In August, the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania passed an ordinance that will require most employers to provide workers with paid or unpaid sick time. Pittsburgh follows the lead of Philadelphia, which approved a similar measure earlier this year.

Shortly thereafter, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and a group of Pittsburgh businesses filed a challenge to Pittsburgh’s new Ordinance in state court, seeking declaratory relief to invalidate the law. Plaintiffs allege that the sick leave Ordinance is unenforceable because it imposes obligations on employers that are impermissible under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Act and State Constitution.

The Ordinance, should it withstand the legal challenge, contains the following key provisions:

  • Employers with 15 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
  • Employers with fewer than 15 employees must provide up to 24 hours of unpaid sick time during the first year following the Ordinance’s effective date. After the law has been in effect for one year, employers with fewer than 15 employees must provide up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year.
  • Employees are entitled to accrue one hour of sick time for every 35 hours worked in Pittsburgh. Exempt employees are deemed to work 40 hours per week for purposes of calculating sick leave accrual, unless their actual workweek is less than 40 hours, in which case sick leave accrual is based upon their actual workweek.
  • Independent contractors, State or Federal workers, members of a construction union covered by a collective bargaining unit, and seasonal workers are excluded from the definition of “employee” and thus are not covered by the law.
  • Employees generally must be permitted to carryover unused sick time from one year to the next year; however, an employer may avoid carryover calculations by providing its employees with the full amount of sick time at the beginning of the calendar year (either 40 hours or 24 hours, depending on the size of the employer).
  • Employees begin accruing sick leave on the law’s effective date or upon the first day of employment, whichever is later. Employers may prohibit the use of accrued sick time until the 90th calendar day of employment.
  • Employees may use sick leave for the following purposes: (i) to care for the employee’s or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, need for medical diagnosis or treatment, or need for preventative medical care; or (ii) in the event of certain specified public health emergencies.
  • Employees may be required to comply with the employer’s customary notice requirements for absences or requesting time off, provided that those requirements are “reasonable” and do not obstruct the employee’s ability to use sick leave. If the need to use sick leave is unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable. If the need to use sick leave for an appointment with a medical provider is foreseeable, the employer may require reasonable advanced notice of the need to take sick leave, but may not require advanced notice of more than 7 days before the sick leave is scheduled to commence.
  • Employees must be allowed to use sick leave in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time.
  • If an employee takes three or more consecutive workdays of sick time, the employer may require that the employee provide reasonable documentation that sick time has been used for a legitimate sick leave purpose.
  • Employers must provide its employees with written notice of the Ordinance’s requirements. The notice, which the City will publish and make available on its website, must advise of the entitlement to sick time, the amount and terms of use of sick time, the prohibition against retaliation, and the right to file a complaint with the City.

Pittsburgh’s new law will not take effect until the 90th calendar day following the date on which the City posts the regulations and notice information for employers.  Therefore, employers should monitor for the City’s publication of the notice and closely follow the legal challenge to the sick leave Ordinance, as both could affect if/when an employer must comply with the new law.

In the interim, Pittsburgh employers should review their current sick leave policies and practices and prepare to update them in compliance with the requirements of the new law. Preexisting policies (such as sick leave, vacation day, or similar paid time off (“PTO”) policies) that are equivalent to or more generous than the requirements of the Pittsburgh Ordinance can satisfy the new law; however, employers should confirm with counsel that these policies are in compliance because the requirements of the new law may be more expansive than existing policies.