The Sick Leave Fight Moves South To Texas

Labor backed activists have collected signatures for a ballot measure that would force all San Antonio businesses to provide paid sick leave. The data shows that previous attempts to mandate paid sick leave did little to address workplace sickness, and actually hurt employees’ work opportunities.

In 2004, San Francisco became the first locale to enact a paid sick leave mandate. Following its enactment, roughly 30 percent of low income workers reported reduced hours or even layoffs at their place of work. Connecticut implemented the first state-wide sick leave mandate in 2012. Shortly after the mandate’s roll out, a 2013 study by the Employment Policies Institute found that businesses were dealing with increased labor costs by reducing employee hours. University of Kentucky economists found that over the course of a year, young employees were hurt the most – effectively losing one week’s salary.

Supporters have pitched these laws by suggesting that large numbers of employees are being forced to work while sick. The data doesn’t back it up: Seattle’s city auditor found their paid sick leave ordinance had almost no effect on employees coming in to work sick. Following San Francisco’s paid sick leave roll out, a majority of employers cited no change in workplace illness, and only 3.3 percent of businesses observed a decrease in employees working while sick.

If this proposal moves forward on to the November ballot, San Antonians should consider that the minimal public health benefits may be paid for with reduced hours, incomes, or opportunities for employees.