UPDATE: On December 21, 2015, Common Pleas Judge Joseph James struck down the employee sick leave ordinance, ruling that Pittsburgh’s City Council lacked authority to “to enact any ordinance determining any duty, responsibility or requirement of a business or private employer.” The ordinance would have required employers of more than 15 employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year and smaller employers to offer up to 24 hours of paid sick leave.
March 10, 2016 is the current targeted effective date for an ordinance passed by Pittsburgh’s City Council requiring most city businesses to provide sick leave to full-time and part-time employees. Implementation of the legislation was postponed by 60 days under an agreement reached by the city and groups challenging the law in court.
The Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act (“ordinance”) was signed into law by Mayor William Peduto in August of 2015. Under the ordinance, employees of businesses that employ 15 or more people must be permitted to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours. Employees of businesses with fewer than 15 employees will be able to accrue up to 24 hours of leave, but in the first year of implementation that leave will be unpaid.
Exemptions are provided for federal and state employees, independent contractors, construction workers covered by CBAs and seasonal employees. Businesses that offer equivalent paid time off also are exempt under the ordinance. Guidance issued by the City Controller’s office indicates the exemption for businesses with existing leave policies will apply so long as the amount of leave provided satisfies the minimum amount requirements and can be used for all of the same purposes and under all of the same conditions. The Controller has also provided two notices that all employers will be required to display.
Employees may use sick time in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment allowed by their employer’s payroll system. Employers may continue to require compliance with existing notification requirements for absences or requesting time off, provided that those requirements are “reasonable” and do not obstruct the employee’s ability to use sick time. If the need to use sick leave is unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable.
A legal challenge to the ordinance was filed in September by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and other individual businesses. The challenge is based on a provision in the state home rule charter law that prevents Pittsburgh from determining “duties, responsibilities or requirements placed upon businesses, occupations and employers.” The city’s law department warned City Council prior to its passage that the ordinance would likely be struck down under that provision. In 2006, legislation passed by the city to protect service employees who lost jobs when office buildings changed contractors was successfully blocked on that same basis.
Although a legal challenge is pending, employers should be making plans now to comply with the requirements of the sick leave ordinance. Employers with existing paid leave policies should review them with legal counsel to determine whether they are in compliance with the new law.
If youi have any questions, please contact our Labor & Employment Practice Group