Supporters Gear-Up for New Dallas Sick Time Law

Court challenges could block the Dallas rules as has happened in Austin

Supporters of a new Dallas sick time law are gearing up to educate workers and their bosses about the regulations that take effect Aug. 1.

"Three hundred thousand workers in Dallas do not have access to earned paid sick time and the majority of those workers are in the service industry," said Diana Ramirez, with the Workers Defense Action Fund.

Several organizations that lobbied in favor of the paid sick time law plan an information session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25 at the Oak Cliff Tower, 400 Zang Boulevard in Dallas.

Kartik Rathore, owner of The People's Last Stand Bar in Mockingbird Station, attended a rally Thursday in support of the new law.

"It will be a financial burden, but I think it will be one that we as responsible business owners should be able to manage, to help our employees," Rathore said.

His business has 15 employees, just enough that he will be required to offer them up to eight paid sick days a year. Businesses with fewer than 15 employees are required to grant up to six paid sick days each year under the new Dallas law.

The Dallas City Council approved the new law on April 24. At the time, the Texas Legislature was considering a bill to block cities from adopting paid sick time laws for private employers, but lawmakers did not impose that ban.

Mark Ruibal, the owner of Ruibal's nursery in the Dallas Farmers Market, opposed the law. He has 150 employees at four store locations and two farms.

"If every single one of them used every single day, just because we have to give them to them, it would be a difficult thing to fill those hours and pay those pay checks when they're not being productive," Ruibal said. "It's got too much of an opportunity for abuse, I think. I don't think everybody will use it, but all things being equal, I'd rather it wasn't there."

Dallas joins Austin and San Antonio as the only Texas cities to adopt a sick time law for private workers but the Austin law has already been put on hold after a lawsuit challenge ruling by the Third Court of Appeals. The Texas Supreme Court could soon hear the Austin case.

Kyle Noonan, owner of The Rustic restaurant and bar in Dallas, is also president of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association. Noonan replied to a request for comment with a text message.

"We believe that the Supreme Court will take up the Austin paid sick leave appeal and rule to uphold the Third Court's opinion and hold that all paid sick leave ordinances around the state are unconstitutional. With that said, restaurant owners care deeply about their employees, and do whatever they can to accommodate schedules, life events, and work schedule choices," Noonan said.

Bar and restaurant owner Rathore said he also offers flexible schedules to accommodate employees but still favors paying them sick time, which he already does at this Mockingbird Station business.

"It's more important to me to support the team that supports me every day," Rathore said.

Under the Dallas rules, employees earn one hour of sick time for each 30 hours of work, so new employees would not immediately be eligible for paid sick time. The sick time can be used for issues related to an employee's own health or that of a family member.

The groups that supported the new sick time law also backed a worker rest break ordinance adopted several years ago in Dallas.

City officials recently said there has never been a citation for violations of the rest break law.

Ramirez said that's because employers have generally been following the rules that protect workers.

"If people are abiding by it, then hey, it's good for everyone," she said.

The Dallas City Manager will designate a city agency to enforce the sick time law. Violators would receive fines of up to $500.

Editor's Note: An earlier web video for this story incorrectly stated the Dallas Restaurant Association is considering legal action, but it is not. NBC 5 regrets the error.

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