Running a business like Auntie Annie’s isn’t just soft pretzels—it’s also hard decisions. That’s the message San Antonio business owner Lisa Fullerton took to the Texas Legislature last spring when she testified about mandatory paid sick leave ordinances, like the one passed by the San Antonio City Council.
Fullerton has carefully crafted a set of employee benefits that suits her business and her workers.
“I am in a highly volatile, high-burnout industry,” she told the House State Affairs Committee. “We’re in the quick-serve restaurant business. I believe the reason for our longevity is that we have a benefits package that we have created over time that is generous and makes us distinctly different from our peers.”
She offers a 401k and profit sharing. What she doesn’t offer—and can’t, without losing those very profits she shares with her workers—is paid sick leave. That simply doesn’t work with her business model in a low-margin industry.
“I find this very dangerous to allow cities to dictate policies for business when they don’t understand those businesses,” she said.
Several city governments across Texas have stepped into the relationship between employers and employees by passing ordinances forcing businesses to provide paid sick leave as a benefit.
This intrusion has been especially harmful to small business owners, who rarely have accountants, attorneys, or human resources managers to help them navigate through a jumbled mix of local labor law regulations.
Like Fullerton, many small business owners already strive to offer good benefits packages to their employees and are not opposed to paid sick leave. However, they fear that mandated paid sick leave ordinances would require them to shuffle around dollars and benefits already promised to their employees just to comply with one local law.
Not only are these policies harmful, but they are also illegal. Last year, the Third Court of Appeals declared the city of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance to be unconstitutional because it was pre-empted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act. The Texas Public Policy Foundation filed that case on behalf of business owners.
Proponents of mandatory paid sick leave often justify their policies with often-hypothetical stories that appeal to emotions, such as the case of a single mother working two jobs who need to care for her sick children. While these arguments are appealing on the surface, they conceal the actual cost and consequences of one-size-fits-all mandates.
Business owners like Lisa Fullerton are in a better position to know what their employees need.
“We have opened nine quick-serve restaurants in the last 19 years, and not all of them have been successful,” she said.
The key to success in her industry, she explained, is letting employers run their businesses without the mandates that could ultimately result in not benefits at all—because the jobs and even the businesses aren’t there anymore.