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Dallas to require employers to offer paid sick leave as Texas lawmakers debate banning such ordinances

The sick-leave ordinance was approved by a 10-4 vote despite efforts in the Texas Legislature and the courts to ban such rules.

Downtown Dallas on March 19, 2018.

Amid a debate in the Texas Capitol over whether such rules should be banned statewide, the Dallas City Council passed a new ordinance Wednesday requiring employers in the city to offer paid sick leave to their employees.

The ordinance is similar to ones city leaders in both San Antonio and Austin put in place, though Austin’s ordinance is currently on hold after an appeals court said it was unconstitutional. The rule, which the Dallas City Council approved in a 10-4 vote, requires one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Workers would be able to accrue up to 64 hours of paid sick leave each year, WFAA-TV previously reported.

For employers with fewer than 15 workers, the amount would be capped at 48 hours, or six paid sick days, WFAA reported.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings voted against the measure but clarified in a later statement to The Texas Tribune that he wanted to work toward required paid sick leave in Dallas — he just didn’t believe the ordinance up for consideration would do that.

“Even if it is not stopped by the state legislature or the courts, it won’t be implemented in any meaningful way,” Rawlings said. “The ordinance was brought forward shortly before our City Council elections and without any vetting to create a political rally atmosphere, after supporters failed to get it on the November 2018 ballot to help candidates.”

Advocates for implementing such ordinances say sick-leave proposals are beneficial for workers and public health, and the audience at the Dallas meeting roared with approval when the ordinance passed.

“Dallas City Council has done the right thing and voted to provide paid sick time to working families so that no one in Dallas has to choose between taking a pay cut or losing a job, and staying home to care for themselves or a sick child,” Jose Garza, executive director of Workers Defense, said in a written statement. “We have fought for many years for this day and look forward to continuing to make sure that working people get what they deserve.”

But members of the business community have argued that it's not a city's job to set private companies’ employment policies.

Even before Dallas City Council members voted Wednesday, the National Federation of Independent Businesses said in a statement that it was surprised the city was considering such an ordinance while the issue is pending in both the courts and the state Capitol.

“When cities and counties enact their own rules that go beyond what the state already requires, it creates a nightmare for small businesses with mobile employees or operations in multiple jurisdictions,” said Annie Spilman, the state director for the group. “It can also put small businesses at a real competitive disadvantage if their competitors down the road don’t have the same costly regulatory burdens.”

Earlier this month, the Senate approved a bill by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, that would prevent cities from mandating that employers offer paid sick leave to their staffs. Three other measures by Creighton, including one that would preempt local rules that disallow employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history, have also passed out of the Texas Senate.

The legislation has stalled in the House so far.

Still, polling suggests requiring paid sick leave for employee is popular with a majority of Republican and Democratic voters. According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, 71 percent of Texas voters support policies requiring sick leave, including 56 percent of Republicans.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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