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What Employers in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio Need to Know About Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

Lynch Law Firm, PLLC Aug. 2, 2019

This information is out of date. 

If it affects small businesses and employers in the State of Texas, then it’s our job to help educate companies regarding federal, state, and city laws and their somewhat complicated relationship to one another.  Recent cities’ ordinances regarding paid sick leave have employers doing a double take. The Texas legislature did not outlaw the recent paid sick leave laws cropping up in many Texas cities including Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.  Although, many business owners were expecting this term’s legislative session to pass a law curbing these city-specific laws, the Texas legislature concluded its session for the year, and won’t reconvene until January 2021, leaving a lot of unanswered questions and more than a few concerns in their wake.

Small Business Owners in Dallas and San Antonio Need to be Compliant with Paid Sick Leave Laws; Ordinance in Austin Left in Limbo

The end of the legislative session leaves Dallas and San Antonio employers scrambling to stay compliant with their city’s paid sick leave ordinance, while other employers from Austin wait for a decision from the Texas Supreme Court as to whether or not their paid sick leave law is constitutional.  In the meantime, employers and small business owners located in Dallas and San Antonio need to be compliant with paid sick leave requirements by August 1, 2019. 

Why is the City of Austin Exempt?

The City of Austin passed Texas’ first mandatory paid sick leave law in February 2018.  However, the ordinance was challenged in the Austin Court of Appeals by the State of Texas because according to the Texas Constitution city ordinances cannot interfere with state law. Deeming that the new ordinance conflicted with Texas Minimum Wage Act and was unconstitutional under Texas law, the Court stayed the ordinance in November 2018. Meanwhile the City of Austin filed a petition for review with the Texas Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court decides if they will even take the case, the ordinance for the city of Austin remains in limbo and is not in effect.

To complicate matters, last August San Antonio passed its own mandatory paid sick leave ordinance and a few months later Dallas followed suit; passing its own ordinance in April 2019. While neither ordinances have been challenged in court the same arguments that apply to the City of Austin may well apply to Dallas and San Antonio statues.

Initially many Texas employers believed that laws blocking local municipalities from passing their own paid sick leave measures would pass, and overturn those paid sick leave laws enacted by Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Regardless of the overwhelming support from Governor Abbot and many business organizations, the bill passed the Senate but not the House.  Since the Texas legislature will not reconvene until January 2021, employers in the cities of Dallas and San Antonio must prepare for paid sick leave laws.

What Small Businesses in Dallas and San Antonio need to know about Paid Sick Leave Laws Effective August 1, 2019

First know that the paid sick leave ordinances in both Dallas and San Antonio are very similar; employers need to provide paid sick leave to their employees and permit them to accrue paid sick leave throughout the year.

Under the laws, an employer is defined as a company, firm, corporation, partnership, labor or non-profit organization or association that pays an employee to perform work and has control over their wages, hours and working conditions.  With that in mind, the law applies to any employee who performs at least 80 hours of work in a given year for an employer.

On and after August 1stof this year, employees accrue one hour of earned paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. The accrual cap is set at 64 hours per year for most employers, except for employees of smaller companies whose accrual cap is 48 hours per year. Employees can carry over all available earned sick paid time up to their yearly cap. If an employer provides 64 or 48 hours sick paid time from the beginning of employment, they are not required to allow paid sick time to carry over. In essence, an employee can take as much as 8 days of paid sick time as long as they have accrued that much time within a year.

Another requirement under both laws states that paid sick time or leave can only be taken under certain circumstances including an employee’s or family members’ physical injury, preventative medial or health care, a mental or physical illness, or some other health condition. Lastly, the law also addresses certain safe time reasons in relation to an employee’s or family members’ status as a victim of abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

What Small Businesses in Dallas and San Antonio Can Do to Stay Compliant with the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

With the paid sick leave ordinance in effect beginning August 1, 2019, and with the Austin ordinance pending with the Texas Supreme Court, small businesses can make an effort to comply with the requirements. Here are a few action items to get started:

  1. If there are paid sick leave policies in place, now would be a good time to review them. If there are none, it’s a good time to make policies under the new city requirements.

  2. A policy review of attendance, conduct, anti-retaliation and discipline that comply with the Dallas and San Antonio ordinances should be conducted.

  3. Think about training managers and supervisors about the new paid sick leave law and include how they should handle employees’ request for paid sick leave.  

  4. Pay close attention to the changing legal developments involving this law in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. The law can be delayed or overturned, or in the case of the Austin ordinance, it can be reinstated.

Employers and small businesses can expect more cities to adopt paid sick leave laws, unless the Texas Supreme Court rules that these laws violate Texas law. We will stay on top of these laws and continue to offer simple solutions to abide by the various laws.