Paid Sick Leave Could Become Law for All Private Employees in Dallas

Dallas City Council to vote on paid sick leave law Wednesday

Paid sick leave could become the law for all private employees in Dallas with a vote of the city council scheduled for Wednesday.

A memo signed by five city council members forced the issue to the voting agenda. One of the five members, Philip Kingston, said Tuesday that he thought there was sufficient support for the eight total city council votes needed to approve the ordinance.

Through a spokesman, Mayor Mike Rawlings declined to say Tuesday how he would vote.

The cities of Austin and San Antonio have already approved similar laws, but they were blocked by courts from enforcing paid sick leave on private employers.

The Dallas ordinance would require between six and eight days of paid sick time a year for every employee, depending on the size of the firm. Employees would be allowed to roll over unused days to the next year.

"It would be very difficult for some small businesses to manage if you're paying people who aren't working for you or aren't available to work, even though you still have the same amount of work to do," said Mark Ruibal, owner of Ruibal's Nursery in the Dallas Farmers Market neighborhood.

Ruibal said he tried to cooperate with employees facing health or family difficulties, but opposed a city ordinance forcing him to do so.

"I think there would be a lot of chance for abuse, where people would take it whether they are sick or not and we'd have to pay them through it, no matter what," he said.

Most construction workers have no sick leave benefits.

"If you get sick on construction jobs, you just go home with no pay. So having sick leave, it would help a whole lot," construction worker Derrick Osby said.

Supporters claimed mandatory paid sick time would also provide a public health benefit by helping sick employees stay at home -- away from other people.

A petition drive to force a November referendum on the measure in Dallas failed to get enough certified signatures last year. The new effort would only require Dallas City Council approval.

At the same time, Texas lawmakers are considering new laws that would forbid cities from imposing sick leave on private employers.

"The Texas legislature is being lobbied pretty heavily by the business groups, to not to allow these cities to pass these ordinances," Dallas attorney Chrysta Castaneda said. "If the Dallas City Council passes the ordinance, then most likely there is going to be a challenge either at the Court of Appeals, or in the Texas Legislature."

Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association, said rules about sick leave should be left to state lawmakers and not be a patchwork of local rules.

"It makes Dallas less competitive. It puts a burden on employers," Crone said. "These type of rules need to come from Austin."

Crone said Dallas should consider a compromise of only adding a sick leave requirement for contractors doing work for the city of Dallas.

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