Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Dallas's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, but Eligible Employees May Still Seek Leave under FFCRA

March 31, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and two days before Dallas was scheduled to enforce its Earned Paid Sick Time (Paid Sick Leave) Ordinance, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking the ordinance’s enforcement, which was set to begin April 1.

In the order granting the preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan noted substantive similarities between the paid sick leave ordinances enacted by the cities of Austin and Dallas and agreed that Dallas’s Paid Sick Leave, like Austin’s, is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act, and therefore, unconstitutional.

“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,” Judge Jordan wrote in his order. “The state of Texas, through its constitutional structure and statutory law, has committed that public policy decision to the Texas Legislature.”

Accordingly, Judge Jordan declared Dallas’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance unenforceable and ordered that “no officer, agent, servant, employee, attorney, or other person in active concert with the City of Dallas may enforce the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance against any business or entity pending the resolution of this case.”

Although Judge Jordan’s order has halted enforcement of Dallas’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, private employers and certain public employers with less than 500 employees are reminded that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is currently scheduled to go into effect on April 1 and provides covered employees emergency paid sick leave and emergency unpaid and paid family leave (FMLA+). On March 28, the Department of Labor released its third set of Q&As related to the FFCRA, including guidance on whether a small business with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from providing FMLA+ leave to its employees.

Please contact us if you have any questions or need compliance advice and guidance. For more information related to COVID-19, please also see Phelps’s COVID-19: Client Resource Portal.