Despite pushback, Dallas paid sick leave ordinance goes into effect

A new law requiring paid sick time for employees who work in Dallas went into effect Thursday.

Under the law, employees who work more than 80 hours a year in Dallas can accrue up to eight days of paid sick leave.

Despite pushback and a federal lawsuit, the city of Dallas did not delay the ordinance’s implementation.

The new law affects not only employers in the city of Dallas, but also those based outside city limits who have Dallas employees doing more than 80 hours of work each year.

While the law has support, others have a lot of questions about how to comply with it.

For the last year and a half, Dallas bar owner Lee Daugherty who owns Alexandre's in Oak Lawn has been working with supporters to push through the Dallas sick time ordinance.

“This is good. It's good for business. It's good for the workers. It's going to be really good for the city,” he said. “Looking at this from an owner perspective, healthy employees are more productive.”

Employees who work more than 80 hours in Dallas can accrue an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.  It's capped at six days for employers with 15 or fewer employees and eight days for those with more than 15.

Employment law attorney Marcus Fettinger says his firm, Gray Reed, has heard from several employers who are concerned.

“The biggest issue I think with this ordinance is that it's a logistical nightmare for employers,” he said. “There's so many requirements under the ordinance like revising your handbook, allowing all employees to earn sick leave, posting notice. There's just a lot of procedural steps they need to take to comply with the law.”

Employers who don't comply can face fines up to $500 for each violation.

For employers outside of Dallas who have employees working in the city, they will have to keep track of the time actually spent in the city of Dallas as opposed to just the amount of time worked.

Two federal lawsuits from businesses in Collin County are seeking to block the ordinance until questions about its legality are settled or the cases go to trial. Similar ordinances in Austin and San Antonio are on hold. But for now, the Dallas law still stands.

“This is earned sick time. If they want to use it when they're sick. If they want to say they're sick. If they want to have a mental self-care day. That is their right,” Daugherty said. “This is earned. This isn't just handed over to people. You have to work to earn it.”

There is a grace period until next April before the city plans to start enforcing the law. Small businesses with five employees or less have until August 2021 to comply.