City of Dallas passes paid sick leave ordinance

The city of Dallas is trying to help small businesses understand how the new paid sick leave ordinance will affect them. And if the small businesses don't comply, the city could subpoena their employment records and fine them.      

Dallas city council approved the ordinance in April. It goes into effect in less than a month, which is causing hundreds of Dallas businesses to review their sick policies.

There were a lot of looks of confusion Tuesday night as Dallas business owners asked questions of city representatives to try to understand the new paid sick leave ordinance.

The rule that goes into effect August 1 requires one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. It applies to any employee who works a total of 80 hours in Dallas in a year.

Workers can accrue up to 64 hours each year. Employers with less than 15 workers will be capped at 48 hours.

"I think it's a good idea. I've been an hourly employee before, and the paid time off does help if you need it," said Adrianne Perry, a Dallas business owner. "But what about the people who are going to abuse it?"

Perry's concern is that she will be paying her workers for time off when they're not really sick.

"‘My cousin's brother's sister's aunt kicked her toe. I need to go to the hospital with her.' So I'm supposed to let you off work?" Perry said.

According to the ordinance, an employer can only ask for verification like a doctor's note on the fourth consecutive sick day. Workers can file complaints against businesses that violate the ordinance, which could result in a $500 fine for the business.

"If I know that it's a made up story and I don't let you off work, then you have two years to decide, ‘I'm going to try to get something done to this person because they didn't give me what I wanted,'" Perry said.

Governor Greg Abbott backed a bill in the last legislative session that would have banned a city ordinance like those that Dallas, Austin and San Antonio councils approved. He said It should be up to Texas employers and not local politicians to decide what benefits they offer their workers. However, the bill failed.

Sean Goldhammer is an attorney for the Workers Defense Action Fund. He believes workers will value the new ordinance.

"A lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck. And even just missing one day of work or a few days of work can really impact their ability to put food on the table," he said. "Most of our members of our organization are construction workers. And they're working really dangerous jobs, but they'll still go in even with a high fever or something like that because they need that income."

Austin already instated a similar ordinance, but it is currently on hold as an appeals court said it is unconstitutional.

San Antonio has a new paid sick leave ordinance that also goes into effect on August 1.