10 Things Employers Should Know About the Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
July 26, 2019 by Stephen Key
On August 1, 2019, the new Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance goes into effect, unless it is blocked by the courts in the meantime. At least one non-profit has threatened to sue the City to stop implementation of the ordinance.
The following are some of the more important highlights from the ordinance, but let me start with the legal fine print normally reserved for the back of the page: this is just a summary. The actual ordinance is more verbose, less clear and includes considerably more unhelpful detail. If you want a legal opinion about the ordinance and/or your compliance with it, please contact me or your favorite Brown Fox attorney.
1. The sick leave ordinance probably applies to you.
You’re required to provide paid sick leave to any employee who works in the City of Dallas for at least 80 hours in a single year. It does not matter where your business is located, how many you employ or for how long. Eligibility for one employee does not affect other employees. Only those who work 80 hours in Dallas are eligible for the benefit.
2. Eight days of paid sick leave.
Dallas employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work, up to a cap of 64 hours (or 48 hours if you have 15 or fewer employees).
3. It’s not just for sickness.
The Dallas paid sick leave law goes far beyond normal sickness. It includes mental illness, preventative health care, domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking (including not just the medical care, but also attending court appearances, obtaining services from advocacy groups and/or relocation). It also includes absences related to family members suffering from any of the covered situations.
4. You can’t ask for a doctor’s note.
The ordinance prohibits employers from requiring proof that the absence is covered unless the absence continues for three consecutive days or longer. Even then, you cannot request any sort of verification that would “require an employee to explain the nature” of the covered situation. So, effectively, as long as the employee has some sort of explanation from some sort of official-sounding source, time off, with pay, is likely required.
5. If you like your PTO policy, you can keep it.
If you have a PTO policy that otherwise satisfies the requirements of the sick leave ordinance, you do not have to add anything new, even if your plan covers activities/conditions beyond sickness.
6. There is no waiting period, unless…
Paid sick leave must be available as soon as it is accrued, which means new employees can theoretically take an hour of paid sick leave during their first week on the job. There is an exception: you may restrict use of paid sick leave during the first 60 days if you “establish that the employee’s term of employment is at least one year.” While it is not entirely clear what this means, it suggests the trade-off for implementation of a waiting period is a one-year guarantee of employment. Perhaps risking sick leave during the first week is the better option.
7. Monthly reporting obligations.
At least once a month, you must provide a written or electronic statement of the balance of accrued sick leave available to each employee. If you use an internal website or intranet for employee communications of this sort, maintaining the available balance through your current system is likely adequate.
8. More signs in the break room.
If you have a single employee covered by the paid sick leave ordinance, you will need to add a new poster to your existing HR posting location. But don’t worry, you will start getting offers from all-inclusive poster services any day now for updated posters that cover this new ordinance.
9. It doesn’t really start on August 1.
The ordinance states that “no penalties shall be assessed under this chapter until April 1, 2020.” During a July open forum with area business leaders, the City Manager’s Office “clarified” that this meant that the City is seeking voluntary compliance during the first year and that there would be no penalties for complaints or violations that occur before April 1, 2020. Additionally, the City will not enforce the ordinance against employers with less than five employees until April 1, 2021. One important caveat is that City will enforce fines for retaliation immediately. All of the above begs the question: why do we even have an August 1, 2019 date at all, then?
10. It’ll be blocked as surely as a 100-pound defensive end.
Don’t change your policy yet. The Austin ordinance (the model upon which the Dallas ordinance was drafted) was declared unconstitutional by an appellate court in Austin and is presently pending before the Supreme Court of Texas. Another business group has filed suit to block the San Antonio ordinance. As mentioned above, a similar effort by the same business group is underway in Dallas. Given the grace period through April, 2020, there’s not much risk in waiting to see how the matter shakes out in the courts