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Dallas Paid-Sick-Leave Law Takes Effect Despite Lawsuit to Block It

ALEX SAMUELS

08/02/2019

On New Year’s Day, Candice Oglesby had to miss work because she had a migraine that gave her convulsions.

She woke up the next morning still feeling groggy and shaky, so she took off a second day from her full-time job as a florist in a Dallas Kroger. Oglesby, who joked that she “lives on ibuprofen and Tylenol,” has been diagnosed with two brain aneurysms since 2013 and said her convulsions often cause her to lose consciousness. That day, over-the-counter medicine couldn’t curb her pain.

Her two days off work lost her $100 to $150 — putting her behind on February’s rent. She ended up having to pick up odd jobs to make ends meet for herself and her two young kids.

“Missing one day of work will set me a month behind in bills,” said Oglesby, who only gets one paid personal day at her job per year.

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“If I don’t feel good or have a headache, I still have to go to work every day or else the bills don’t get paid,” she said. “We don’t eat.”

Many Dallas City Council members have cited people like Oglesby as the reason for the paid sick-leave ordinance that the council adopted in a 10-4 vote earlier this year.

Texas businesses are not required to offer their employees paid sick time, which led Austin to approve an ordinance mandating it last year. Since then, San Antonio and Dallas have followed in the capital city’s footsteps. Each has faced pushback — and legal challenges — for adopting the rules, which have led to most getting delayed.

But on Thursday, Dallas will be the first of three major metropolitan areas to see its proposal come to fruition. Supporters and advocates of the proposal across the state are watching closely to measure its impact.

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

Roxana Rubio, the city’s public affairs officer, said the ordinance goes into effect — and the city expects businesses to comply — starting Thursday only for employers with six or more workers. It will not be enforced until April 1, she said. Businesses with five employees or fewer will have to begin abiding by the ordinance in August 2021.

The implementation of its ordinance comes days after an Austin-based conservative think tank sued on behalf of two businesses to block it from taking effect. The federal lawsuit by the Texas Public Policy Foundation alleges that the sick leave proposal is an overreach of the city’s regulatory power and that it violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act, which business groups claim “explicitly prevents localities from requiring private employers to pay more” than minimum wage.

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“Our members want to take care of their employees, and they will do that. But just because the city mandates they have to offer some sort of benefit, doesn’t mean they can afford it,” said Annie Spilman, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business who was not part of Tuesday’s lawsuit.

“Economics 101 is if they can’t afford to implement this, they’ll have to cut back hours or cut back positions or close their doors.”

For months, groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the National Federation of Independent Business have attempted to upend the ordinances — both through the courts and the Legislature. Last week, the implementation of San Antonio’s ordinance was delayed after city officials and business groups reached a deal to postpone it from August to December.

Meanwhile, Austin officials are fighting to implement their rule after an appeals court deemed it unconstitutional last year. Although lawmakers this legislative session attempted to overturn such ordinances at the statewide level, a priority bill taking such action failed to pass after it became ensnared in a fight over rights for LGBTQ Texans.

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