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Never Fear, Ken Paxton’s Here! (To Take Away Your Sick Days)

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Never fear, those of you who worried Dallas might actually sort out its paid sick leave situation without state intervention. Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton formally thrust his nose into the lawsuit brought against the city over its ordinance, keeping his longstanding record of supporting local control, except all those times when he doesn't want to, perfectly intact.

"The Dallas City Council’s decision to enact this ordinance in the face of other legal challenges successfully stopping similar laws is yet another example of the lawlessness and disregard for working Texans that is becoming all too common among local governments in our larger cities," Paxton said.

According to data from the nonpartisan Institute for Women's Policy Research, there are 737,000 working people in Dallas. Of those, 41%, or about 300,000, don't have paid sick leave. Dallas' policy requires that employers provide those working in the city with one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. Similar ordinances in Austin and San Antonio are both on hold as similar lawsuits to the one filed against the city make their way through the courts.

According to Paxton, it's against state law for Dallas to regulate employee compensation in any way.

"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.

It should probably go without saying, but Dallas' ordinance does not apply to anyone working outside of an urban area, by virtue of it having been passed by a city government. It doesn't apply to the "millions of other voters throughout our State (sic) who disagree."

Emily Timm, the co-executive director of the Workers Defense Action Fund, one of the group that has fought for sick leave ordinances around Texas, said Paxton was prioritizing Texas' business community over its residents.

"We’re not surprised that the Attorney General has sided with corporate interests at the expense of working families and is stretching the law to fit a political agenda," Timm said in statement. "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. 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."

Dallas' paid sick leave ordinance went into effect Aug. 1 for employers with more than six employees. It will not be enforced for employers with fewer than six employees until 2020. City attorneys briefed the Dallas City Council on the lawsuit over the ordinance during a closed executive session Wednesday, but the city has yet to issue a formal response to the suit. 

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