Under pressure from local community organizers and labor groups, the San Antonio City Council passed an ordinance to require all non-profit and for-profit businesses to provide paid sick leave for their employees by an overwhelming majority of 9-2.
The Earned Paid Sick Time initiative was submitted to the City Clerk earlier this year and, after signatures were verified, quickly scheduled for a public hearing and subsequent vote. Had the vote been rejected by the council, the ordinance would have appeared on the ballot in November, leaving it up to the citizens to choose.
Under the ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect this coming January, businesses with more than five employees have until August of 2019 to comply. Any business with less than five employees will be given two more years to fully comply.
Surprisingly, the ordinance excludes government entities.
So, what does the city ordinance mean besides mandating paid sick leave be provided by San Antonio employers? For starters, the ordinance follows an “earned” system, where employees will receive one hour sick leave for every 30 hours worked, available for use as soon as it is accrued. There is a yearly cap that depends on the number of employees a business has on payroll.
Businesses with less than 15 employees are capped at 48 hours per employee while businesses with more than 15 employees are capped at 64 hours per employee. This clause could be problematic at the expense of possible San Antonio employees. The 16-hour difference could be the deciding factor for a business with less than 15 employees to expand.
While employees serve to benefit from working at a business with more than 15 employees, some employers may want to stay under the cap, thus avoiding expansion and hindering the San Antonio community in the long run. The drastic cap difference will make a small business owner think twice before hiring.
Instances in which the paid sick leave hours can be used are rather broad, listed as “Medical/mental healthcare for employee or family member. Care or services related to victimization from domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving employee or family member”.
This ordinance term loses clarity when the phrase “family member” is loosely defined as “Employee’s spouse, child, parent or any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship”. The option for non-employee/family use could lead to abuse on the employees’ part—all at the expense of the business and thus the employee.
While perhaps a well-intended move to help the less fortunate workers of San Antonio, the policy will do more harm than good and cost businesses, employees, and even the City of San Antonio.
Coming on the heels of other anti-business measures taken by the San Antonio City Council administration, such as the new age restrictions on tobacco purchases, the decision to mandate sick leave is astounding.
What council members fail to realize is that the Alamo City is not an island. Indeed, the city is surrounded by independent municipalities that now carry an incentive to offer prospective developers and entrepreneurs. The incentive is to expand in municipalities like Helotes and Shavano Park, where one still has the access to the large population and market, while avoiding San Antonio’s red tape. That move would lead to San Antonio losing tax revenue and forcing other taxpayers to make up the difference.
Texas lawmakers have already expressed their objections to such measures and some have even ventured to call these moves by the cities “dead on arrival.” While that may very well be the case, the decision will still cause headaches for everyone involved and should serve as a reminder that come November, it’s up to voters to make sure those who believe in the ingenuity of entrepreneurs rather than “one size fits all” government planning are elected.