Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenges Dallas sick leave ordinance as supporters rally

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined two Dallas-area employers in a lawsuit challenging the city’s new ordinance requiring paid sick leave.

The new law went into effect on Aug. 1. It requires employers in the city of Dallas and those based outside the city limits who have Dallas employees working more than 80 hours in the city each year to give sick employees paid time off.

Those employees can accrue an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. It’s capped at six days for employers with less than 15 workers or eight days for those with more than 15.

Employers who don’t comply can face fines up to $5,000 for each violation.

Two businesses in Collin County are using a federal lawsuit to try to block the ordinance until questions about its legality are settled.

Paxton supports them and explained the Texas Legislature is solely responsible for setting the minimum amount of compensation for workers. He believes Dallas’ ordinance unlawfully attempts to usurp voters.

“Not only would this ordinance harm the ability of Texans to find and keep jobs, it is a blatant attempt to silence the millions of other voters throughout our State who disagree with the agenda of urban elites, even after the courts have made it clear they cannot do so,” Paxton said.

Meanwhile, Dallas workers, community groups and council members rallied outside Dallas City Hall Wednesday to celebrate the new earned benefit. They held up a banner thanking the Dallas City Council.

“We’re at Dallas City Hall today to celebrate earned paid sick leave. This new ordinance is the first of its kind in the South allowing more than 300,000 Dallas residents to take a sick day without sacrificing financial stability,” the Workers Defense Action Fund said on its Facebook page.

District 6 Councilman Omar Narvaez said for far too long the hard workers who are keeping Dallas’ restaurants and stores operating have gone without access to paid time off when they are sick.

"Unfortunately, we have special interest groups from outside the city of Dallas coming in and trying to tell us and our city and our council and our workers what is right for them. And I say, leave Dallas alone," Narvaez said.

Narvaez said he worked in retail for more than 15 years and was not able to get paid when he was sick until he was 37 years old.

“I am 45 now and the only reason that happened was that I ended up working for a company that believed in its employees and believed that a healthy workforce was a strong workforce,” he said.

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.

Similar ordinances in Austin and San Antonio are on hold because of legal challenges.

Representatives for the Texas Public Policy Foundation that helped file the lawsuit said that so far, there are no hearings set just yet for a judge to hear the case against Dallas’ ordinance.