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Update on Paid Sick Leave in Texas

Published by and on July 12, 2019

San Antonio and Dallas have passed paid sick leave ordinances, and the future of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance remains uncertain while it is being challenged in court.

Dallas has become the third city in Texas to pass a paid sick leave ordinance, following the passage of similar ordinances in Austin and San Antonio. San Antonio’s Earned Paid Sick Time ordinance passed on August 16, 2018, while Dallas’s Earned Paid Sick Time ordinance passed on April 24, 2019. Both laws will take effect on August 1 of this year for employers with more than five employees. For employers with five or less employees, the requirements will take effect on August 1, 2021.

The fate of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance—which was originally passed on February 16, 2018, and set to take effect on October 1, 2018—is more up in the air. The Austin ordinance was challenged in court, and the Third Court of Appeals enjoined the ordinance, as we reported here. This ruling has now been appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, who most likely will decide in the next few months (at the earliest) whether to hear the case.

The Texas Legislature was expected to pass legislation blocking local paid sick leave ordinances during its most recent session, but such a bill never passed. Because the Texas Legislature meets only once every two years, it will probably be another few years before the legislature has an opportunity to weigh in on the situation. Without such a law, the San Antonio and Dallas ordinances remain in effect (for now), unless challenged in court or unless the Texas Supreme Court hears the Austin ordinance case and issues a ruling that would invalidate all such local paid sick leave ordinances.

The three city ordinances are almost identical. All apply to private employees who work more than 80 hours a year within the respective city. Employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours a year for employers with more than 15 employees, or up to 48 hours a year for employers with 15 or less employees. Employees may carry over to the next year paid sick time up to the yearly cap amount.

Sick time may be used for: (1) employee’s illness, injury, or preventative treatment; (2) need to care for a family member’s illness, injury, or preventative treatment; or (3) employee’s or family member’s need to seek victim services related to family domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers may receive a penalty up to $500 per violation of the paid sick time ordinances.

Welter Insight

The fact that two additional cities in Texas have passed paid sick leave legislation—despite the pending challenge to Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance—shows that the paid sick leave trend (which is also occurring in other states) is not going away anytime soon. Employers in San Antonio and Dallas should, if they have not already, make arrangements to be in compliance with the new laws when they go into effect on August 1.

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