas ordinance taking effect remains to be seen, as it may be challenged in court—as was the case in Austin—and Texas legislators are working to pass a bill that would prohibit these sorts of local ordinances.
In April 2019, Senate Bill 2485 passed the Texas State Senate. It has since been referred to the Texas House of Representatives. The bill has not been set for hearing, and the clock is ticking, as the state legislature’s regular session will end on May 27, 2019. Accordingly, Dallas-area employers may want to familiarize themselves with the ordinance and be prepared to take prompt action in advance of its effective date. Here is what employers need to know:
To Which Entities Does The Ordinance Apply?
- The ordinance applies to all private for-profit and nonprofit employers that have employees working inside the city of Dallas at least 80 hours a year.
- The ordinance does not apply to independent contractors or unpaid interns.
What Is the Effective Date of the Ordinance?
- The ordinance will take effect on August 1, 2019, for all covered employers with five or more employees.
- The effective date is delayed until August 1, 2021, for employers with fewer than five employees at any time in the preceding 12-month period.
What Are the Basic Requirements of the Ordinance?
- Employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, but there are caps on accrual depending on the employer’s size. An employer that has had 15 or more employees at any time in the preceding 12-month period must provide at least 64 hours of paid sick leave per year, whereas an employer with fewer than 15 employees must provide at least 48 hours of paid sick leave per year.
- Earned sick time is generally available for use as soon as it is accrued. An employer may restrict an employee from using sick time during the first 60 days of employment if the employer provides the employee with a term of employment that is at least one year.
- Earned sick time carries over to the following year. An employer is not required, however, to allow an employee to use more than the annual cap (either 48 or 64 hours, depending on the employer’s size) per year.
For What May Sick Time Be Used?
- Paid sick leave may be used to care for an employee’s own physical or mental illness, physical injury, preventative medical or health care, or health condition, or that of the employee’s family member.
- An employee may also use this time off 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 a family member of the employee.
- Employees must make a timely request for the use of earned sick time before their scheduled work time, with potential exceptions for unforeseen emergencies.
Which Records Must Employers Maintain, Provide, or Display?
- Employers must provide a monthly statement showing the amount of available earned sick time to each employee. Employers must also keep records to show the amount of sick time accrued by each employee.
- Employers with employee handbooks must include a notice to employees about the contents of the ordinance.
- Once the City of Dallas provides signage on its website, employers must display a sign about the ordinance in English and Spanish in a conspicuous place.
Are There Other Requirements?
- Employers may not retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under the ordinance. An employer may not transfer, demote, discharge, suspend, reduce hours, or directly threaten these actions against an employee for requesting or using earned sick time, reporting a violation of the ordinance, or participating in an investigation or proceeding related to the ordinance. Civil penalties for retaliation may be assessed as early as April 1, 2020.
- Employees who are rehired within six months following separation must have their prior sick time reinstated.
- Civil penalties for substantiated violations may be assessed up to $500 per violation.
Should Senate Bill 2485 fail to pass in the Texas House of Representatives this legislative session, we will provide guidance for employers impacted by these paid sick leave ordinances.