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PA Supreme Court Picks Pittsburgh On Paid Sick Leave

This blog we're addressing the brand new decision handed down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Wednesday in regards to a 2015 City of Pittsburgh Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. This will affect all private employers located within the boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh and who do business in the City of Pittsburgh.

The Ordinance was originally passed in 2015 by City Council and requires that employees begin accruing paid sick time on the Effective Date of the Ordinance or on the day they are hired, whichever is later. The Ordinance was passed under the Home Rule Charter, which allows the City to pass certain ordinances without an express statutory warrant from the State, the Second Class Cities Code, and the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955.


However, the Ordinance was challenged by various business groups on the grounds that the Home Rule Charter prohibits the City from “determining duties, responsibilities or requirements placed on businesses, occupations and employers…..”


The Common Pleas and Commonwealth Courts of Pennsylvania both found the Ordinance to be impermissible, however, the Supreme Court yesterday overturned the lower court decisions and found that it is permissible in order to prevent and control the spread of disease (the argument by the City being that if sick people come to work because they can’t afford not to, they risk spreading disease). Therefore, the Ordinance will go into effect and affect all private employers located within the boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh and who do business in the City of Pittsburgh. The decision (for those having trouble sleeping at night haha) can be found: here.

So now, what does this mean if you are affected? First, it is unclear when the Ordinance will actually be in effect. The decision sent the issue back down to the Commonwealth Court to issue next steps, so hopefully more information will be available to.

Next, there are a few exemptions. The ordinance does not apply to the US Government, or State employees, independent contractors, State and Federal employees, or any member of a construction union covered by a collective bargaining unit, or seasonal employees (which are persons who has been hired for a temporary period of not more than sixteen weeks during a calendar year and has been notified in writing at the time of hire that the individual’s employment is limited to the beginning and ending dates of the employer’s seasonal period, as determined by the employer.)

If still applicable to you, here is what the Ordinance mandates:

Employees can accrue up to a maximum amount of paid sick time based on how many employees an employer has.

  • For employers with 15 or more employees, employees shall accrue a minimum of one (1) hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked in Pittsburgh unless an employer decides to allow a faster accrual rate (remember you can always be more generous than the law, but not less). Paid sick time though can be capped under the Ordinance at 40 hours of paid sick time (essentially 5 work days) in a calendar year (a regular and consecutive 12-month period, as determined by an employer and communicated to all employees), unless the employer wants to allow for more.

  • For employers with less than 15 employees, employees shall accrue a minimum of one (1) hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked in Pittsburgh unless an employer decides to allow a faster accrual rate (remember you can always be more generous than the law, but not less). Paid sick time though can be capped under the Ordinance at 24 hours of paid sick time (essentially 3 work days) in a calendar year (a regular and consecutive 12-month period, as determined by an employer and communicated to all employees), unless the employer wants to allow for more.

All employees shall be entitled to use accrued sick time beginning on the 90th calendar day following the commencement of their employment and accrued sick time shall be carried over to the following calendar year, except when: (1) An employer that employs 15 or more employees provides at least 40 hours of paid sick time at the beginning of each calendar year; or (2) An employer that employs fewer than 15 employees provides at least 24 hours of paid sick time at the beginning of each calendar year.

Employees can use accrued sick time when the employee or the employee’s family member is sick, injured, receiving medical attention, preventative care, or in the event of a declared public health emergency. Family members include a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or another individual the employer has given oral permission to use sick time for.

Employers may require reasonable notice before using sick time, which may not exceed 7 days for foreseeable uses (i.e., doctor’s appointment) or as soon as possible for unforeseeable uses (i.e., illness). Employers CANNOT require an employee to find a replacement to cover the employee’s shift in order to use sick time, or disclose details of the employee’s medical needs. A doctor’s note may only be required for use of 3 full consecutive sick days or more. Employers may offer a more generous policy, or an alternative paid leave policy, as long as it meets all minimum requirements and terms of use under the Ordinance.

Employees making use of sick time must be paid at least at their same hourly rate, and with the same benefits, including health care benefits. It is important to note however, that an employer is not obligated to provide financial or other reimbursement to an employee that retires, is terminated, or resigns for unused paid sick time.

Employers shall retain records documenting hours worked by employees and sick time taken by employees, for a period of two years, and shall allow the Agency access to such records, with appropriate notice and at a mutually agreeable time, to monitor compliance with the requirements of the Ordinance.

There is some additional language in the Ordinance regarding its applicability to employers with a collective bargaining agreement, employees who are exempt from overtime requirements under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and enforcement of the Ordinance.

So in conclusion, while waiting for next steps, business in the City and doing businss in the City should consider developing the proper record keeping procedures and talking with your payroll provider regarding this Ordinance. As always, we also recommend speaking to us, your attorney, or another lawyer regarding your specific business.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should discuss their specific situation with an attorney.




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