San Antonio’s City Council recently approved revisions to its mandatory paid sick leave ordinance, which is set to go into effect in December. But these changes don’t improve an ordinance that was already bad for local business.
The original version required smaller businesses with six to 15 employees to provide up to 48 paid sick hours per year, based on a formula of one hour of sick leave accrued per 30 working hours. But under the amended ordinance, all employers — regardless of the number of employees — have to provide up to 56 paid sick hours per year.
The revisions also state that the ordinance “does not require that sick and safe leave be calculated an increase to salary or wages for an employee” and instead labels it as a fringe benefit. In addition, the revised version says that no part of the ordinance is meant “to conflict with or be preempted by the Federal Labor Standards Act or the Texas Minimum Wage Act.”
But merely stating this does not make it so. And nothing changes the fact that the original impetus delaying the ordinance was resistance from San Antonio business owners. Their needs are still not addressed by the newly adopted revisions.
This is the case even though the city agreed to delay the start of the ordinance and stated in a press release that this would allow time for it to be altered to withstand legal challenges and to incorporate the interests of various stakeholders — including small business owners.
San Antonio’s original ordinance was very similar to the City of Austin’s, which was ultimately ruled by a court of appeals to be unconstitutional because it violated the Texas Minimum Wage Act.
Texas courts have already set a precedence of striking down sick leave ordinances. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has a pending lawsuit against the city of Dallas for the same reason. San Antonio’s sick leave ordinance was delayed after business associations in the area rallied against it and sued the city based on the well-founded belief that the ordinance would do more harm than good.
Small business owners from across Texas have come out in droves against this California-esque regulation. They have spoken to the media, testified before the Legislature, and have even voiced their concerns before the very city councils trying to implement them.
John Agather of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce summed up the issue when he told the San Antonio City Council that “all of our members tend to be small- to medium-size businesses, and this is an undue burden for us.”
Restaurant owner Louis Barrios told news media that “When you place these burdens on small mom-and-pop restaurants, more than likely, they will go bankrupted or the owners will be doing that much more work.”
A study conducted on the impact of the ordinance confirmed these suspicions. It found that businesses in San Antonio with fewer than 30 employees would have to spend $16 million in a year to provide paid sick leave—and would only receive an estimated $11 million back from “direct benefits” such as greater productivity.
Agather is correct when he states, “This could be a real burden financially for them,” speaking of small businesses. “We’re not opposed to paid sick leave, but this isn’t the way to go about it.”
Ultimately, a city demanding the provision of paid sick leave as a benefit harms businesses —especially small ones — that can’t afford to have teams of lawyers and accountants to help them keep up with whatever a local government may require them to do next.
San Antonio and other municipalities can best help the businesses within their boundaries by reining back on regulation. This is what will allow business owners to do what they do best — address the needs of their own businesses, employees, and patrons.