The ordinance went into effect last August, but the city was scheduled to begin enforcing it on April 1.
Dallas is not the first city to attempt mandating paid sick leave for private employers. Austin and San Antonio have also introduced similar ordinances, but both have also been put on hold due to ongoing litigation.
Opponents of the ordinances argue that the measures violate the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA), which prohibits municipalities instituting wage requirements on essentially every private employer.
Supporters of the ordinance argue that paid sick leave is not a “wage” but rather a “benefit.”
Employment Staffing, Inc. (ESI), a temporary staffing agency and one of the plaintiffs in the case, estimated that compliance with the ordinance would cost them over $300,000 annually.
Judge Sean Jordan acknowledged that the timing of his order came in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but emphasized that courts are not designed to make policy judgments but to interpret the law.
Jordan quoted former Chief Justice John Marshall to make his point, “The peculiar circumstances of the moment may render a measure more or less wise, but cannot render it more or less constitutional.”
“Whether or not paid sick leave requirements should be imposed by government on private employers is an important public policy issue, made even more significant under the challenging circumstances faced by our Nation at this moment,” wrote Jordan.
“The State of Texas, through its constitutional structure and statutory law, has committed that public policy decision to the Texas legislature. The Court’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction upholds the state constitution and statutory provisions preempting and rendering unenforceable the City’s paid sick leave ordinance.”
The Workers Defense Project (WDP) voiced their opposition to Jordan’s decision, stating, “We are outraged by this decision and cannot imagine a time when paid sick leave is more important and more necessary.”
WDP argued that in the midst of coronavirus fears, workers who are sick should stay home in order to reduce the spread of the virus, but “many cannot afford to without paid sick leave.”
“People will get sick because of this injunction and some may even die. Those who brought this lawsuit against the city — the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and employers ESI/Employee Solutions, LP and the Hagan Law Group LLC — will be to blame,” said WDP.
However, as acknowledged by Jordan, Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA).
Under the new federal law, private employers with fewer than 500 employees will still be required to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for “workers who are ill, quarantined, or seeking treatment as a result of COVID-19, or caring for those who are sick or quarantined as a result of COVID-19.”
The full order can be found below.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.