Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday added the state’s legal might to two firms’ federal lawsuit against Dallas to stop its paid sick leave ordinance.
In a statement Wednesday, Paxton criticized the Dallas City Council for enacting an ordinance despite legal challenges to similar laws in other cities. He blamed local governments in larger cities for laws that he said showed a “disregard for working Texans.”
“Not only would this ordinance harm the ability of Texans to find and keep jobs, it is a blatant attempt to silence the millions of other voters throughout our state who disagree with the agenda of urban elites, even after the courts have made it clear they cannot do so,” Paxton said.
Interim City Attorney Chris Caso declined to comment Wednesday.
The ordinance, which passed in April on a 10-4 vote, mandates paid sick leave for employees who work at least 80 hours a year in Dallas. Employers in Dallas are required to allow their workers to accrue at least one hour for every 30 hours worked. Businesses with 15 or fewer employees can cap their workers’ paid sick leave accruals at 48 hours a year instead of 64 hours. Independent contractors are excluded.
Emily Timm, co-executive director of the Workers Defense Action Fund, said in a statement Wednesday that Paxton chose to side with corporate interests over regular workers.
“It doesn’t change the fact that paid sick time is the law in Dallas and working people can now afford to stay home when they’re sick without struggling to pay the bills,” Timm said. “The attorney general will have a very hard time explaining to his constituents and the hundreds of thousands of people in Dallas who are already benefiting from paid sick time why he wants to rob them of this right.”
The law went into effect Aug. 1. Two days before then, two Collin County-based businesses, represented by an attorney from the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, sued over the city’s local law that mandates paid sick leave in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
Plano-based ESI/Employment Solutions LP and Allen-based Hagan Law Group LLC in the lawsuit said the ordinance affects them because they have employees in Dallas.
Texas Public Policy Foundation attorney Robert Henneke, who represents the businesses in the lawsuit, said the ordinance violates the state’s minimum wage act. He also argued that the ordinance impinges on his clients’ constitutional rights, including freedom of association, equal protection for non-unionized employers, and the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures because of the city’s subpoena power over business records.
A state appeals court ruled against Austin’s sick leave law in November, and now it likely faces a review in the Texas Supreme Court. Legal experts have said that the previous ruling will make it an uphill battle in both state and federal courts.
Labor and community activists, along with City Council member Omar Narvaez, rallied Wednesday morning at Dallas City Hall before the council meeting. The rally was scheduled before Paxton announced that he was joining the suit.
The city attorney was scheduled to brief the council on the lawsuit Wednesday.
Updated at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday to include a statement from labor.